Sunday, April 14, 2013

Green Memory Foam, Really?

I like a firm latex or cotton mattress, but lots of sleepers swear by softer, more cushy memory foam, which started off as all-synthetic. Now many companies  are promoting  “eco friendly” memory foam.  Is it for real? The green claim is primarily based on two things:

*The use of renewable botanical extracts, rather than nonrenewable petroleum, to make the foam.

*Freedom from toxic VOCs.

I spoke  with representatives of two leading green memory foam mattress companies, both of which have stores in New York City, San Francisco and elsewhere in the U.S.

Essentia, a Toronto-based company, has developed the “world’s only natural memory foam,” made from hevea milk (the sap of rubber trees) and plant essential oils, says Dylan McCall in the Berkeley store. It is a point of pride that the foam is petroleum-free. But why essential oils? “Along with water, during the processing, they add moisture and lubrication that turns latex into more spongey memory foam,” McCall says, adding, “There is no offgassing from the mattress at all.”

Instead of chemical fire retardants, a thin layer of Kevlar, “a nontoxic, fireproof,  synthetic fiber,” is woven into the organic cotton mattress cover, McCall explains. Another plus:  “They’re fair trade. The latex comes from a sustainable forest in Indonesia, the foam is made in Italy, the memory foam and assemblage is in Montreal.”

Essentia models range from a futon six inches of organic cotton filling topped with two inches of memory foam,  at $1779 (queen size), or six inches of latex foam topped with different densities of memory foam for $2640 (queen) and up. Higher density memory foam is more expensive, with quicker springback to its original shape, more support, “and it wraps around you a little bit more,” McCall says.

 In the puffy world of  unregulated “eco-friendly” claims, it is refreshing to encounter Keetsa, a mattress company that freely admits its high-density memory foam is only 12 percent botanical-based, and the rest is derived from petroleum. Although Keetsa keeps trying to “lessen our reliance on petroleum, whenever we go beyond 12 percent plant-based, it starts to lose its memory foam characteristics,” says Andy Babkes, a salesperson and sleep consultant in Keetsa’s San Francisco store. The plant-based Biofoam is derived from green tea leaves and castor oil beans.

From a health standpoint, Keetsa mattresses are certified low-VOC by Certi-PUR,  which is an industry promulgated seal ensuring that the most harmful VOCs are absent from the finished product. As a rule, seals verified by independent third parties are more reliable. 

Low-VOC isn't no-VOC,  however, so “before a mattress is packaged for shipping, we let it air out,” Babkes says. A sensible precaution.

To reduce their eco footprint, Keetsa’s premium mattress covers use hemp, which requires less water than cotton. Hemp also “feels softer and more luxurious,” Babkes says. Their “Tea Leaf” supreme model, combining memory foam and hemp, costs $1599. Keetsa also makes natural latex mattresses with innersprings, encased in organic cotton and wool, starting at $999, queen size.

It’s a point of pride that “we can make it affordable and still have something healthy,” Babkes says.  We won’t argue with that! 

For non-foam green mattress companies, see our blog featuring this GreenerPenny list.

No comments: