Looking for a definition of what makes an organic mattress? Here’s the quick scuttlebutt: nobody knows for sure, and anyone who says otherwise isn’t being straight with you. The same is true for many other items carrying green or organic claims.
The other day I wrote a post on whether you should buy an organic mattress, citing the petrochemicals and volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) found in typical mattresses. In that post I highlighted things to look for when shopping for an “organic mattress,” including things like the use of organic cotton fabric, 100% natural wool, and so on.
Since then I’ve done some more research, and what I discovered is basically the same problem that afflicts the entire green/organic industry: there are no certified, independently verifiable standards that can be applied to products like mattresses to declare them objectively green or organic. Lacking such standards, the definition of “green” basically becomes either what companies say is green or what individual consumers believe to be green. (Some standards are beginning to emerge especially for food, but none for mattresses and many other products.)
I came across a recent article in the New York Times that discussed the mattress problem. The article included a graphic image highlighting various “green” mattresses, what the mattresses actually contain, and the opinions of a couple of experts on whether eco friendly claims were valid. The experts pooh-poohed most of the manufacturers’ environmentally friendly claims.
Some of the experts’ comments show how difficult it is to declare something organic without independent standards. For Serta’s Vera Wang Latex Mattress, which uses a material called Fireblocker, one expert declared, “Fireblocker contains Kevlar, and is a heavy-duty petroleum based fiber that takes us far from natural.” The other expert piped in, “Kevlar works great and is non-toxic.”
This is what I believe here at Eco Village Green: There is almost nothing we can purchase today as part of our human civilization that is completely environmentally friendly. Even if a material is made from eco friendly materials, its manufacture is likely not green, either directly or indirectly. For example, organic cotton may be grown green, but organic growing methods yield less product than those using petrochemicals…so more of it has to be grown to meet demand, which could mean more forests are cut down to accommodate it. That is not 100% green.
In my opinion, the closest thing to being 100% green or natural is anything that carries a highly meaningful green certification from an organization that posts objective standards and makes them subject to public comment. An example is the Simple Green cleaning product I wrote about yesterday, which carries the Green Seal. Hopefully we’ll soon see the development of new standards for other products.
I also believe there is value in products that don’t bear a meaningful certification, but which nevertheless try hard to use more natural or eco friendly materials–especially if those materials can be independently verified. Some products may also not be able to obtain a meaningful certification because none exists for that particular product type. In any case, products like these are an improvement over materials that are toxic to our health or to the environment, even if their manufacturing processes are less than perfect or if some portion of materials used are not organic/natural.
Maybe we can’t yet all agree on the true definitions of “green” and “organic,” but hopefully we can agree that anything that relies on eco friendlier, more natural, renewable resources is a big step in the right direction.