Health experts often talk about the importance of getting enough sleep, but few mention monitoring what we are sleeping on, too. “Most people sleep 6 to 8 hours a night, with their skin and face on bed linens and pillow cases, and don’t real- ize the magnitude and multitude of toxic chemicals in their bedding,” says Marci Zaroff, founder of eco-lifestyle brand, Under the Canopy, and an expert in sustainable and socially conscious design. “There are over two pounds of pesticides in the cotton it takes to make one typical bed sheet, plus an exorbitant amount of harmful toxins in the processing, dyes and finishing.” Given that the skin is the largest organ in the body—and a primary point of absorption— these toxins have been cited as one reason for the rise in allergies and asthma, among other conditions.
Luckily, there’s a simple way to protect ourselves while we slumber. “Aside from food and skin care, organic bedding has the most important effect on our health and well-being,” says industry heavyweight Bonnie Dahan, founder/president of VivaTerra and the author of several wellness and green design books. Free of pesticides, insecticides, genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), formaldehyde, chlorine bleaches, heavy metals, and other carcinogens, certified organic bedding can both help us breath easier, and make a social impact, too. “It is better for the environment, farmer/worker welfare, and future generations,” says Zaroff, “so it allows you to sleep better on many levels, knowing you are making a positive difference in the world.”
As with many things in the green world, though, it can be tricky to figure out what’s really organic. With Zaroff and Dahan’s help, we’ve put together this list of the terms to look for—and the ones to take with a grain of salt.
Here are some great options to help you get an authentically organic good night’s sleep.
This is a one-stop shop for contemporary green living. Their organic cotton Tuck-Me-In bedding— available in duvet and sham covers—is dotted with diamond-shaped pin-tucks that mimic fluffy clouds, while the Blue Sky duvet set mixes a light blue organic cotton percale with a darker toned soft linen to evoke the perfect sunny day. vivaterra.com
Under the Canopy
Mix the 100 percent certified organic Nurturer duvet covers (in dreamy spa-inspired colors like lavender and pale green) with the signature soft and silky Unity sheets, made of 70 percent certified organic cotton and 30 percent ECOlyptus; the latter, trademarked by Zaroff, contains USDA bio-based certified eucalyptus that’s been grown without the need for water or pesticides, and is free of chemicals, heavy metals and chlorine bleaches. porticohome.com
Designed with clean, modern Scandinavian style by Anki Spets, this bedding brand (with stores in NYC and LA), has a couple of 100 percent certified organic sheet and pillow case options. arealinenshop.com
In addition to their extensive collection of sheets, towels, rugs, home fabrics, and more, this green design label has an Essential line offering all the basics needed for an organic bed. Choose from 100 percent organic cotton sateen mattress pads and pillow protectors, pure duck down pillow inserts encased in organic cotton, and two weights of organic cotton duvets. coyuchi.com.
Made with three-inch layers of natural Dunlop or Talalay latex and encased in a quilted mix of organic cotton and organic wool batting, Savvy Rest’s non- toxic mattresses are also customized according to your desired levels of support and softness—and can be split into two levels to suit couples. Choices include mattresses made with two, three, or four layers of plush latex, or a handmade, latex-free option that’s filled with organic wool batting and covered with tufted organic cotton and natural linen thread. Savvy Rest also makes organic crib mattresses and pet beds. savvyrest.com
The Organic Bedding Glossary
What you will want to look for on your labels.
(+) GOTS Look for the GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) seal on the packaging, which ensures that the prod- uct has been certified from farm to bed, from the field through processing, dyeing, finishing, packaging and transportation. It is the ultimate seal of approval for organic textiles, and has been adopted by the USDA as the counterpart to their NOP USDA seal, which is found on organic foods and beauty products.
(+) Certified Organic Unless a product is certified, it is not organic. With over 90 percent of the cotton grown worldwide today made from genetically-modified organisms (GMO), it’s important to have this certification to ensure that the textiles both meet GOTS standards and are GMO-free. In addition to choosing 100 percent organic cotton sheets, look for organic cotton casings when shopping for mattresses, pillows, and duvets, too.
(+) Oeko-Tex When a textile is blended with other fibers, look for the Oeko-Tex seal instead of GOTS to ensure all fibers are eco-friendly (if not certified organic). Both the GOTS and Oeko- Tex seals confirm that the products are manufactured without harmful chemi- cals such as formaldehyde and use only low-impact dyes, which have less than a 5 percent runoff (versus 50 to 60 percent with conventional dyes).
(+) Low-Impact Dyes This means the colors have been achieved without toxic chemicals like formaldehyde and heavy metals, making them safer for your skin and the planet.
(+) Fair Trade While the GOTS seal does ensure fair labor practices and social compliance, this Fair Trade certification—which is already found on items like coffee, tea, chocolate and ba- nanas—will soon be seen on applicable textiles, too.
(+) RPET For comforters, decorative pillows and other accessories, look for products stuffed with RPET instead of polyester fills. Eco-friendly RPET is made from plastic bottles that have been recycled from landfills and broken down into a soft and durable fiber.
(-) Bamboo While bamboo is a renew- able and sustainable resource for flooring and furniture, when made into a textile, it requires huge amounts of toxic chemicals to break down the pulp into fiber. The resulting product is actually a rayon that has minimal traces of real bamboo—re- sulting in one of the biggest sources of “greenwashing” confusion in the bedding industry.
(-) Natural This is essentially a meaningless term, say our experts, since unlike “organic”—which is federally regulated— ”natural” is an arbitrary label and subject to interpretation. Conventional cotton is often marketed as “natural,” even if it is made from genetically-modified seeds or with the use of carcinogenic pesticide sprays and formaldehyde.
(-) Thread Count This term can be de- ceiving in the organic space, since there are ways to double thread counts without actually making the product better. The quality of the fiber and the manufacturing process are more relevant than the thread count, so an organic cotton sheet with a lower thread count could actually be much softer and stronger than a higher thread count sheet made from conventional cotton.