Making sense of “green” mattress claims

Posted by Kelsey Ness on March 15, 2012

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It is getting easier for consumers to learn exactly what’s inside a natural or “green” mattress. The Specialty Sleep Association (SSA), as part of its Environmental Program for Consumer Education, Retailer Training and Truth in “Green” Marketing, has created a mattress labeling program designed to help consumers make better informed mattress buying decisions.

The SSA is a non-profit advocacy and education association advocating and promoting the full spectrum of new technology bedding using both synthetic and green or sustainable solutions. Cargill Inc, producer of BiOH® polyols, is a full founding member of the SSA’s Environmental & Safety Program/Green Initiative Board of Governors.

Building the foundation for new industry standards

The SSA’s labeling program may one day result in more uniform labeling standards for green manufacturers, and more consistent, industry-wide definitions for what constitutes natural, green and sustainable.

The three-step seals and consumer discloser label tags appear on mattresses from manufacturers who join the program. They help consumers to understand the environmental and safety attributes of participating manufacturers’ products. Specifically, they make it easier for consumers to see at a glance:

• The minimum environmental and safety compliance levels that apply to that particular product.

• The material content by percentage for components in the mattress. Manufacturers certify what natural materials have been used and list those materials by weight. If the manufacturer claims any part of the mattress is organic, it has to substantiate that claim. Periodic product testing authorized by the SSA will help ensure compliance.

So far, products and manufacturers that have earned the SSA’s Environmental & Safety Program Seal of Approval are: Boyd Specialty Sleep, Natura World, Naturepedic and Spring Air International.

Program details

Manufacturers pay a fee to the SSA to use the label and seal. There are three different levels of seals that may be used.

To display the Level I seal, a manufacturer must:

• Disclose materials used in construction and percentages of natural/bio-based and/or pre-consumer recycled content if applicable

• Achieve a minimum of 20 percent of natural/biobased or pre-consumer recycled content in component categories of fabric and quilt

• Participate in an annual survey to identify carbon footprint issues and commit to continuous improvement

• Meet all federal safety flammability requirements

• Meet all safety requirements for children’s products if applicable

• Provide a warranty for the product

For the Level II seal, a manufacturer must meet all the requirements of the first threshold and in addition, the products must:

• Disclose materials used in construction and achieve a minimum of 20 percent natural/biobased, pre-consumer recycled content material, and/or steel in component categories of fabric and quilt and 10 percent for core

• Certify the top fabric (closest to consumer during sleep) through either Oeko-Tex Standard 100 or Global Organic Textile Standard

• Flexible polyurethane foam products must achieve CertiPUR-US certification

• Latex foam products must achieve Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certification.

The Level III seal is the highest that can be achieved. To meet the Level III requirements, a manufacturer must comply with the previous two levels’ requirements and:

• Disclose materials used in construction and achieve a minimum of 70 percent of natural/biobased and/or pre-consumer recycled content material in component categories of fabric and quilt

• Disclose materials used in construction and achieve a minimum of 50 percent natural/biobased, pre-consumer recycled and/or steel for core

• Certify the final mattress through Oeko-Tex Standard 100 or Global Organic Textile Standard

• Test the mattress for VOCs emissions

The SSA is currently considering proposals for a Level IV of the program. In addition, the SSA has developed an Environmental Glossary Marketing Guide, available on its website, explaining many definitions and regulations governing the “green” industry.

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