Shoppers face a sea of labels when it comes to purchasing an eco-mattress, but there’s no robust federal regulation in sight. How to sort through the greenwash and the approximately 400 eco-labels worldwide? Earth911 waded in deep to determine some of the industry’s most relevant third-party certifiers and a few rules on how to evaluate them.
Labels and Logos
First, keep in mind that not all logos, seals and stamps are equal. Membership in business groups such as the Organic Trade Association or approval by a general group such as Green America tends to indicate a commitment to environmental ethical standards and values (such as organic agriculture in the case of the OTA). That’s great, but they’re not verifying product in the role of an inspection body.
Also, by law, mattresses must meet federal flammability standards so a logo from the Consumer Products Safety Commission doesn’t differentiate the product from a conventional mattress. As an eco-consumer, you’re looking for how those standards are met and in the case of green mattresses, wool is the most typical fire barrier used in place of chemical fire retardants.
Finally, note that everything – from raw materials to factory processing to the final product – may be certified separately, so while one company may cite wool approved by Oregon Tilth, another company may cite Oregon Tilth-certified latex.
Here’s What to Look For
Did we mention that standards overlap, too? Hey, we never said this was easy. Our advice, choose the categories you care about (organics, chemical emissions, recyclability, etc.) then look for at least one of the following when buying a green mattress:
Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
A standard developed by an international group of industry associations and stakeholders (including the Organic Trade Association) that ensures organic status from the farm field to the product label. Considered the leading benchmark for environmentally responsible organic fiber processing.
Oregon Tilth Certified Organic
Oregon Tilth is an organic certifying body that ensures materials meet the GOTS. Mattress categories include natural rubber latex, wool, cotton thread. Oregon Tilth is a nonprofit organization that advocates sustainable approaches to agricultural production systems and processing, handling and marketing.
Oeko-Tex Standard 100
This certificate, developed by two European research institutes, assesses potential harmful substances in processed textiles that come into contact with consumers. A mattress that carries this seal meets Oeko-Tex’s approximately 100 test parameters for formaldehydes, pesticides and other chemicals.
Greenguard Indoor Air Quality Certified
Greenguard Environmental Institute tests raw materials, products and the indoor air quality of buildings such as schools for chemical emissions. A Greenguard-certified mattress emits low levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC). The certification is broadly recognized and accepted by sustainable building programs and building codes worldwide.
Specialty Sleep Association Environmental and Safety Program Seal of Approval Levels II and III
SSA developed the three-tiered seal for its members – mattress manufacturers – but we list it here as a product verifier because levels II and III require Oeko-Tex Standard 100 and GOTS certifications. The program is fairly young, but given the SSA’s broad membership, could spread through the industry.
Eco Institut Tested Product
Eco Institut performs emissions testing for VOCs and content testing for chemicals or other additives/outside materials. The mattress tests check inner spring, latex, viscoelastic foam and other polyurethane-type foam.