Selecting a new mattress is a big decision, but with careful shopping, consumers interested in sustainability can sleep soundly on their nighttime investment. A sustainable mattress is produced in a way that minimizes negative environmental impacts by using nontoxic, biodegradable products, recycled materials and organic fabrics.
A mattress made of all-natural or organic materials will cost more than your typical mattress, but advocates argue the advantages of sustainability outweigh the price tag. An International Sleep Products Association survey found more than 70 percent of all queen mattress shipments in 2013 cost $1,000 or less. But a mid-to-low range Naturepedic queen runs about $2,600 and a Natura is about $2,200. Both are all-natural and silver members of the Sustainable Furnishings Council.
“So many things in our world, we are not paying the true cost of what it takes to make and use that thing,” said Susan Inglis, SFC executive director. “(There are) mattresses with harmful chemicals that are going to lead to health problems, and treating those health problems is going to cost the consumer more than having bought a healthy mattress in the first place.”
Atlanta Mattress sells sustainable mattress options, including the high-end Vispring collection. Vispring is a qualifying member of the SFC and manufactures hypoallergenic mattresses with renewable resources and all-natural materials.
“I sleep on a Vispring,” said Lloyd Freeman, owner of Atlanta Mattress. “There’s sleep, and then there’s drool-running-out-of-your-mouth sleep. There’s a difference in the quality of sleep you get in an all-natural bed.”
For instance, the beds breathe better, said Freeman, so they stay cooler.
“After you go to sleep, you stay asleep, and you stay dry and comfortable,” he said.
Vispring beds are handcrafted with wool, horsetail, silk and cashmere and run anywhere from $3,100 to $40,000. Hugh Landes, Vispring’s vice president of North American sales, said for many, the extra cost is worth the added benefits.
“Consumption of sustainable furniture is a form of social responsibility,” Landes said. “Many consumers are looking for products that leave a small footprint on the environment.”
The SFC’s Inglis answered three questions about the benefits of sustainable mattresses.
1. Why might consumers want sustainable mattresses?
Of the many environmental toxins that we are exposed to in our daily lives, we want to be sure that there are as few as possible on the bed we spend eight hours sleeping on.
2. What are qualities of a sustainable mattress?
When you look at a mattress, there is a box or box springs that might be made of wood and metal. You want to be sure that the wood is not causing deforestation (and) is legally harvested from well-managed forests. When metal is in a mattress spring, you want to know that it is recycled metal.
If you’re going to have foam in your mattress, make sure it is pure natural latex that is a nontoxic, biodegradable product. Foam is flammable. A common way to keep mattresses from burning has been to (use) flame retardant chemicals, but they release so many toxins. What you want instead is a barrier that will keep the flame from going to the foam. A wool barrier is the safest, healthiest, most clean barrier. Finally, you have some kind of fabric (covering). Look for organic cotton.
3. How can consumers protect themselves?
Certifications are the best assurance. When you find out that the company is a Sustainable Furnishings Council member, any product you buy from that company is going to do more good than harm.
BedFax: A Specialty Sleep Association service that verifies manufacturers’ claims and promotes industry transparency
Forest Stewardship Council: Certifies companies that meet forest management requirements set to conserve forests
Control Union: Accredits textile manufacturers that use at least 70 percent certified organic natural fibers with the Global Organic Textile Standard