We’re all for guzzling organic kale smoothies on a daily basis. But if you’re really serious about living a greener, healthier, less chemical-laden lifestyle, it’s time to start thinking about buying an eco-friendly mattress.
Yes, they cost more than the bargain brand at your local big-name mattress store. But the investment is so, so worth it. Here’s why.
The trouble with conventional mattresses
Most conventional mattresses are made from synthetic fibers and polyurethane foam, which is derived from petroleum. But since the big conventional brands aren’t exactly shouting it from the rooftops, most consumers don’t realize that these materials typically awash in icky chemicals. Yikes.
Here’s the deal: The petroleum used to make polyurethane foam can emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a class of toxins that includes formaldehyde, benzene, and naphthalene. According to the EPA, exposure to VOCs can cause:
- Eye, nose, and throat irritation
- More serious issues like loss of coordination, liver and kidney damage, and central nervous system damage
In fact, when Walter Bader, author of Safe Sleep in a Toxic World, had a conventional mattress tested for chemicals, lab results uncovered a whopping 61 different VOCs. Uh, no thanks!
Flame-retardants are an issue, too. Since petroleum-based mattresses are highly flammable, they need to be treated with chemical fire killers called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PDBEs).
And perhaps not surprisingly, PDBEs aren’t much healthier than the chemicals they’re supposed to protect against. In fact, they could mess with your thyroid and brain—especially in children.
How much these chemicals affect you depends on your individual exposure. And while the average person wouldn’t experience the same ill effects as someone who deals with the toxins on the job (like certain manufacturing employees), we all spend around a third of our lives asleep in bed.
Now that you know, doesn’t it make sense to keep your sleep environment as clean as possible?
Why eco mattresses are healthier
So, conventional mattresses are packed with gasoline and flame-retardants. Not exactly stuff you want to spend eight hours a night sleeping in.
Eco-friendly mattresses, on the other hand, don’t have that questionable stuff. Instead, they’re typically made with natural materials like organic wool and cotton, soybeans, and coconut husks.
And no one’s ever heard of wool or coconut causing nervous system damage, right? Didn’t think so.
What’s more, these materials are inherently less flammable than their petrol-based counterparts. That means there’s no need to add nasty flame-retardants, says Dr. Gina Solomon, an expert with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
But what about the cost?
It’s true, almost all types of eco-friendly furniture comes with a higher price tag than their conventional counterparts. And for good reason.
With green furniture, you’re paying for higher quality, natural materials instead of synthetic ones, as well as sustainable manufacturing practices. And often, the factories are right here in the U.S., which means the workers who are building your furniture are being paid a living wage.
Which is why it’s so important to think of an eco-friendly mattress—or any eco-friendly furniture—as an investment that offers major long-term benefits. Not just for your health (think about the reduced chemical exposure!), but also for the planet’s.
How to find the right mattress for you
Still, there’s one thing that conventional and eco-friendly mattresses do have in common: To sleep-optimize your bedroom, you’ve got to find the mattress that’s the most comfortable for you.
Happily, there’s an eco-friendly mattress to suit every snoozer. Whether you’re an innerspring or a foam kind of person, here’s what to look for:
Innerspring mattresses: These are your typical spring-filled mattresses. Eco-friendly versions tend to be made from organic cotton or wool, and have spring coils that aren’t coated in chemicals.
To make sure your eco-friendly innerspring mattress is up to snuff, look for third-party verifications from Oeko-Tex or Global Organic Textile Standard.
Memory foam mattresses: Most eco-friendly memory foam mattresses are made from latex, the sap of the rubber tree.
Others, like ours, are made largely from soybean extracts. What’s more, they’re free of harmful phthalates, ozone depleters, PDBEs, heavy metals like lead and mercury, and formaldehyde (not to toot our own horn or anything!).
Plus, they’re manufactured with a patented technology that produces almost zero emissions—a huge deal if you’re trying to slash your family’s carbon footprint.
Getting rid of your old mattress
And after you’ve finally found the eco-friendly mattress of your dreams, all that’s left to do is get rid of your old one.
Which, believe it or not, can be done in a responsible way: Mattress recycling.
Yup, it’s a thing! And best of all, it’s pretty easy—just find a recycling center near you at Earth911.org.
Are you thinking about buying an eco-friendly mattress, or have you recently purchased one? What has your experience been like?
P.S. If you liked this post, you might also enjoy Bedroom Feng Shui for Better Sleep: A Beginner’s Guide or The DIY Guide to Reduce Fatigue & Excessive Sleepiness.