Eco-Friendly Bedding and Mattress Materials

Dreaming of the perfect bedding ensemble? Rest assured–we’ve put together a listof the 13 most common green choices.

Bamboosheets, pillow cases, blankets, mattress pads and covers

Pros:• Harvested every few years; plant regrows quickly
• Fewer pesticides used and less water needed than for cotton cultivation
• Soft and silky
• No known allergies

Cons:• Pilling of some fabrics common

Selection Guide:• Choose sustainably managed, pesticide-free bamboo.
• Blends with cotton or other fibers that are more resilient and durable

Notes:• Commercial bamboo fibers are not the same species that endangered pandas eat.

Wood Pulpsheets, pillow cases, blankets, mattresses and covers

Pros:• Silky feel and luster

Cons:• Trees grow more slowly than most other fibers

Selection Guide:• Some are very expensive but very soft and durable
• Look for fiber from sustainably managed forests

• Trade names for similar products made from cellulose/tree fibers include Legna, Tencel and Lyocell

Buckwheat, Millet, Speltpillows only

Pros:• Very firm; may offer support for those with neck and spine problems

Cons:• Too firm for some
• May require nonstandard pillowcase sizes
• Hulls can be noisy when shifting positions

Selection Guide:• Avoid fumigated grain; opt for organically grown and naturally cleansed

• Surrounding layer of wool batting quiets noise from hulls

sheets, pillow cases, blankets, pillows, comforters, mattress pads and covers, mattresses and toppers

Pros:• Available everywhere
• Can be washed at high temperatures (for sanitation)
• Some varieties feel cool against skin; flannel or jersey feel warm

Cons:• More flammable than wool or rubber latex; all-natural cotton mattresses require prescription from physician (without fire-retardants or borates, they do not meet federal safety standards)
• Lose loft over time and become compacted

Selection Guide:
• Choose organic; conventional cotton farming relies on heavy chemicals and pesticides.
• Look for peroxide-bleached fabrics, not those treated with conventional chlorine bleach

Notes:• Available from conventional and natural-product retailers in a huge range of colors and styles

Downpillows and comforters

Pros:• Superb insulating properties; ideal in cold temperatures

Cons:• Compacts and becomes difficult to dry when wet

Selection Guide:• Look for down cleansed using water-based products and processing
• Hand laundering and air drying usually required; avoid items that must be dry cleaned

Notes:• Feathers, dust and “other” content almost inevitable; rigorous manufacturer washing processes reduce allergens. Look for high percent of down
• 100 percent goose down generally preferred for softness and warmth

Hempsheets, pillow cases, pillows, comforters, mattress pads and covers, mattresses and toppers

Pros:• Absorbent and naturally antifungal
• Hemp plant easily grown without pesticides

Cons:• Imported fiber; U.S. cultivation prohibited because of resemblance to marijuana plant

Selection Guide:• Washing increases softness over time
• Air-drying (not machine) usually recommended
• Often used in fi ber blends to increase durability

• Not same plant variety as marijuana; hemp fibernmade from a related plant that contains virtually no hallucinogenic THC
• Often called “linen”

Kapok (ceiba)pillows and comforters

Pros:• Less easily compacted and lighter weight compared with cotton
• Sustainably harvested

• Uncommon in United States, although historically used in life preservers for its excellent buoyancy
• Long-distance shipping may negate some environmental benefits

Selection Guide:• Suggested alternative for those with allergies to down or other fibers
• Hand laundering or dry cleaning usually required

Notes:• From seed pods on rainforest tree commonly called the ceiba, which grows in Asia, Africa, South America, Central America, Mexico and Hawaii
• Sustainably harvested through gathering; tree is not cut down. Kapok harvesting provides work for native peoples
• Fiber often called “silk”

Latex (rubber tree)pillows and comforters, mattresses and toppers

• Ideal for those with extreme sensitivity to dust mites, mildew or mold
• Waterproof; good for humid environments, mattress covers

Cons:• Rarely causes toxic allergy (usually associated with overexposure, such as with medical professionals and rubber gloves)
• Usually imported from Asia, Africa or South America

Selection Guide:• The legal definition of “natural latex” can include synthetic latex (a combination often called Talalay latex). When looking for all-natural rubber-tree latex, request specific compositional breakdown

Notes:• Blocks of rubber easily cut or molded into therapeutic pillow shapes
• Shredded-rubber pillows usually washable

Linensheets, pillow cases and blankets

• Perhaps the world’s oldest textile
• Has a cool, breathable texture

Cons:• Wrinkles easily
• Easily destroyed by heat from ironing or dryers

Selection Guide:• Softens with washing
• Avoid machine drying, which deteriorates the fibers

Notes:• The word “linen” can be confusing; it can refer to a napkin or a sheet, a fabric resembling flax-linen, or true linen. 100 percent linen is made from the flax plant.
• Linen blends are often more durable and washable than linen alone
• Organically grown linen is available

Silksheets, pillow cases, blankets, pillows, comforters, mattress pads and covers, mattresses and toppers

• Extremely soft and warm
• Considered hypoallergenic

Cons:• Conventional cultivation kills silkworm (moth larva) and is considered inhumane by some
• Not as washable as cotton

Selection Guide:
• Avoid bedding that must be dry- or spot-cleaned

Notes:• Used for fabric, batting and in textile blends
• Silk derived without killing the silkworm is referred to by different names: wild, organic, Tussah, peace, ahimsa or vegetarian silk

Soy (foam)
mattresses and toppers

• Rapidly renewable crop
• Naturally fl ame-resistant; may eliminate need for additional retardants
• Biodegrades more rapidly and completely than petrochemical foams

Cons:• Limited availability in United States

Selection Guide:
• Choose organically grown soy without petrochemical additives
• New to market; long-term customer satisfaction untested; ask about warranty

Notes:• Soy foam, which is created synthetically, is completely biodegradable

Syriaca (milkweed)
pillows and comforters, mattresses and toppers

Pros:• Touted as hypoallergenic
• Mostly U.S. cultivated, so less shipping is involved

Cons:• Dry cleaning usually necessary

Selection Guide:
• Often used in blends with down or wool

Notes:• Opt for dry cleaners that employ carbon dioxide processing

sheets, pillow cases, blankets, pillows, comforters, mattress pads and covers, mattresse and toppers

Pros:• Available everywhere
• Naturally antimicrobial, mold- and mildew-resistant, hypoallergenic
• Flame retardant–no chemical retardants needed
• Provides warmth in cool weather, moisture control in warm weather

Cons:• Animal source; not vegan/vegetarian

Selection Guide:
• Sustainably, humanely raised wool available, although relatively uncommon
• Look for wool washed with vegetable soap (not chemicals).

• Naturally moisture resistant (but not waterproof); good for children’s mattress pads
• Sometimes machine washable–check label for fabric care