I spend a good deal less time than I would like reclining in comfort on my bed. But I still rack up at least 45 hours a week. These, to me, are critical, replenishing hours. I like them to be unadulterated by both stress and toxic chemicals.
Sadly, the former cannot always be banished. The latter, on the other hand, I can control.
My kids all sleep on natural latex, organic mattresses, made right here in Ottawa. I have not yet bitten the bullet and sprung for such a mattress for myself, partly because my present mattress is not that old (its purchase directly preceded my more intense eco-conversion) and partly because it is very comfortable.
A word on replacing mattresses: please look to recycle rather than sending your old mattress to the dump. Mattress recycling is not mandatory in Ontario, though it is in parts of Canada (e.g. in the Vancouver area) and elsewhere. But it is certainly the right thing to do. Ninety five percent of a mattress can be recovered and reused.
See here for a list of recyclers in the US and Canada. Similar services operate in the UK and other countries: I suggest you use the powers of Google to find them.
If you end up replacing your mattress with a conventional one (i.e. if you ignore my advice!), and the company you buy from offers to take your old mattress away, do enquire where that mattress will end up. As far as I know, Sleep Country is the only big retailer in Canada that has made a public commitment to recycle or refurbish every mattress they collect.
But I digress. My kids’ mattresses come from a company called Obasan. It is Ottawa-based but has branches in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. The showroom here in Ottawa (on Colonnade Road) is lovely: blonde wood and fresh white bedding with no nasty off-gassing. It makes you want to buy everything.
The company website is very informative about where they source their materials (natural rubber from Malaysia, organic wool from Argentina, organic cotton from Peru and wood from Canada) and tells you about the customization option that is available for all their mattresses (so you can have an altogether different bed experience than your partner).
Obasan mattresses (and, indeed, other latex mattresses) should last 20-30 years. And when they do reach the end of their lives, they can, I am told, be composted (though I’d be interested to find out how long that would take and whether you could jam one into your home organic waste bin…..).
All Obasan products (they sell sheets, pillows and crib mattresses too) are guaranteed free from nasty chemicals. Felted wool is used in the mattresses, instead of chemicals, to ensure that they meet north American flame retardant standards. Conventional mattress makers typically use a class of chemicals called PBDEs to do this. However, these are soon to be phased out (as of 2013), here in Canada, due to recognition of their harmful effects.
This new ban serves to confirm what most us us probably suspected: sleeping on chemical-soaked mattresses night after night is not a great idea. Yet manufacturers continue to use them, not just as fire retardants, but also in the adhesives that they use. So, consider the Obasan option.
The company is great: small and personal. When I ordered the wrong length of mattress, they could not have been nicer about replacing it.
The downside, as usual, is price. Mattresses range between $1,599 (for the thinest twin) and $4,299 (for the thickest king size). This is one of those cases where, if you think of this as a 30-year investment, the price looks pretty good: just over $1 a week for the twin, assuming it lasts 30 years. Otherwise it can be daunting, though it is in line with other organic mattresses.
If you baulk, try Ikea instead. Ikea made a commitment way back in 1998 to phase out the use of PDBEs. Its Sultan mattress line, discussed here, is a lot easier on the pocket. The Ikea natural latex mattress is $499 for a twin and $999 for a king. It is, though, a compromise: made in Asia with a mixture of natural (85%) and synthetic latex (15%) it has polylactide fibre wadding instead of natural wool. (However, despite their scary-sounding name, these fibres are plant derived and don’t seem to be too evil.)
Last thing: Obasan has regular and quite generous sales, so, if you are on the fence, make sure you get on their mailing list to find out when the next event takes place. And, if you are wondering, within their delivery (as opposed to mail order) area, they do take old mattresses away for recycling.