Do eco-friendlier mattress choices exist?

February 8 |
By: andrea castelliCC BY 2.0
My boyfriend and I are looking to buy a new mattress in a couple of months and we wondered if there were any environmentally-friendly options.

I suppose a follow-up question is if there is anything we should know about disposing the old one! Since your website has inspired us to make more conscious decisions about our lifestyles I was hoping you would be able to offer some input. -Claire

Interesting question! For years, my husband told me he wanted a bed he'd seen on HGTV — a "traditional" Vietnamese bed, which consists of a stone platforms with an embedded heating coil. He said the show claimed this platform bed was the ultimate in luxury sleep design. We later fact-checked this with a Vietnamese friend, who said, "Oh yeah, those totally exist. But they're not fancy. It's what country people sleep on — it's just HARD." Anyway, all that is to say: I'm really interested in non-mattress options.

Within the traditional bedding realm, I've read a lot about Keesta beds, natural latex mattresses, and a few others, but I have no personal experience.

What have you got, Homies? What have you learned about buying beds sans flame retardants, built using sustainable materials — or non-traditional bed options? And how can people efficiently dispose of old beds, now that many cities/charities prohibit selling them?

  1. 25 years ago my hubby and I jumped on the futon bandwagon, and we HATED it. Real futons are made from eco-friendly multiple layers of organic cotton, but they weigh a ton and they need to be flipped frequently to prevent condensation and mold. The week-or-two period of time when you forget to flip it is when the mold strikes, and then you are NEVER rid of the funky smell. (Yes, we always had it on the recommended platform that was supposed to help air it out.) It was also not very comfortable.

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    • I used a futon for 3 years, flipped the mattress only occasionally, and never had mold or condensation problems.

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  2. Ok, not sure if it's what you're looking for (I'm not really sure what makes a mattress more environmentally friendly), but these mattresses are used in a VERY eco-conscious hotel I once stayed in, and let me tell you they are heavenly. Seriously, it has become my dream to own one of these mattresses, once I have the ridiculous amount of money they cost to spend on something frivolous like this. :)

    http://shop.cityflatshotel.com/categories/CityDrem-Mattresses/

    Description: "made with a deep layer of 100% Natural Talalay Latex over an individually wrapped coil system. The quilted cover contains foam and an inherently flame retardant layer of rayon fiber that provides the ultimate in safety and comfort. The exterior fabric is a natural bamboo blend…"

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  3. I've heard of pure (and organic) latex matresses. As far as I know, they don't even have to cut down the tree, they just make a hole in it and let the latex flow out, then the tree can regenerate. Or something like that.
    I read they're a bit harder than the normal matress, but you can put a wool or cotton layer over them. But they're supposed to be pretty good for your back.

    Anyway, I haven't had the opportunity to try any of those, yet, so I only know what the internet taught me, and that might be wrong. ;)

    But, you know, if you've never heard of 100% organic latex matresses, you might want to look into it.

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    • This might just be my dream mattress. I LOVE a firm mattress

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    • The softness/hardness really depends on the mattress. They're basically slabs of latex with variable numbers of holes drilled into them (although the holes are formed as it is molded). The more holes, the softer it is. Way more comfortable than a tempur pedic, less expensive, and no off-gassing. I almost fell asleep in the store when I tried it out.

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  4. I would definitely Craigslist or Freecycle your old mattress too, provided it's in reusable shape. My husband and I got our mattress off Craigslist a couple years ago and are incredibly grateful for it. Especially grateful that it was free.

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    • While I love Craigslist and Freecycle, this might not be the best idea for a mattress. With the increase in bed bugs these days taking a free mattress could end up costing you more than its worth.

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  5. I don't have any ideas for eco-friendly mattresses, but you might check with the mattress vendor you do decide to go with and see if they can recycle your old mattress. Some places offer that service to incentivize your purchase.

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  6. What are some good organic/natural/green options for someone who has a latex allergy and is tired of cotton futons?

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    • Grassroots in Toronto has an innerspring mattress that uses organic rubber, wool and steel coils, and a sturdier futon mattress that also uses organic rubber and wool. Not sure if something like that would work for you?

      http://www.grassrootsstore.com/mattresses_s/65.htm

      They do ship to the States but it's probably expensive :(

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    • I'd love to know this, too. We've ended up with an IKEA mattress because it seemed the least of the evils.

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  7. If your old mattress is in good shape you can also try contacting local nonprofits, especially those that work in housing and homelessness. Many of them would be glad to give your mattress to someone coming out of homelessness.

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    • Holy moly, I adore this idea. It seems so obvious yet it never occurred to me. Thank you!

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    • Wah wah. Thanks for the heads up. I think we'll try investigating this though.

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    • I have a friend who moved to a different city, but kept her old house for a while because she wasn't sure how permanent the move would be. Once she decided to sell her old house, she basically had an entire house full of furniture she didn't need. She contacted the local Salvation Army who put her in contact with a family who was trying to rebuild after losing everything to fire. She was able to furnish their new house almost entirely!

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    • Most places won't touch mattresses unless they're brand new and in packaging. We tried this, and the only place that would take it was a mattress disposal/recycling service. Make sure to check out their donation guidelines.

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  8. I've been sleeping on a comforter on the floor for the last year. Once I got used to it its actually better for my bad back. I'm allergic to the flame retardants in normal mattresses, the vinyl in inflatable mattresses, and don't have the money for an environmentally friendly bed. Hammocks, slept in diagonally (not straight, the way you lounge in one in the garden) are also awesome, but don't work if you're sleeping with someone else.

