My wife and I went mattress shopping a couple of days ago. We ended up buying a Sealy Posturepedic—-mostly because it was comfortable for both of us. Additionally, I felt a lot better when I saw it had “Organic Cotton” imprinted all over the top. So I figured I was at least being somewhat sustainable by having organic cotton in my mattress. I really did not think about the other materials involved in any given mattress.
Post purchase, I was happy to see that Sealy, the largest mattress manufacturer, had lots of information about their materials and processes on their site. The steel in the innerspring, for example, comes from recycled steel. The steel was also designed to fit on fewer truckloads while shipping (better for the environment and cheaper). The excess scrap (unfortunately, polyurethane) foam is recycled into other products, like carpet. Sealy also says that its fire retardant material is environmentally friendly (details not provided). Also, the top cotton layer is organic cotton.
Another of the big 3, Simmons, has taken another tack on the sustainability front. They created a separate product line called “Natural Care”, and partnered with a “green lifestyle” guru to design and promote it. The mattress is part of this. Relevant mattress features include base foam derived from soy, another foam layer derived from rubber tree latex, and a biodegradable fabric for the top.
Essentia, a Canadian company, has developed a mattress that is made from 100% natural materials (like rubber latex, organic cotton, natural oils, etc.). Their mattresses also do not include petro-chemical based adhesives. They do not use innersprings; they use specially designed memory foam instead. However, their products are only available on-line.
I like concept of the Essentia mattresses, but I cannot imagine buying a mattress without laying on it first. So that brings me back to the differing approaches of Sealy and Simmons. From the perspective of integrating sustainability across the business, I prefer the Sealy approach. This is because they are integrating sustainable practices across the entire product line and enterprise. Examples include coordinating product components with logistics to maximize environmental performance and verifying the environmental practices of their lumber supplier. However, if I were a consumer doing a whole bedroom remodel in most sustainable way possible, I would go with Simmons because the Natural Care line was developed specifically for the eco-friendly consumer. However, the most “sustainable” mattress may or may not be the most comfortable one.