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.
TransportThe 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 GreenwashingAs 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 FoamMade 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.
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
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. CottonOften 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.