Good Night, Sleep Right
As demand for green products increases, bedding is getting a makeover. Natural fibers offer respite for those with sensitivities to chemicals and dyes, and most natural fibers are hypoallergenic and softer than their synthetic counterparts. Mattress makers have reintroduced all-natural, rubber-tree latex foam as an alternative to petroleum-based foam and synthetic latex blends, for a healthier night’s sleep.
Picking Cotton and Other Fibers
Cotton sheets are cool, absorbent and durable. They hold up to hot-water washings, making them ideal for babies and hospitals. Unfortunately, conventional cotton farming is responsible for much of the world’s pesticide use-25 percent of the total in the United States and more than 10 percent worldwide, according to the Sustainable Cotton Project (www.SustainableCotton.org). While the risk of pesticide contamination through cotton fibers in bedding is negligible, the effect on soil and water is enormous.
Luckily, you have your choice of several better bedding options. Organic cotton is farmed with natural controls and no hazardous chemicals. Alternative fibers such as bamboo, hemp and wood pulp (also sold under the trade names Lyocell, Tencel and Legna) can be grown sustainably, without chemical pesticides and herbicides.
Some alternative fibers are equal or superior to cotton in texture, luster or warmth, though some are less durable when subjected to dryers, irons, hot water or conventional detergents. Ask about fabric care before you purchase.
People have slept on wool and silk since ancient times, but modern production methods are friendlier to the animals that produce these fibers. In conventional silk production, the larva is killed when the cocoon is harvested, but for “wild” or “organic” silk, the cocoon is collected after the moth has left it. Wool is sheared from living sheep. Concerned farmers raise free-range sheep that graze on pesticide-free land and use the most humane shearing techniques possible. Wool produced this way is also frequently called “organic.”
It can be difficult to determine just how organic a product really is. Look for products that are certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Other “organic” labels or seals may or may not be meaningful. Numerous organizations certify fiber farming or production, but they don’t all share the same standards.
Buying local or domestic products is always best, but if you’re buying imported fibers, look for fair trade certification, awarded to businesses that pay reasonable wages to workers in developing countries.
Choose Healthy Hues
Conventional bedding manufacturers use a variety of finishes and chemical treatments to produce a sheen or prevent wrinkles and stains. For example, most permanent-press fabrics are treated with formaldehyde resins. Environmentally responsible companies are unlikely to use such chemical treatments.
Once limited to muted tones and pastels, organic bedding is now available in brilliant hues derived from vegetable and mineral dyes.If white sheets are your style, look for those treated with peroxide-based bleaches rather than chlorine, which pollutes water supplies. Undyed, unbleached bedding offers simplicity and purity-often preferred for baby cribs.
Earth-Friendly Bedding and Mattress Materials
Dreaming of the perfect bedding ensemble? Rest assured—we’ve put together a chart of the 13 most common green choices, which will be featured in the March issue of Healthy Beginnings Magazine.
Excerpted from Natural Home magazine. www.naturalhomemagazine.com. Copyright 2007 Ogden Publications, Inc.