Mattresses pose an interesting dilemma when it comes to environmental concerns because they’re large, bulky, and cause disposal problems when sent to landfills. Responsible mattress purchases can help keep mattress out of landfills. You can start your search by knowing what labels mean and what certifications can help identify an environmentally friendly mattress.
What Does “Green” Really Mean?
There’s no such thing as a 100 percent green mattress. The mattress industry does not have any standards or regulations for terms like “organic,” “natural,” or “eco-friendly.” When you see them on a label, they could apply to the raw materials, the methods by which they were harvested, or it could apply to a few components of the mattress.
Mattresses are complicated products that require a wide range of materials that have to go through many manufacturing processes. But you can find options that have a small environmental impact and are healthier for you and your family. We recommend looking for organic and/or natural materials in the cover, comfort layers, and support core, like:
Plant-based polyfoam and memory foam
Organic wool and cotton fibers in the cover
Fire socks made of wool, cotton, or thistle (Kevlar is another option. Though it’s not natural, it doesn’t go through any chemical processing.)
As you search for these natural and organic components, keep your eye out for certifications that indicate responsible and safe manufacturing methods.
Which Certifications Should You Look For?
Many organizations test and oversee manufacturing processes and offer certifications for everything from human health issues to environmental impact. A few certifications you may want to watch for include:
OEKO-TEX Standard 100: This certification comes from 18 independent research and testing institutes in Europe and Japan. They test for chemical emissions from finished products.
CertiPUR-US: CertiPUR-US tests for harmful emissions from the polyurethane foam used in mattress comfort layers.
Eco-Institut: This German-based organization monitors textiles and building materials for harmful emissions and chemical substances. They mostly monitor latex mattresses.
Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): To receive a GOTS certification, a mattress must be made of 95 percent certified organic materials. This certification means the product has had both the raw materials and their derivatives evaluated.
Cradle to Cradle: You can find this certification on some latex mattresses and those that use organic materials in the mattress cover. Organic fibers and other components are monitored for carbon emissions, water conservation, and ecological impact.
Choose a Mattress with a Small Environmental Impact
Of the mattress options on the market—foam, innerspring, hybrid, latex—latex presents the most environmentally friendly and biodegradable option. Natural latex mattresses are made with latex produced from the sap of the rubber tree, a sustainable resource. (Synthetic latex is derived from petrochemicals.)
The latex goes through a manufacturing process that requires the addition of 5-40 percent synthetic latex. So even though these mattresses are a biodegradable option, they aren’t all natural. Latex mattresses can be pricey. If this type of mattress is out of your budget, there are latex/innerspring hybrids available. Another option would be to look for a different kind of mattress with as many natural and organic components and certifications as possible.