There’s been a discussion happening on my Q&A: Berkeley Ergonomics post about organic mattresses and i just want to bring this subject into it’s own post.
The discussion started with a reader asking about a line of mattresses made by Berkeley Ergonomics. I said it looked OK on paper but they were claiming organic certifications and not displaying them. I said “ask for their certifications.”
Well, a reader wrote back and said:
I asked to see the certifications and they refused to send them to me. In fact they got very defensive. I would love to see them if you are able to get them. I am very suspect of any firm who makes organic claims but won’t provide the certificates. They should be PROUD of them, not want to hide them. It is my understanding that they get the fabric from Europe and do all the sewing themselves so they are handling the materials a LOT. I would be very interested to know if they are handling the materials in a fashion that maintains organic integrity.
This is a great question. There are three parts to the making of an organic product:
- the materials need to meet organic standards
- all the facilities that handle the organic material must be certified
- the handling of the material in all the certified facilities also needs to meet organic standards.
In other words, there are multiple certifications and associated transaction paperwork that are required before an item can be certified organic:
- the material that’s being used in the production process, for example cotton, must be certified as having been grown as organic cotton
- all the facilities (beginning with the organic fiber on the certified organic farm all the way to the facility that makes the final stitch) must be certified, and then
- each facility that moves the materials to the next facility in the production process must get a transaction certificate from the organic certifier who certifies the previous facility so that the next facility is assured that the materials are part of the organic production chain.
For a mattress to be an “organic mattress” it needs TWO certifications (in addition to transaction certificates): one for the materials and another as an organic handler, or manufacturer.
I mentioned that Naturepedic is the only certified organic manufacturer that I knew of and a reader commented, “Actually OMI, Lifekind and Savvy Rest are organic.”
So I want to take a look at these four companies: Naturepedic, OMI, Lifekind and Savvy Rest and see how organic each of them are. I will just disclose that I have known Naturepedic for many years and am very familiar with their products, materials, and philosophy (I wrote a review of their materials for Debra Lynn Dadd Recommended Products. But let’s just look at what each has to say on their websites.
Here’s what I’m going to look for and what you should look for when evaluating whether or not a mattress is organic:
- What is the claim?
- Do they have certificates publicly displayed?
- What are the certificates certifying?
- Who has done the certification?
- What are the standards for the certification?
- What are the dates the certificate is valid?
- What is the name on the certificate?
So let’s take a look…
Let’s start with Savvy Rest. www.savvyrest.com/certifications
The first certification they list is GREENGUARD GOLD. This is not an organic certification at all. It measures emissions against a certain standard. If you go to their website and search for mattresses you will see that many mattresses qualify to be GREENGUARD gold certified even if they have materials like vinyl covers, that I would not recommend. So this certification does not contribute to their being an organic mattress.
The next Savvy Rest listed certification is USDA Organic. This applies to their Dunlop latex supplier’s rubber tree farms. And then the latex processing is certified by the International Control Union to the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS). All that seems fine. Their latex seems to be organic.
Then Eco Institute, which apparently is their latex certifier. Savvy Rest says, “Our Dunlop supplier, Cocolatex, has achieved Eco Institut certification for the purity of their organic latex.” Go ahead, click. Ah, the certificate is for natural latex. This is a “natural” certification. No organic here.
OEKO-TEX Standard 100 also is not an organic standard. This standard says that the material is below an established standard for 100 toxic substances.
The Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency (EPEA) was founded in 1987 by Michael Braungart to implement the Cradle-to-Cradle philosophy. The standards of this philosophy (which I greatly admire) includes the elimination of a list of toxic chemicals. But this is not an organic standard either. This certification is for Radium Foam, their supplier of (petroleum-based) Talalay latex. Again this is not an organic certification. It’s not even natural latex. [Radium Foam wrote to me from the Netherlands and explained that they supply certified natural latex to North America.]
The only thing certified organic about a Savvy Rest mattress is their USDA and GOLS certified organic latex. But not all their latex is organic. Only their USDA and GOLS certified organic Dunlop latex.
Finally, go to the website for the global organic textile standard: www.global-standard.org. There is NO certification for Savvy Rest as an organic mattress manufacturer. So we don’t know know how they are handling these materials.
Therefore, as far as i am concerned, this is NOT an organic mattress.
OMI and Lifekind
I’m putting OMI and Lifekind together because both these brands are made in the same factory, yet they present themselves as separate businesses with separate names and websites.
Let’s first look at their shared GOTS-certified Eco-Factory. You can read about it here on the OMI website and here on the Lifekind website. I’m not questioning that the factory is certified organic, I’m only commenting that they are not showing the certificate. But they do have one. See their listing in the GOTS database
So OMI can legitimately call themselves an organic mattress manufacturer. There is no GOTS certification for Lifekind listed in the GOTS database. I don’t know what the arrangement is between these two brands, but the GOTS certification is for OMI.
That said, let’s look at their individual claims about certification.
