"Organic," "certified organic," "natural," "green," eco-friendly": What do all these labels mean? If you are going to pay a premium price for a "green" mattress, make sure you know what you're paying for because some mattresses are "greener" than others. Below are GoodBed's tips on decoding "green" mattress claims.
When you see these labels on a "green" mattress, remember that these claims alone may not be measured, certified or backed up by anything at all.
Instead look for eco-labels – seals or certifications issued by an independent third party that verify a product has met specific environmental criteria or standards.
This is a typically seen as a claim for natural latex (glossary link). But make sure that this claim meets the Federal Trade Commission's Green Guide definition of what is considered bio-degradable – that is, the entire product will "completely break down and return to nature within a reasonably short period of time... after customary disposal."
This claim (as well as "Toxin-Free" and "No Chemical Fumes or Off-Gassing") may not be backed by any third party verification – check to see what third-party organization has tested these claims and the certification number. This claim often implies that the mattress does not contain VOC's or flame retardants such as PBDE's. For reliable independent eco-labels that ensure that harmful chemicals are not used in a mattress, look for the following:
While a label that claims to be certified by an organization may seem legitimate, make sure you know the certifying organization and what it stands for. For more information see our list of organic mattress certifications and labels.
While you may see this claim on a mattress, don't assume that it is completely safe if you have allergies since there is neither a standard definition of "hypoallergenic" nor any third party verification. It is simply a definition by the FDA that the product is less likely to trigger an allergic reaction that other similar products. If you have allergies, make sure you know exactly what is in the mattress – don't rely solely on the "hypoallergenic" claim.
Often this means a mattress is either covered or filled with a "bio-based" product – i.e., a plant- or animal-based material, which can include cotton, wool, latex, rubber or other such materials. But remember that just because something is "natural" doesn't mean it is good for you or the environment. Also, if natural materials are important to you, make sure you understand which materials in the mattress are truly natural, and how much of the mattress they comprise, a statistic that is sometimes provided as a percentage of the total weight of the mattress.
To carry an "organic" label, a product must be certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Note that an entire mattress cannot be "certified organic" since the USDA organic certification does not cover final products. As such, only certain raw materials used in the mattress (eg, cotton or wool) can carry this seal. For an assessment of the entire mattress, look for a GOTS label. Note that chemicals and synthetic dyes are not restricted when certified organic materials are processed into a mattress.
Again, make sure that the label is not just telling you that the mattress, in theory, could be recycled. This claim should mean that there is infrastructure available in a "substantial majority" of communities for the mattress to be recycled, according to the Federal Trade Commission's Green Guide.