Check what the mattress is made of. Some popular eco-friendly mattress materials are: latex, wool and cotton. Synthetic materials (e.g. polyurethane or memory foam) will by definition not be environmentally friendly.
Just because a mattress is advertised as containing, say, natural latex, this does not necessarily mean that latex will be the primary material. Less scrupulous mattress firms may advertise something as 'eco-friendly' when in reality it might have as little as 10% natural content, with the remaining mattress layers or core 90% synthetic. Ask questions about the percentage of natural content when you visit the mattress showroom, and ask to see proof of that percentage. Such proof might be from manufacturer's tag sewn to mattress, or an informational brochure or published online specifications from the manufacturer of that product line. Request to see a sample of the inner cross-section of the actual mattress, or even better unzip the mattress cover to see the actual inner core.
A truly eco-friendly mattress will not only be made from natural materials - it will also be crafted in a sustainable manner and have a low carbon footprint. For example, if you are planning on buying a latex mattress, check that the latex comes from plantations which are carefully managed in a sustainable way, with new latex trees being constantly planted.
A mattress with organic content also tells you that environmentally friendly methods are used in producing the raw materials, with no pesticide usage. This is important if you are buying green out of concern for the environment. Organic may be less important to you if you are buying green primarily for your own health - in that case, all-natural may suit your needs just fine. However, in that situation you should be aware that small traces of pesticides can still find their way into mattress materials if they have been grown non-organically with pesticides, no matter how natural the original material itself is.
Certifications are awards from regulating agencies that tell you the product has been inspected or tested and that it conforms to certain specific international standards. Gaining a certification involves a very stringent process of examination - sometimes of the product itself; sometimes in the way it is produced. Proper certifications allow you to be certain that a product is really what it claims to be. If the product or its method of production fails to conform, then the regulation agency will not award it a certification - it's as simple as that.
Make sure the mattress you get is comfortable, in addition to being eco-friendly. There are many luxuriously comfortable eco-friendly mattresses out there, so there is absolutely no need to sacrifice your comfort when you get a green mattress. After all, getting a good night's sleep is one of the primary reasons for buying a mattress!
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