OMI also has a whole page of certifications at www.omimattress.com/Certifications.php.
This page starts out with a whole paragraph of firsts, which may or may not be true. There are no links to substantiation. They end the paragraph with the statement, “and a printout of our mattress emissions can be found on the UL/GREENGUARD website here. That would be great to see a printout of their mattress emissions. But I couldn’t find it.
They then go on to list numerous certifications, including USDA Organic, Texas Department of Agriculture, GREENGUARD, Oeko-Tex, and others that aren’t even certifications. None of them have certificates.
Mixed in with all these are their GOLS certification for organic latex and their GOTS certification. But they don’t even mention that they are a GOTS certified organic mattress manufacturer. They only say that their organic wool, cotton, and fabrics are GOTS certified.
All they need to say is they are a GOTS certified organic mattress manufacturer and show us the certificate. That covers the whole mattress—all the materials and manufacturing process. Their certification is valid until 2-17-2017. I can tell you they are certified because I went to the GOTS website and found their certification.
Lifekind has their own list of certifications at www.lifekind.com/organic-certifications
“Lifekind’s latex mattress cores are certified to the Global Organic Latex Standard. GOLS is a new certification available to mattress manufacturers.” OK. They have a certificate. Valid until December 16. But it’s a certificate for “Organic Mattresses, Inc.” Which is OMI.
And then they go on to list the same materials as given on the OMI certifications page. Look at these two pages and compare them for yourself.
So it’s clear to me that whether a mattress is branded OMI or Lifekind, it’s pretty much the same mattress, made in the same certified factory from the same certified materials. But neither of these companies are presenting their certifications so consumers can see and verify them, and it appears that Lifekind as a company has no certifications at all.
I’d love to see both these companies improve their presentation of their certifications and be more clear about their relationship.
Naturepedic lists all their certifications at
Right at the top of the page they tell us they are a Certified Organic Mattress Manufacturer & Facility. “All Naturepedic mattresses meet the organic and non-toxic standards of the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and/or the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS). U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recognizes GOTS as the standard for organic consumer goods.” And then they link to their certificates, which are made out to Naturepedic. GOTS Certification, GOLS Certification
They also show their organic content standard certification. The Organic Exchange Certification Program which ensures proper tracking of organic material from its source to the finished product. Naturepedic is certified to meet this standard, demonstrating that the organic fiber in their products has been independently verified. OCS 100 Certification.
Naturepedic also has a GREENGUARD GOLD certification and a UL Formaldehyde-Free Verified certification, and Naturepedic products have been scrutinized by scientists and experts to ensure they do not contain any harmful materials for the Made Safe certification. All of these certifications are current and have valid certificates made out directly to Naturepedic and which clearly list all the Naturepedic products.
Therefore, in fact, Naturepedic truly is a GOTS certified organic mattress manufacturer and does business responsibly.
But I also have to add that Naturepedic not only meets the GOTS organic standards, they go above and beyond them.
- Naturepedic developed the patent on using food-grade polyethylene for waterproofing, instead of using vinyl or perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) or polyurethane. Then, Naturepedic has gone yet another step further and is making its food-grade polyethylene from non-GMO sugarcane.
- Naturepedic is now also using its sugarcane based food-grade polyethylene for its mattress cores, for those crib mattresses that do not use steel innersprings. (Naturepedic also does not use latex, even if organic, in its baby products because it has a separate policy not to use any materials in its baby products that might pose allergenic concerns.)
- Naturepedic does not use any chemical flame barriers or any other flame retardant chemicals whatsoever. All Naturepedic products are designed to meet all flammability requirements without having to rely on flame barriers/retardants.
- Naturepedic has purchased its own machine for making binding materials (aka “tape edge”) and is apparently now the only company that makes much of its binding from certified organic cotton.
- Naturepedic has purchased the last machines anywhere in the world that makes encased coils with sewn certified organic cotton encasing. (These are old German machines that are no longer being manufactured.) Virtually all encasing machines available today spray the encasings with glues, but Naturepedic refuses to use any glues/adhesives in any of its products.
- Naturepedic products are almost entirely free of any petroleum based materials or components.
In short, Naturepedic has become the gold standard for mattresses.
And the Moral of the Story Is…
Always, always, always look for the organic certificates, and make sure they are issued to the company making the claim (and not just to one of their suppliers, which proves little, because a supplier’s certification shows no connection to the mattress company) Independent third-party certification is the only way to know materials really are organic and the organic materials are being processed to similar organic standards.
I’m not trying to be critical here. I’m trying to raise the bar.
As consumers we can’t make informed decisions unless we have information about the materials used to make the products, presented to us in a way that are documented and can be understood. And as consumers, we need to learn what the certifications mean and how to read them.
All the information in this post is taken straight from the webpages given. You can go there and see for yourself.
I’d love to know your comments.
Pdfs of the certification pages mentioned that I examined on 28 and 29 November 2016: