Shopping for an organic mattress
If you’ve made your way here, you’re probably in the market for a new mattress and sustainability is probably high on your list of criteria for that new bed. This guide is all about helping you understand what makes a mattress eco-friendly (or not).
What to look for in an organic mattress
We’ve researched the sustainability practices of some of the most environmentally-conscious mattress brands, to help you in your search for the right one. You know that comfort isn’t the only consideration — choosing a mattress brand that cares about its environmental impact will only help you sleep better at night.
What is the mattress made out of?
Much of what makes a mattress “green” or not is about the materials used to make it, as well as how those materials are raised and sourced. Oftentimes the materials that go into conventional mattresses have been grown using harmful fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals, which can translate to a toxic finished product. They can also be manufactured with various adhesives, deodorizers, perfumes, fire retardants and other questionable chemicals that may come off of the mattress over time.
For example, certain foams that are used in conventional mattresses can contain high levels of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Those foams can “off-gas,” releasing VOCs into the air and exposing you and your loved ones to harmful chemicals that can trigger allergies or worse.
Organic mattresses, on the other hand, are made with high-quality, sustainably-sourced materials like organic cotton, organic wool, and 100% natural latex. In other words, because they’re made with sustainable, nontoxic, often biodegradable materials, they significantly reduce the potential for exposure to harmful chemicals or allergens that you might be exposed to if you sleep on a conventional mattress.
How is the mattress made?
Another thing to consider is the production process. That process will reveal just how committed to sustainability the mattress brand you’re buying from is. Are they committed to reducing waste? Do they use recycled materials like recycled steel in their mattresses? Where are their products made and how are they shipped? Are they built to last or will you need a new one in just a few years? You can usually find a page or two on a brand’s website that will detail their sustainability practices, so be sure to read up if that matters to you. And to confirm that it’s all not just a bunch of puffed-up marketing, check out the eco-friendly certifications the company has earned. (More on that further down in this guide.)
Some brands, like Saatva, only make a mattress when you order one, so there’s no wasted inventory filling up a warehouse somewhere. Saatva sources all of its eco-friendly foams and over 85% of its materials in the United States. The company also has a network of factories and delivery partners around the country to ensure that your mattress is made as close as possible to where it’s being delivered, which reduces the amount of carbon emissions it takes to get your mattress to you.
Sadly, thousands of mattresses end up in landfills every day. But you can find environmentally-conscious companies, like Helix for example (which makes Birch mattresses), doing their part to clean things up. Helix partners with a global recycling company called TerraCycle to ensure it’s used mattresses aren’t negatively impacting the environment. Customers buying a Helix mattress can choose to have their old mattress picked up and recycled.
Why you should choose an organic mattress
Choosing an eco-friendly mattress is not only beneficial for the environment but also for your health. Eco-friendly mattresses are made from sustainable materials and produced using environmentally friendly methods. They also have certifications that ensure that they meet certain environmental standards. By considering factors such as the production and manufacturing process, the environmental impact of shipping and delivery, the materials used, and the certifications, you can choose an eco-friendly mattress that meets your needs and helps protect the environment.
What certifications should you look for when buying a mattress?
If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably convinced an organic mattress is for you. But how do you know if the mattress you want is truly eco-friendly. As an eco-conscious shopper, you’ll want to keep an eye out for the third-party certifications that mattress brands may or may not have.
These certifications are your assurance that the mattress you buy is free of harmful chemicals, irritants, and various substances that might be bad for you and the environment. Some third parties also evaluate the manufacturing process to see that products meet certain standards for dealing with waste as well as standards in fair practices for factory workers.
Read on to learn about the organizations and the certifications they award the brands who adhere to their standards. If you see these certifications advertised on a mattress website, you’ll know you can shop with confidence.
A huge percentage of mattresses are made with foam, and a CertiPUR-US certified foam certification ensures that a mattress is made without harmful chemicals, such as formaldehyde, ozone depleters, and heavy metals like lead and mercury. It also requires that the mattress has low VOC (volatile organic compound) emissions. CertiPUR-US is a program of the Alliance for Flexible Polyurethane Foam, a non-profit organization.
OKEO-TEX certification tests for harmful substances, eco-friendly manufacturing, and socially responsible working conditions in the production of textiles, including mattresses. It sets limits on the use of certain chemicals, such as formaldehyde and heavy metals, and requires that products meets certain safety standards. OEKO-TEX is a global certification program.
GreenGuard certification verifies that a mattress has low VOC emissions and is safe for indoor air quality. It also tests for other chemicals of concern, such as phthalates and formaldehyde. The coveted GreenGuard Gild certification ensures that a mattress meets the highest level of emission standards. GreenGuard is a program of UL, a global safety science company.
Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS):
The Global Organic Textile Standard or GOTS ensures that the textile materials used in a mattress are organic, from the farming of the raw materials to the manufacturing of the finished product. GOTS also sets environmental and social criteria for the manufacturing process, such as the use of renewable energy and fair labor practices.
Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS):
Like the GOTS, this certification sets the same standard except that it applies specifically to the latex used in some mattresses. It ensures that the latex is organic and meets certain environmental and social criteria. GOLS is managed by the Control Union Certifications organization.
Cradle to Cradle (C2C):
The Cradle to Cradle certification assesses a product’s environmental and social impact throughout its entire lifecycle, from the materials used to the manufacturing process and end-of-life disposal. It also requires that the product is designed for future use and recycling. The organization awards basic, bronze, silver, gold, or platinum status in each of the categories it evaluates. C2C is a program of the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute.
Fair Trade USA is a steward for the rights of workers and their families with a focus on aligning responsible business practices and conscious consumerism to eliminate poverty in communities around the world. The certification ensures that the people involved in the production of a mattress, such as the farmers and factory workers, are paid fairly and work in safe conditions. It also requires that the product is made with environmentally sustainable practices. Fair Trade is a global movement that promotes social and environmental responsibility in trade.
Other certifications you might find:
The USDA Organic label applies to products made with agricultural materials, such as cotton and wool. It ensures that the materials are grown without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, and that the manufacturing process meets certain environmental and social criteria.
The Rainforest Alliance verifies that the materials used in a product are sourced from farms that meet certain environmental and social criteria, such as biodiversity conservation and fair treatment of workers.
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC):
This council keeps a close eye on the use of wood and manufacture of wood-based products, like the bed frame that might hold your new mattress, for example. It ensures that the wood comes from responsibly managed forests that protect wildlife, water quality, and the rights of indigenous people.
Do these certifications matter?
Some mattress brands — or brands selling anything for that matter — will try and tout their eco-friendliness and commitment to sustainability. These certifications are industry standards that help verify the truth of those claims.
It’s worth noting that not all mattresses carry sustainability certifications, and that some certifications may overlap or have different criteria depending on the product and certification organization. When shopping for a sustainable mattress, it’s important to do your research and look for certifications that align with your values and priorities.