    As far as disposing of old ones, one of the charities in my area, St. Vincent DePaul (http://www.svdp.us/what-we-do/recycling-and-manufacturing/mattress-recycling/), takes used mattresses and ships them to some processing facility where they turn the batting into recyled plastic materials, and put new batting and cloth on the metal frames. They sell the refurbished, new mattresses in their thrift stores

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    • Mm, if I were still single I would probably take you up on sleeping on the floor. Especially once you've confirmed what people have said about it being good for the back.

      Thought- I wonder if it would be possible to scavenge old clothes and materials from thrift stores and make your own futon?

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  9. I really appreciate all the suggestions and links! Thank you so much for taking the time to help us out everyone!

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  10. I just got an organic latex mattress from thenaturalsleepstore.com and I LOVE it. They helped me figure out what configuration to make based on my sleeping style and weight and it can be split for couples with different needs (you cannot feel the seam). Because wool is naturally flame resistent, it passes all the flame tests without any chemicals. I went from sleepless nights most nights to sleeping through the night almost all the time! I got the Bella Sera but I've heard good things about Savvy Rest too. It's an investment and I saved for awhile but it was totally worth it!

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  11. While I wouldn't pick up a mattress myself off of freecycle, I did use it to offload one of mine. Within minutes of putting up the ad, I had over a dozen takers. I was amazed at the stories people shared – I could hardly believe anyone would want a used mattress, but I'm glad that ours went to a good home!

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  12. After spending years sleeping on the floor, moldy futons, and cheap mattresses, my back could no longer take it. I bought an Aireloom mattress, which definitely was not cheap. It's made with latex and memory foam, and has a bamboo fabric cover. Luckily, I found a great local independent mattress shop that was able to offer 0% financing so I paid it off over time. The investment was definitely worth it! It's super comfortable and my back feels so much better.

    I found it difficult to navigate the sustainable/eco-friendly choices out there, and to compare prices, since most mattress shops seem to carry the same mattresses but give them different names. I ended up going with the Aireloom because of the latex and bamboo materials.

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  13. When my ancient mattress got too uncomfortable, I did some research and then bought a camping hammock. I've been sleeping in it every night for about a year now, and I can't imagine ever going back to a mattress (which may cause some problems when I have a boyfriend…).

    I think any kind of hammock would be much more eco-friendly than a mattress simply because it uses a great deal less material, but if you want to be really green, try to find one made of organic/renewable cloth. Also, make sure you're getting the proper kind for sleeping in: a solid piece of cloth, not a net, and no spreader bars. Google "sleeping in a hammock is good for you" for more info.

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  14. My husband REALLY wanted an essentia mattress. Which is some brand from Canada I believe. Anyway these mattresses are ridiculously expensive .. so instead we got a normal mattress and are slowly dying each day from chemicals leaking into our bodies while we sleep! But anyway, he did a lot of research on essentia and though it was awesome. myessentia.com

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  15. I really wanted a mattress without flame retardants or off-gassing foam(especially since given mattress-lifespans and our baby timeline means that co-sleeping will be happening on our current mattress, G-d willing), but we were on a pretty tight budget. (Obviously, all mattresses are crazy expensive, but we were on the lower end of the mattress price-spectrum.) We ended up with a 85% natural latex (15% synthetic latex) mattress from ikea, that is fireproofed with wool, not chemicals. It's the most comfy mattress ever, was pretty affordable (about $900 for a queen, which is on the pricier side of cheap mattresses, but mindblowingly cheap for green mattresses). They have a similar mattress now, but with a different name, it's called the edsele. It sounds like pretty much the same mattress.

    The ONLY downside (and I mean only) is that it is a total pain in the ass to move. You know how when you move a standard coil mattress, and turn it on itside, it stays firm. Yeah, the latex mattress flops. We've moved it up and down stairs twice, and it's a total pain, but it's worth it. No chemicals accumulating in our body fat from the mattress, no mattress poisoning future babies.

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    • Thanks for the tip! I think this is the best solution for us as we're in a similar position money-wise. Not to say saving for a rock-star mattress isn't worth it, but if some of that money can go elsewhere that's a major plus.

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  16. I sleep on an organic latex matress (semi-soft, very comfy) and I love it soooo much. The only downside is that it's really heavy and hell to move with ;)

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  17. I have a "Euro Simple" mattress from here and have nothing but good things to say about it. It's natural and organic except for a small amount of glue, and it's a good compromise between heavy latex/cotton and economical springs. Comfortable, too.

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  18. I got rid of my old ensemble (which was only a few years old and in mint condition) on craigslist. This time around I'm making my own 100% wool traditional mattress. I just got a dozen alpaca fleeces for free off craigslist, my only expense will be the ticking, thread and if I so choose, coconut coir for the centre. Although traditionally these mattresses are just wool. They can last 50yrs, 100% biodegradable and require laundrering and restuffing every 10yrs or so. I so wanted to buy one but there are very few makers anywhere in the world. But I did find a photo blog of a class online that gives you the gist.

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  19. I haven't had the chance to sleep on one yet, but I've recently stumbled on buckwheat twist mattresses. They seem pretty good and can definitely be easier to move than a traditional one-piece mattresses. There is some maintenance involved with them and it doesn't come completely assembled. But considering that you can make a complete king for under $500 from the vendor below, I consider it a good option to consider.

    http://openyoureyesbedding.com/

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  20. Eco-friendly mattress are the big craze currently and rightly so. With all the chemicals that people are being exposed to isn't good for anyone. There are several companies that make eco friendly beds now but I would have to say that Keetsa is one of the best. Their stuff is comfortable and affordable. You can find more information on Keetsa at http://thenumberonemattress.com

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