In my recent Instagram polls, you let me know that furniture is what you’re interested to hear about next. So February shall be furniture month! I’m going to start with my favourite peice of furniture: beds and specifically mattresses. It may not be the first thing that springs (!) to mind when thinking of conscious interiors, but I see a mattress as the foundation of the home. Who cares how eco-chic your sofa is if you can’t sleep well at night, right? Also, for many, a good mattress is often the first big furniture purchase - it was for us. We were in London for ages and all of our rentals came with a bed. For better or (usually) worse, we just sort of lived with that and I was thrilled when we finally got to buy our own bed.
So whether you’re just setting out on your furniture buying journey, or you’re coming up to replace your mattress (which by the way, should be every 8-10 years according to the UK Sleep Council), consider going green with your mattress choice. Yes, usually mattresses are chosen based solely on their comfort, but now there are some great options which get excellent reviews for comfort but also have strong environmental credentials.
Cottonsafe - Best for vegan. This Devon based company offer the world’s first chemical free vegan mattress, so is free of wool or other animal products. They do have wool-based options as well. Materials used by Cottonsafe are certified organic, including the wool, and do not use fire retardant chemicals or adhesives or glues in the manufacturing process. Offering a 10 year manufacturing guarantee, a double wool-based mattress is £1200 and a double vegan mattress is £795.
Silent Night - Best budget Eco-friendly mattress. Material from 150 recycled bottles goes into every mattress and they are foam and fire retardant chemical treatment free. A double starts at £329 with £75 credit for recycling your old mattress. They also offer cot, baby, and kids mattresses as well.
Natural Mat - Best for natural fibres and natural latex. Natural Mat offer either a 100% natural material mattress or a conventional pocket spring mattress. As you can imagine, the company specialise in natural materials such as organic coir, cotton, lams wools, cashmere, and natural latex. Each range offers three types of mattress – soft, medium and firm but there is a notable price difference. The pocket spring option starts at £985 for a double while the natural fibre starts at £1900 for a double.
Conventional mattress producers are numerous in the UK, here are some more conventional producers with decent environmental credentials:
Herdy Sleep are a great fair trade option.. Herdy Sleep uses Herdwick wool fleece from the Lake District helping to support British farmers. A double with around 4,000 springs costs £849 cost for double, and they collect your old mattress.
Vispring - the gold standard of mattresses in the UK, and the price tags to match! But they offer a completely chemical free flame retardant that is 100% biodegradable. The company use certified British wool and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified timber.
Hypnos - claim their mattresses are made from fully sustainable resources and recyclable. We have this brand and I can affirm it is insanely comfortable. Around £800 for a double.
Numerous other organic mattress options are available in the UK. These were left out since they don’t always have other sustainability credentials. Please contact me if you want to hear more about these.
Plushbeds - Handmade in California, Plushbeds offer natural latex only options (similar to memory foam, but biodegradable!) and a more traditional options with pocket springs. Plushbeds have all of the environmental certifications you could ask for: Green Guard certified, organic textiles and organic latex certifications, eco-wool certifications, and FSC wood. They come with free shipping and have a 100 day trial offer. A medium firm pocket spring queen costs $1499, though they have offers for around $400 in free bedding with a purchase.
Saatva - Best for luxury comfort. Saatva offer one mattress with varying levels of firmness. Their environmental standards are not as numerous as other options, essentially only offering organic textiles. Their products do include memory foam (which isn’t biodegradable). They have a helpful comparison chart, however, which compares their product to major conventional mattress producers in the US. Offering a 120 night trial, a medium firm queen size mattress costs $1099.
Avocado green mattress - Also handmade in California, Avocado’s beds offer similar sustainability credentials to Plush Beds. They have natural latex, natural wool, GOTS organic certified cotton and up to 1,414 pocketed support coils. No polyurethane foams or toxic fire retardants are used in their products either, and they have wool free vegan mattress options as well. The company also have a Green Guard certification for their products. A queen size normal (non-vegan) mattress costs $1399, and they also offer a 100 night sleep trial and 25 year warranty. Though I’m skeptical about this warranty business since you should really change your mattress after 8-10 years!
There are gazillions of mattress options out there. If nothing above strikes your fancy, here are some general rules for when you’re sourcing an environmentally conscious option. Be on the lookout for:
Terminology. This is a classic case where ‘natural’ may be co opted. Check out my short piece which guides you through vague terminology like ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ so that you don’t fall vicitm to greenwash!
Organic cotton and materials where possible. The global organic textile standard (GOTS) certifies organic fabrics
Wool instead of petrochemical foams (though not if you’re vegan)
Natural latex (from rubber trees) instead of petrochemical foams. The global organic latex standard (GOLS) certifies that the natural latex is grown in a sustainable way
Natural fire retardants (Although most conventional mattresses pass the fire safety test (BS7177) due to being treated with chemical flame retardants, it is possible to pass the safety test without chemicals by creating a mattress dense enough, using wool)
If you’re in the US, you can look out for the Green Guard Certification. This certification means the product has been screened against 10,000 chemicals. To earn this badge, the mattress must have no/ low chemical emissions, no heavy metals (e.g. lead) and no CFCs, for example
What’s the environmental impact of a normal mattress?
Chemicals can be used in manufacturing, including adhesives. Some have unsustainable wood. Foams like memory foam are made from petrochemicals and cannot be recycled.. Flame retardant chemicals can be toxic. Mattresses can have a large carbon footprint if manufactured at some distance from you.
Memory foam - the elephant in the room
There are quite a few bed in a box memory foam companies that have cropped up, and with quirky marketing campaigns have probably disrupted the mattress market to a certain extent. I don’t want to ruffle any feathers here, but there are no two ways about it - memory foam is not an environmental option. It is made purely from petrochemicals such as polyurethane, which means it doesn’t biodegrade. It will literally just sit rotting in a landfill when you’re done with it, unless burned for energy or re-purposed for carpet underlay. It also releases hazardous emissions as a byproduct of being made. But there is hope! You can get a similar feel as memory foam with all natural latex, which does eventually biodegrade. A solution could be a natural latex topper like this one from Ikea.
Parts get separated out. Metal and wood can be repurposed. Foams can be sent to a waste-energy plant or recycled for industrial carpet underlay. Wadding (mattress filler) can be used in other manufacturing processes such as pet cushions.
Usually your new mattress supplier can help out with the disposal of your old mattress. Failing that, if you’re in the UK, check with your local council for mattress recycling. In the US, check the homewares recycling tab under Earth 911’s recycling database.
I hope this has given you a flavour of some options which show comfy mattresses can be sustainable. I hope you’ll share this with someone who may be looking at a new bed purchase if you’re not and please do let me know in the comments if I have missed any off. Happy sleeping!
disclaimer: this post contains several affiliate links.