I have something admit. My mattress is not eco-friendly.

Well, it is in the sense that I bought it used. Three years ago, I was sleeping on the Ikea mattress I had bought off the girl who lived in my room before me. When a downstairs neighbor had to abruptly move out and sell all his furniture, I picked up a Tempur-Pedic mattress for $300 (! They usually start at $1,600).

That mattress is now covered with organic sheets, pillows, and pillow covers. But I never seriously considered getting a new one, even though I know most mattresses contain fire retardants, volatile organic compounds, and formaldehyde which offgas into our air while we sleep on them. Hours a night. Almost every night. For years.

In fact, my mattress must be the most toxic thing in my home.

And yet, mattresses are expensive. And getting rid of my current mattress would entail throwing it out – because of bed bugs, nobody wants to buy or even take an old mattress. But now that you can recycle your mattress in New York City, I might be ready to switch mine out.

But buyer beware: Not all mattress companies who bill themselves as eco-friendly are truly sustainable and non-toxic. “A lot of our customers are coming to us and saying we were burned by another mattress company,” Jeff D’Andrea, co-founder of Avocado Green Mattress, told me.

The problem is that many mattress companies that claim they are green use memory foam. They call it “eco foam,” but it’s still petroleum-based, and off-gasses VOCs (volatile organic compounds) into your home. Then there is chemical-based fire retardants (which are so toxic and don’t even really work), and glues.

“They may use a foam that mixes these traditional chemicals with something greener, but it isn’t even better. Unless you’re using 100% latex, or 100% organic, you’re still going to run into these issues,” D’Andrea says. “It’s like putting vitamin C in Coca-Cola and calling it a health drink.” The health effects of these chemicals include red eyes, a stuffy nose and throat, all the way up to respiratory issues and even certain types of cancers.

Of course, mattresses are legally required to include a tag with the chemical components. But mattress companies are not required to post this information online. So often, conscious consumers will buy a supposedly eco mattress, then see the tag and realize they’ve been duped. (Green Avocado is one of the few, if not only, companies that post their legal tag on their website to show the chemical composition.)

So if you’re looking at a mattress company that claims to be green, don’t buy unless they can answer these questions:

  1. What are the core components made of? You’re looking for natural latex, organic cotton, and organic wool, to start, instead of toxic polyester fill.
  2. Where do they come from? Many of the materials – cotton, latex, wool – can come from the U.S.
  3. Are you using glues to bind the layers together? Glue can be toxic. Some mattress companies handmake their mattresses and bind them physically with buttons or other materials.
  4. Are you using fire retardant? What kind? You’re looking for a natural fire retardant, not a man-made, chemical one.
  5. What certifications do you have? USDA-Certified organic materials are just a start. GOTS is a step up for organic certification, in that it covers the whole supply chain, including labor. OEKO-TEX tells you that the mattress is free from toxic, off-gassing materials that can harm your health. GREENGUARD gold means chemical emissions low enough to make it suitable for use around children or the elderly.
  6. Can you send me a full copy of the legal tag? Just so you know for sure they are telling you the whole ingredient list.

That being said, here are some mattress companies to consider for your next huge home purchase. (Yes, I know about that other new mattress company, and I didn’t include them because they’re not truly eco-friendly!)

Avocado Green

$959 for a twin – $1,599 for king 

The Avocado Green Mattress is GREENGUARD Gold Certified, made with natural and organic materials, including eco-INSTITUT-certified, Dunlop latex from tree-tapped and sustainable sources; OEKO-TEK Standard 100 certified natural New Zealand wool (learn more about the sustainability and performance of wool) and GOTS-certified organic cotton. Avocado mattresses exceed all federal flammability and CPSC standards without using chemical flame retardants. It uses natural hydrated silica — the same compounds as the gemstone opal — to protect both sides of the mattress, and New Zealand wool, which chars but does not burn, as an additional fire barrier. It combines the finest natural cushioning with an internal, zoned, pressure-point support system for proper back support and extended durability, making the mattress last twice as long as a conventional mattress. And the direct-to-consumer model (more about what this is here) brings the price down to the affordable region.

