Picture this: you’re at your local mattress superstore looking for an “eco-friendly” mattress. After all, you’ve recently read about the possibility of mattress off-gassing and you’d rather steer clear of chemicals and go green. You ask the salesperson about their line of “organic” mattresses. He gives you a blank stare. After an awkward silence, he quickly ushers you to a mattress that he announces “…has bamboo in it.”
But is this what you really want? Where’s the organic label? How do you know what is really inside the mattress?
Unfortunately for you, the consumer, you often don’t really know.
Sure, there are standards you can look for (such as the Global Organic Textile Standard, Oeko Tex Standards, CertiPUR-US, and the Federal Trade Commissions Green Guide), but that can be somewhat cold comfort when you’re standing in a mattress showroom and you don’t know what all these standards mean.
Luckily, the Specialty Sleep Association (SSA), a non-profit advocacy group, is making it easier for consumers to decipher this confusing “green” lingo. The SSA’s new 3-level labeling system aims to provide a way for makers of truly eco-friendly mattresses to distinguish their products from those with green-washing claims.
The disclosure labels are the result of years of exhaustive research done by the organization to categorize the different “eco” and safety standards that are already out there.
We spoke with Dale T. Read, president of the SSA, who says that these labels will offer more transparency about precisely what is in an “eco-friendly” mattress, much like what is now available in the organic food industry.
“The labels are essentially an understanding what’s under the hood…it’s truth in marketing,” says Read.
Through the SSA labels, manufacturers certify what natural materials have been used and list those materials by weight. If the mattress manufacturer claims any part of the mattress is organic, it has to come up with substantiation for that claim.
While the program largely depends on mattress manufacturers voluntarily listing the materials in their product, the SSA will be the organization responsible keeping them honest. Read explains that “there will be spot checks.” At any time, the SSA is entitled to “pull a bed that’s in the program [from a retail sales floor] and send it to the testing labs.”
But don’t look for the labels in your local mattress superstore just yet, warns Read.
While over a dozen mattress manufacturers have shown interest in participating in the SSA labeling program, it’s the smaller companies that are jumping on board first. (Already signed on: Naturepedic, Boyd Specialty Sleep, Natura and Spring Air.) Stay tuned and we’ll fill you in as more manufacturers sign on.
In the meantime, says Read, if you’re in the market for a green mattress, tell your local retailer that you’d like transparency labels on mattresses. “Let them know you want to know what’s in these ‘eco’ beds,” he says.