My recent move back to California from the Middle East was the catalyst for buying a new mattress. My current bed was 24 years old and wasn’t that comfortable anymore. It was time to upgrade, and this provided me with the perfect opportunity to invest in a green, organic mattress.
Beds are one of those tricky things to buy. You only get to try it out for 5-10 minutes before using it every day for the next 20+ years. The other problem with beds is we buy relatively few throughout our lifetimes. I’m only on bed number five, which hasn’t provided a great deal of mattress shopping experience. I decided this purchase required some serious research!
I’ve made a personal commitment to search for the most ecologically-friendly option possible when making new purchases. I wanted my mattress purchase to be as ‘green’ as possible to honor this commitment. A quick google search happily proved that multiple options are available in various price ranges. Once far more expensive, organic mattresses are now readily available and affordable, hopefully becoming the new normal.
What is an organic mattress?
Organic or ‘green’ mattresses are manufactured using organic materials such as cotton, wool, and natural latex and processed without harmful chemicals. These materials have no adverse health implications and can be recycled or composted when the mattress is no longer wanted.
In contrast, traditional beds manufactured with foam, synthetic latex, vinyl, and chemical fire retardants can emit toxic gasses over the years. Many factors determine the product’s safety, including authentic materials used, country of origin, and manufacturing. As you lay down for a good night’s sleep, the last thing anyone wants is to breathe in toxic fumes that can have serious health effects over time.
Beyond the health implications, foam and synthetic latex materials are not recyclable or biodegradable. Mattresses made of these products will sit in landfills for a minimum of 80-120 years. Vinyl, also not biodegradable, can be recycled into other vinyl products, but the vendors are difficult to access. Vinyl will last 100+ years when sent to a landfill.
Mattress Materials to Avoid
Polyurethane foam is made when methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) and toluene diisocyanate (TDI) react with polyols. MDI and TDI both need to be handled carefully during the manufacturing process. In particular, TDI is a suspected carcinogenic, is classified as very toxic, and is a known respiratory and skin irritant.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that workers avoid exposure to TDI. While the final polyurethane product is said to be inert and, therefore, safe, this still means that up to 48,800 workers directly involved in the production of polyurethane are at risk. (Source)
Synthetic latex is a manufactured version of natural latex. It’s produced from petroleum compounds Styrene and Butadiene to create Styrene-Butadiene rubber, SBR. Both styrene and butadiene are known as ‘volatile organic compounds’ or VOCs. Volatile organic compounds emit gases from certain solids or liquids. ‘Off-gassing’ is a common term for these emitted gases. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. (Source)
Vinyl is a synthetic artificial material and not found naturally. It is a type of plastic made from ethylene (found in crude oil) and chlorine (found in regular salt). When processed, both the substances are combined to form Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) resin, or as is commonly referred to – Vinyl. Although difficult to find vendors, vinyl flooring can be recycled. Vinyl, often used in mattresses to provide a waterproofing barrier, usually ends up in landfills where it will sit for decades, if not hundreds of years.
Reading the ‘ingredient list’ when shopping for a new mattress is the first and most crucial step. Before heading out for a day of bed shopping, do some research online and review the materials used. Most eco-friendly mattresses will use organic cotton and wool and natural latex. Read the fine print and ask questions!
Two important shopping notes:
Organic means all the materials are grown organically. It does not necessarily mean it used no chemicals in the manufacturing process.
Nontoxic production does not use chemicals, but the materials might not necessarily be organic.
The most eco-friendly mattress is manufactured without chemicals (nontoxic) and uses all organic materials.
Organic cotton is grown pesticide-free and manufactured pigment-free, bleach-free, and is hypoallergenic.
Organic wool is naturally mold, mildew, and dust mite resistant. Wool wicks away moisture and keeps sleepers at a comfortable temperature. As wool is resistant to fire, manufacturers use it to replace fire retardant chemicals used in conventional beds.
For wool to be certified organic in the United States, it must adhere to federal standards for organic livestock production. One example is feed and forage used for the sheep from the last third of gestation must be certified organic. Cruel practices are prohibited, minimizing animal stress. Organic farmers take a preventative approach to disease, so animals are not routinely treated with antibiotics, wormers, or pesticides.
Natural Latex is harvested from rubber trees, similar to extracting maple syrup from maple trees. The Avocado organic mattress company explains their process:
Avocado Organic Latex
We begin by harvesting pure rubber sap from Hevea Brasiliensis trees in India. No trees are harmed in the process. (They yield latex for up to 30 years.) We then follow the traditional Dunlop manufacturing process that’s been in use since 1929: we whip the latex sap into a froth, pour it into molds, cover it, and steam bake it. The end result is a clean and green material that’s amazingly resilient, supportive, and durable.
Rubber producers had used this harvesting process long before synthetic substitutes were invented. Although this natural process is more costly, it is sustainable, and the end products are biodegradable. In addition, every ten acres of rubber forest extracts approximately 143 tons of carbon dioxide from the air. Supporting natural latex products over synthetic alternatives is good for the earth.
Which mattress did I choose?
All of my research revealed there are many companies around the world now producing mattresses and bedding made of organic materials that won’t harm our health or the planet. After reviewing all of my options available, I chose the Avocado Green Mattress with a pillow top. Here’s why:
- I live in the San Diego area, and they have a shop nearby in La Jolla where I could see and try out all the mattresses. I was reluctant to buy a mattress I hadn’t tried. I’m picky!
- The Avocado Green Mattress uses organic cotton, wool, and natural latex, following the highest standards in the industry.
- The Avocado mattresses are manufactured in Los Angeles, about 90 miles from where I live. Shopping locally is essential to lower my carbon footprint and guaranteed I would bypass the long covid shipping delays.
- Avocado is a Certified B Corporation. I have made it a goal to purchase products from Certified B Corporations whenever possible.
“Avocado is a Certified B Corporation®, a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. We will be legally required to consider the impact of our decisions on our workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. B Corporations are a community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good. B the change.” Avocadogreenmattress.com
I received my new mattress four months ago and couldn’t be happier. The customer service and delivery were excellent, and the bed has superior construction. Note: This post is not sponsored.
I did find it to be more firm than I remembered in the store when I tried it out. After a week, I went back to the shop and spoke with my salesperson. He explained the materials soften with time, and in two months, the mattress would be similar to the store model. He offered to send me a natural latex topper at no charge to provide a softer experience while the mattress settled. I LOVE the topper, and, as promised, the mattress has softened with time and is now perfect for me.
When you begin the process to shop for a new mattress, keep these sustainable practices in mind:
- Read manufacturing labels/materials carefully! Look for organic and non-toxic materials such as organic cotton, organic wool, and natural latex.
- Support Certified B Corporations for their efforts to use sustainable practices and provide fair living wages along with safe working conditions.
- Shop locally, when possible, to lower your carbon footprint.
- Buy quality products that will last longer, lowering waste produced.
I guarantee you will have an excellent night’s sleep knowing that you made your health and the planet a priority!