How to Buy an Eco Friendly Mattress

Flickr/Agent Magenta/CC BY 2.0

This is a guest post from Yo Yehudi, who is somewhat of an expert on mattresses having worked with Mattress Online one of the UK’s leading Mattress Suppliers for a number of years.

What to look for in an “Eco-Friendly” Mattress?

If you’re looking to get a new mattress, but want to minimize your impact on the environment, you may have a tricky task ahead. A few obvious drawbacks can’t be entirely avoided (transport of a large item, for example), but many can be mitigated or reduced through careful shopping.

Transport

The not so good: Beds and mattresses are large -- and typically, the better quality they are, the heavier and thicker they are, meaning there’ll be a lot of carbon-emission generating transport.

Easiest solution: Try a roll-up mattress.
These mattresses can be either pure foam or a mix of foam and springs -- but until you open the vacuum-packaging, they’re very compact and much easier to transport. Of course, with fire retardant chemicals and VOCs thrown into the mix, this raises another quandary, but if you are going to purchase a foam mattress anyway, roll ups are going to be more transport-friendly, regardless.

Similarly, several flat-packed bedframes can be transported in the same amount of space as a single large box spring.

Avoiding Greenwashing

As Treehugger has pointed out before, eco-credentials aren’t regulated well, so take ‘green’ claims with a grain of salt and read into them carefully.

Materials on the Market:

1. Memory Foam

Made from polyurethane, many people complain it gives off an unpleasant odor when new, and it also releases hazardous emissions as a byproduct of being made.

Comfort: Usually pretty good at easing pressure spots, but can retain built up-body heat.

Eco-Friendly?: Avoid memory foam if possible. Latex provides similar comfort properties and may be more eco-friendly.

2. Latex

Flickr/WildSingapore/CC BY 2.0

Not all latexes are alike. Natural latexes are sustainably made from Hevea Brasiliensis (Rubber Tree) sap, while synthetic latex is made from petrochemicals. Cheaper latexes tend to be a blend of synthetic and natural latex, and manufacturers claim it lasts longer.

"Dunlop” and “Talalay” refers to the manufacturing method rather than the natural latex content, but 100% natural latex using either method is considered high-end and tends to be expensive.

Durability-wise, have a look at this video for a great Talalay vs Dunlop face-off!

Comfort: Similar to memory foam, but a lot of people say it doesn’t have the same ‘hot’ feeling that memory foam has.

Eco-Friendly?: Check specific products to see if it’s 100% natural or a blend.

3. Wool, Cashmere, Silk, Mohair, Horsehair, and Pashmina

Flickr/Christine McIntosh/CC BY 2.0

These are all ‘premium’ natural animal fibres, so may be unsuitable for vegans or vegetarians.

Since they’re not as resilient or ‘boingy’ as memory or latex, a lot more material is needed to provide a reasonable level of comfort – this increases transport emissions again.

Comfort: May compact over time, but down to individual taste. Some natural hair mattresses have been reported to shed!

Eco-Friendly?: They're not chemical-based, but livestock contribute to global warming too.

4. Cotton

Often used as a comfort filling layer (it may be heavier because more is needed) and in mattress covers, but it can be produced without too much environmental impact, if it’s organic.

Comfort: may compact over time unlike resilient foams.

Eco-Friendly?: One of the better choices, if it’s organic. Avoid non-organic due to high chemical/pesticide levels.

Recycling your old mattress

Recycled mattresses are broken down to component level -- metal springs, wooden bits from box springs, upholstery, foams, etc. Some dedicated recyclers are able to do this -- try Earth 911 to find one in your area, or if your mattress is still in a good shape, you could always try Freecycle or Craigslist.

Tags: Bedrooms

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