The more we know and do, the better we all will be.



Mar 10

My Bed Is Green!

Pick the typical bed and you’ll find it to be covered in lots of cotton and feathers. So, a good place to begin examining the environmental impact of your bed is to understand these two materials. But let’s take a look at all parts of the bed.

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Most sheets are made of cotton and cotton cultivation occupies 2% of the world’s agricultural land. However, the pesticides consumed in its production are 16% of total global use. For what one would think to be the most natural of products, this is a dirty business.

The good news is that while there are many stories of “green” turning out to be not so “green,” this, my friends, is not the case. Organic cotton has been successfully grown for years at high yields and of a quality equal to or better than its non-organic counterpart. It is done without pesticides and in such a way to support a healthy ecosystem. It takes more time and care and therefore costs somewhat more, but if you compare it to many designer-label sheets, you’ll find the price difference is little to none. When shopping, look for Certified Organic Cotton sheets that reference the GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard.)


And, oh those feathers… Where do they come from? Do we really eat the amount of duck and goose to generate the enormous amounts of feathers and down found in comforters and pillows? Well, it turns out that down is not only removed after slaughter, but also from live geese during molting periods, which occur about every six weeks. There are rules and guidelines which govern this live harvest to avoid inhumane treatment of the birds. There are varying opinions as to the appropriateness of this method and certain environmental groups insist it should be banned. There is currently no certification to determine the method of harvest for down.

Nevertheless, we contend that down comforters are a “green” bedding solution. The feather and down production is regulated and monitored in most countries, they can be found with organic-cotton fabric covers, and if you do your homework, you can get some reassurance that the feathers are naturally cleaned rather than chemically treated to remove allergens. Perhaps most importantly, a good down comforter keeps you warm like nothing else, which allows you to turn down your heat and save energy!


With some exceptions, there are three pillow varieties—down, down-alternative and foam. As mentioned above, down, when harvested after slaughter can be a fine pillow stuffing. Pillows with higher feather percentages will usually provide more support. For comforters and pillows, make sure the covers have a high thread count to eliminate leakage and avoid having feathers poke you in the night.

While you see down-alternative pillows pushed as a “green” option, they are polyester-based and therefore derived from petroleum. So, I don’t see the “green” in this choice.

The same holds true for memory foam. Petrochemicals are the base, and while some manufactures offer an “eco” version where they replace about 20% of the petro foam with a natural soy-based material, they are still largely petro based. However, for people with chronic pain issues, memory foam can be very effective. So “green” is certainly not the only consideration.

Organic latex is another “green” alternative. There is a big fan base for these pillows because of their unique comfort properties, and because they’re made with organically-grown latex, typically an insulating layer of organic wool to wick away moisture, and topped with high-thread-count organic cotton. These are “green” through and through.

Mattress Pads

Cotton, wool, polyester and foam – that about says it all. Organic cotton and wool can be had, the rest are petro. Find the cooling or heated pad with a cotton backing and not polyester.


The three common mattress types are the innerspring, visco-elastic memory foam, and latex foam. And, while your first consideration is comfort, “green” and comfort are not mutually exclusive. Aside from the environmental considerations in the processing of the materials for your mattress, you should also be aware of the potential for off-gassing and pesticide residue in the materials used. Latex and innerspring mattresses made with organic materials can both be considered “green.”

Latex can be organic and 100% natural. However, many latex mattresses are a blend of natural and synthetic latex, synthetic being a petroleum-based product. Some manufacturers claim the blends have a longer useful life, but natural latex, nevertheless is known for its superior lifespan–2 to 3 times that of a normal mattress. The mattresses labeled “organic” will have only natural latex with organic wool batting and a quilted organic-cotton casing. Latex does not off-gas.

All natural innerspring mattresses are available with organic-wool and cotton batting and casings. Coil springs are free from the oil coating typically found in this mattress type. “Organic innerspring” – a good choice for your “green” bed.

Other Fabrics

Sheets, blankets and other bed linens can be found made from hemp, bamboo and silk. There is currently no certified-organic silk. However, silk is considered hypoallergenic because it resists dust mites. Hemp and bamboo grow like weeds yielding multiples of what an acre of cotton would generate.

The processing and fabric treatments of any material can generate many unwanted environmental consequences. Buy “Certified Organic” as your best first step in supporting a healthier environment. And, look at more information from industry-focused certifying bodies.

Author is Michael Samsel, partner,


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  1. Jean Clausen

    I decided the most valuable ,lasting gift I could give to the Earth was to teach the children of the Earth how to care for their home. I authored/ illustrated the book Green Wise Kids & visit schools & libraries to share & discuss what they can do daily. I believe they like the hope in the message as well as the challenge.

  2. Gary

    I am a green person too but it’s sad that most products are not made in a true green way. I love cottons and materials made from hemp are also amazing. It’s really very important to cultivate the right way.

  3. John Howard

    This article adds to the argument that we can live an even better and fashionable lives being green.

  4. dave

    I didn’t think the growing of the cotton was as bad (environmentally) as the processing of the fiber ? The processing uses many harsh chemicals . Hemp fiber is FAR superior to cotton.

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    This is an informative article, great for people to read! I also believe that sleeping on Organic bedding is very important in improving overall health for baby’s, children and adults alike. Its important to consider what your face is buried into and inhaling for an average of 56 hours /week. Pure, natural, organic fibers offer a chemical free environment that improve your air quality and comfort against your skin. This is especially helpful for allergy sufferers, people with chemical sensitivities and skin problems. I personally suffer from chemical sensitivities and have a child that is anaphylactic to dog/cat dander as well as the common environmental allergies. My family has found that a chemical free environment has given us all great relief and much better air quality.

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