Naturepedic

$1,199 – $4,799

Naturepedic mattresses are made of U.S.-grown, GOTS-certified organic cotton, GOTS-certified organic wool, GOLS-certified (Global Organic Latex Standard) latex, and a steel innerspring. The mattresses are manufactured in their own facility in Ohio. Their other certifications include: GREENGUARD gold, Forest Stewardship Council, Rainforest Alliance, and Made Safe, which means their mattresses have been made with ingredients not known or suspected to cause human health harm. They’re also a 1% For the Planet member, as well as a whole slew of other associations, certifications, and awards. They offer adult, kid, and crib mattresses.

COCO-MAT

Inquire for pricing

COCO-MAT mattresses are made with natural fibers mainly sourced in Europe: natural rubber latex, coconut fiber, organic cotton, seaweed (to release a subtle iodine scent, which helps with breathing and allergies), wool, eucalyptus leaves, cactus fiber, and horsehair. They make a wide variety of mattress types to choose from, from simple to multiplayered, kids and cribs mattresses, plus pillows and duvets and even furniture. There are no metal springs, which can be noisy and uneven, or toxic components. All of their mattresses, pillows, and sleep products are handmade at their privately owned factory in Xanthi, Northern Greece, which has a virtually neutral carbon footprint, recycling rates of 96%, and is certified according to ISO 9001:2008 (quality management system) and ISO 14001:2009 (environmental management system). Their certifications include Forest Stewardship Council, OEKO-TEX, GOTS, and Sustainable Furnishing Council.

Zenhaven

$1,299 – $2,499

A more natural sub brand of Saatva, Zenhaven is a direct-to-consumer company that sells through its website. The mattresses are handcrafted in American and Canadian factories of 100% natural American Talalay latex, layered with 100% organic New Zealand wool, and wrapped in organic cotton. They are EOKO-TEX certified.

Kluft

$10,714 – $32,652 

Handcrafted with cashmere, Joma wool, prime cotton and Talalay latex, Kluft mattresses are the most luxurious natural mattress brand. Their trademarked Kluft Standard™, describes a natural chamber of air between the springs and the mattress-top. In their words, “When this chamber meets the adaptive layers of plush materials, the bed completely synchronizes with your body creating the most refined luxury sleep ever devised.” It’s only sold at Bloomingdale’s.

SavvyRest

$1,349 – $3,799

SavvyRest’s organic mattresses are made with layers of Soft, Medium or Firm natural latex foam rubber, in a wide range of custom combinations. They can even customize each side of a mattress if you’re one-half of a couple! The core components are layers of natural Dunlop or Talalay latex foam, with casings of pure organic cotton and organic wool batting quilted inside. They also manufacture a natural innerspring made of recycled steel, an organic wool-filled mattress, organic bedding and organic mattress toppers.  Their Virginia-made organic sofas, loveseats and armchairs feature the finest natural, nontoxic and organic materials throughout, including solid hardwood, organic hemp and cotton fabrics, organic wool batting, pure natural latex foam, natural jute webbing, coconut fiber, and zero-VOC finishes. Savvy Rest’s mattresses were rated “Greenest” in a natural mattress review by National Geographic’s Green Guide, and their certifications include GREENGUARD gold, GOTS, Cradle to Cradle, Eco-Institut, USDA Organic, and OEKO-TEX, plus, they are a B Corp.

Spindle

$899 – $1,699

Spindle mattresses are manufactured in England of OEKO-TEX-certified Dunlop latex from Pennsylvania; organic cotton grown in Texas, New Mexico and sometimes India that is knit in South Carolina; and wool from sheep raised according to Eco-Wool standards in the Pacific Northwest that is carded by Woolgatherers Carding Mill in California. You assemble the shipped mattress yourself in order to get it to your exact firmness specifications, and you can easily swap out latex layers later to make it softer or firmer.