A good mattress is important to your health and happiness. After all, you spend 53 hours a week on one—if you get the human average of 7.5 hours of sleep per night—or maybe more if you use it to relax or nap during the day. A poor choice can lead to aching muscles, exposure to dangerous chemicals, environmental destruction or all of the above; a smart choice will leave you feeling refreshed, content and in harmony with Mother Nature. Here's what you need to know before heading to the mattress store.
Regular Mattress Issues
It is common for mattresses to contain polyurethane foam, a biodegradable but fossil-fuel derived plastic. Scientists create the material by applying a series of chemical reactions to base chemicals, polyol and isocvanates. While the foam can be recycled into carpet padding in the United States, isocyanates are made of compounds classified as potential human carcinogens that have been linked to cancer in animals. Hazardous exposure to these can induce: occupational asthma and other lung problems, and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin.
Beyond these chemicals, mattresses are also often treated with potentially toxic substances that companies use to meet fire-retardant standards.
Polyurethane and chemical retardants may off-gas dangerous chemicals, which you may end up breathing all night. This is worrisome for everyone, but especially babies and young children.
And the problem isn’t just with new mattresses that have a telltale chemical smell. As mattresses age, the chances increase that toxic byproducts—often odorless—will be released as bacteria and fungus consume flame retardants and other chemicals in the mattress.
These chemicals also can leach into rivers from factory sites, or into soil from discarded mattresses in landfills.
Green Mattress Alternatives
Fortunately there are many more natural alternatives. A simple online search will lead you to several eco-friendly and green mattress companies. Jason Wright of the environmentally conscious mattress company Essentia offers some advice:
- Look for 100% latex, which is derived from rubber. Most mattresses today use synthetic polyurethane foam instead.
- Many companies do not reveal the mattress’s percentage of organic ingredients. So when they say that a mattress has organic latex or wool, it might be only the top layer. Make sure to ask what’s inside and for a full listing of materials.
- If you are looking for a more affordable eco-friendly mattress, look at box-spring mattresses topped with organic wool.
Eco-Friendly Mattress Picks
Keep the above tips in mind when browsing, and make sure to be inquisitive. Here are a few sellers of eco-friendly and healthy mattresses to get you started:
1. From: Essentia
Price: Starts at $1,489
Materials: Organic denim, organic unbleached cotton and Essentia’s Natural Memory Foam
Features: Essentia’s budget friendly model Jeanius is on the firmer side, but doesn’t deprive sleepers of the company’s signature features. Like all of its models, the Jeanius is dust-mite resistant and hypoallergenic, and it comes with a patented rubber-tree-sap-based Natural Memory Foam surface layer, claimed to breathe 80% better than all other models. It is free of formaldehyde, which studies have linked to cancer, and free of volatile organic compounds (VOC), linked to lung cancer and other respiratory problems.
2, From: Keetsa
Model: The Keetsa Plus
Price: Starts at $439.95
Features: The Keetsa Plus has a bamboo/polyester core for flexibility and comfort. And it has more unique features such as Keetsa's iCoil system, designed to respond independently to pressure points. The special compression packaging enables Keetsa (and you) to save on packaging costs and minimize your carbon footprints. And their BioFoam™ improves upon the standard 100% petroleum-derived memory foam a bit by replacing some of that fossil fuel-based material with plant oil. To give their products a little something extra, they add their odor controlling EverGreen™, made from green tea.
3. From: CozyPure
Model: Pure Performance Latex Mattress™ with 7-Zone Latex
Price: Starts at $998
Features: CozyPure wins points for having a factory powered by solar and wind energy. They don’t skimp on the layers either: their products have six-inch latex cores and 1/4-inch-thick layers of organic wool on top. Other layers of organic cotton and canvas help keep the mattresses soft but responsive to a body’s needs.
Eco-friendly mattresses generally cost more than average mattresses, but consider this: you’re investing in your personal health and the overall health of the planet. If you sleep an average of 7.5 hours a day and live to be 75, you’ll have spent more than 23 years in bed. So remember to buy a mattress that will give you a healthy and good night’s sleep, while having a minimum or no negative impact on the environment. You’re sure to sleep easier knowing that you have taken this crucial step.
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