Recently, I attended a seminar at the Las Vegas Furniture Market hosted by an attorney for the FTC, Federal Trade Commission. They were there to discuss Green and Eco-Friendly Claims in the Mattress Industry, and as an industry leader, I thought it would be prudent to attend.
There are many companies in our industry who play fast and loose with their marketing claims, and the FTC is stepping up their enforcement of companies whose claims are unsubstantiated. Companies such as Essentia were recently publicly called out on their exaggerated environmental claims and I wanted to be sure Nest Bedding was in full compliance.
What the FTC drove home was the point that when a company makes an eco-friendly or green claim, they need to substantiate it with real science. It is not just enough to say your product is green because it is greener than another product. In other words you cannot say your Ford Taurus is green because it gets 20 miles to the gallon and a Corvette gets 15 miles to the gallon. There has to be a tangible benefit, backed up by real science, to make the claim your product is eco-friendly or green.
Locally, in the San Francisco Market, there are companies who make interesting and compelling claims about their mattresses being green and eco-friendly. Let's take a look at what these companies claim under the scrutiny of the guidelines discussed by the FTC:
- Green Business Certification - Being recognized as a green business is admirable, but it does not mean their products offer a tangible benefit to the consumer or the environment. It just means the business is practicing green business, which in and of itself is good.
- Bio or Green Foam - Replacing 12% percent of the petroleum in your foam does not make it green or eco-friendly. That is similar to the analogy above about the car's gas mileage. A foam that is substantially replacing the majority of the synthetic or completely using natural product would be considered eco-friendly or green.
- 60% polyester fabric with 40% natural content is a step in the right direction, but the majority of the fabric is still petroleum based, not really eco-friendly. 100% cotton or hemp would be considered friendly to the environment.
- PBDE-free fire chemicals are great, but they are still fire chemicals. Wool, Visil, Hydrated Silica are all non-petroleum, non-chemical based fire preventative alternatives to chemical based fire retardants and would be considered eco-friendly.
- Packaging your mattress in a box is a wonderful idea, but shipping that box from China is hardly eco-friendly. Freighters use low grade fuels which spew toxic exhaust into the environment. There are many options for mattresses made locally, and putting a mattress in a box and shipping it clear around the world is hardly eco-friendly.
- Adding deodorizers to the mattress to mask the smell of the foam is not only NOT eco-friendly, it is deceptive. Adding things like tea or charcoal give the illusion of no chemicals in the mattress, however, they are still there. In fact, by adding these masking agents, they are admitting there is a chemical smell!
Eco-friendly and green claims make you feel warm and fuzzy inside when considering a purchase. However, it is up to the consumer to research these claims and make decisions for themselves based on common sense. The FTC works on the behalf of consumers to single out companies who grossly overstate their green claims to prey upon the unsuspecting public. Do your research and think before buying your next mattress.
Truly eco-friendly mattresses don't rely on chemical fire barriers, masking agents to hide the smell of their foam or shipping from China. Locally made products using natural and organic materials are the best for your body and the environment.