The CPSC now recommends consumers avoid mattresses with organohalogen flame retardants (OFRs. Mattress shoppers should know that polyurethane foam, a common mattress material, contains high levels of OFRs.
Avoiding OFRs doesn’t mean sacrificing safety for environmental concerns. Many eco-friendly mattresses use natural flame retardants like wool and organic silica and market their mattresses as non-toxic.
Allergens can also hide in your mattress. These include dust mites, mold, mildew, and pet dander, all of which are poor for your health and can detract from a restful night’s sleep.
Fortunately, many modern mattresses use naturally allergen-resistant materials or have additional hypoallergenic layers to protect against harmful microbes.
Most people don’t hold onto their old mattress when they buy a new one—upwards of 20 million mattresses are discarded into landfills every year in the U.S. alone.
These beds take up more space than they need to. Plus, they take a lot of energy to break down, creating a larger carbon footprint.
When mattress companies market their products as eco-friendly, it typically means the company practices energy-conscious manufacturing, uses predominately natural materials, or participates in sustainability practices like replanting or recycling.
While organic mattresses are all-natural, they still may contain materials gathered from animals. It’s no secret that many mattresses use wool and feathers as primary ingredients.
Vegan beds, on the other hand, contain zero animal byproducts and use plant-based materials like cotton, rubber, and hemp in their construction.
Sustainable Practices in the Mattress Industry
The term “sustainability” generally doesn’t speak to the longevity of your mattress. (Although the longer it lasts, the fewer mattress you’re purchasing and discarding in your lifetime.)
Rather, sustainability is tied to biodegradability. The most eco-friendly natural mattress will break down into its organic compounds when discarded.
Regarding mattress companies, sustainability practices often include recycling, replanting, low carbon emission manufacturing, transparency regarding materials and production, and fair supply chain and labor practices.
Direct-to-Consumer Mattress Brands
Direct-to-consumer marketing cuts out the middle-man and wholesaler. This allows consumers, in this case, people looking for a new mattress, to buy directly from the manufacturer. The direct-to-consumer model often cuts down on carbon emissions and overhead costs.
Charity and Social Programs
Allowing a mattress to degrade naturally is not always the best option, especially when there are people in need of a bed to sleep on. Many companies will donate returns to nonprofits and charitable organizations.
Eco-friendly and Organic Mattress Certifications
When it comes to buying natural, organic, or eco-friendly mattresses, there are a handful of different certifications that can help you identify your options. These certifications act as seals of approval from independent organizations that help guide the mattress industry toward safer and more environmentally-friendly practices.
CertiPUR-US focuses on foam used in mattresses. The mattresses they certify do not contain:
- Toxic flame retardants (PBDEs, TDCPP or TCEP)
- Mercury, lead, and heavy metals
- Phthalates regulated by the CPSC
CertiPUR-US certified products may contain small amounts (0.5 parts/million) of VOCs.
Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
GOTS is the world-leading standard for textile production and focuses on fabrics, home textiles, and mattresses, among other products. They ensure that an organic cotton mattress is what it claims to be. GOTS checks for:
- Organic Fibers– To be GOTS certified, a product must use at least 70 percent organic fibers. To earn the GOTS’s organic grade label, a product must use 95 percent organic fibers.
- Ecological and Social Criteria– All stages of manufacturing must pass the GOTS standard for environmental sustainability. Social standards relate to the work environment and employees’ rights.
- Processing Stages– GOTS examines each stage of sourcing and production, from farm to mattress, and holds them to its high standards. They also work to combat greenwashing.
Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS)
GOLS uses practices similar to GOTS but focuses on latex, another common material found in modern mattresses. To merit GOLS certified, a mattress must contain 95 percent organic latex material in relation to its total weight.
GreenGuard and GreenGuard Gold tests for over 10,000 chemicals and VOC emissions. GreenGuard certified mattresses can only contain small amounts of VOCs, no higher than 50 parts per billion.
GreenGuard Gold certified mattresses are put through even more rigorous testing to ensure the health and safety of children. Gold-certified mattresses contain below 7.3 parts per billion of VOCs.
The 100 Standard from OEKO-TEX ensures that “every component of an article, i.e., every thread, button, and other accessories, has been tested for harmful substances and that the article, therefore, is harmless for human health.”
USDA Organic hones in on the farmers and producers of materials that go into a mattress. According to a 2020 Consumer Reports article:
“For a mattress to qualify for the USDA Organic seal, it needs at least 95 percent certified organic materials and to be processed without potentially harmful chemicals…As of now, few mattresses meet the USDA Organic standards.”