Buying a new mattress is what’s referred to as a “grudge purchase.” We put it off far longer than we should and, let’s be honest, most of us hate the process of mattress shopping — the jargon, the upselling, the smoke-and-mirrors sales tactics from big-box store salespeople. To combat the negativity of this experience, some small-scale manufacturers are trying to shake up the mattress-making industry and inject some ease into the shopping experience, making it a little more eco-friendly, too.

Fawcett Mattresses, located in picturesque Victoria, Canada, is one such retailer. Established in 2012, Fawcett Mattresses is the result of the combined expertise of Ross Taylor and Duane Franklin, each of whom spent 30 years in the mattress and upholstery industries before becoming fed up with conventional practices and branching out on their own.

Cutting Down on Chemicals

What’s so different about Fawcett and companies like them? Well, mattress-making can be a messy business, typically involving the use of multiple toxic chemical coatings to make mattresses fire retardant and meet strict industry standards. PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) used in making mattresses fire retardant are dangerous to the health of humans and animals and have been linked to nervous system disorders, cancer and lung irritation. Memory foam mattresses are particularly problematic, having been found to emit more than 60 chemicals, including the carcinogens benzene and naphthalene.

Getting around this stew of hazardous chemicals may seem like deciding between the lesser of two evils — does it really come down to a choice between catching fire or getting cancer? — but there are ways to get a good night’s sleep while staying both healthy and flame-free.

If you have concerns over the toxic chemicals used in the manufacture of mattresses, you can obtain a prescription from your doctor that will allow you to sidestep the rigorous fire standards, and thus the toxic PBDEs, too. Often this prescription allows the holder to purchase the mattress tax-free, which is a big help when considering the fact that natural mattresses often start at a higher price point.

A Better Alternative

Fawcett's Model 9 has a soft surface and is available in nine firmnesses. Photo: Fawcett Mattresses
Fawcett’s Model 9 has a soft surface and is available in nine firmnesses. Photo: Fawcett Mattresses

But another option, one embraced by Fawcett Mattresses and the thousands of other manufacturers like them, takes advantage of the natural fire-retardant properties of wool instead of employing artificial materials sprayed with chemical compounds.

Fawcett Mattresses uses a base of Talalay latex, which has positioned itself as an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional latex and memory foam.

“The Talalay process features natural, biodegradable ingredients that come from renewable resources and water-based raw materials: natural latex, air and water,” explains the Talalay website. “Latex is a rubber-based material that comes from the tropical hevea brasiliensis tree. These trees have a 25-year productive life and they have a strong effect on the environment as they quickly absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and help reduce greenhouse emissions.”

Surrounding the latex base of each mattress is 2 ounces of Joma wool and organic cotton. Fawcett states that this unique combination creates a mattress that is breathable, temperature regulating, and naturally fire retardant and dust mite resistant.

Choosing a natural mattress may seem like overkill, tipping what was already a grudge purchase to one that feels downright miserable with a much higher price tag, but consider that we spend about a third of our lives in bed — and for small children, that figure grows to half! Given how much we spend on daily lattes, new sofas, dining tables … doesn’t a safe, natural mattress deserve the same investment?

Ready to recycle your mattress? Check out our recycling guide on how to recycle mattresses.

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By Madeleine Somerville

Madeleine Somerville is the author of All You Need Is Less: An Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity. She is a writer, wannabe hippie and lover of soft cheeses. She lives in Edmonton, Canada, with her daughter. You can also find Madeleine at her blog, Sweet Madeleine.