Organic bedding may be better for the planet -- and your health

By Carley Lintz
CTW Features
Posted5/30/2015 7:00 AM
  • Organic bedding proponents say natural "organic" fibers aren't just better for the planet, but because they haven't been soaked in chemicals, they're better for your health, too.

    Organic bedding proponents say natural "organic" fibers aren't just better for the planet, but because they haven't been soaked in chemicals, they're better for your health, too.

You already know you can go organic in the kitchen, but what about in the bedroom?

Organic bedding may be the answer for people who want to be more environmentally conscious in every aspect of their lives. Since the term organic is applied liberally to everything from apples to cleaning fluid, the meaning can get a little murky.

"When you're dealing with textiles, there are varying grades of truthfulness," says Scott Tannen, founder and CEO of Boll & Branch, a luxury organic bedding company. "The question is, if you walked into the grocery store and bought something organic, what do you really know about it?"

However, the U.S. is the only country in the world with a policy regarding organic textile claims. In order for a finished textile product to call itself "organic," it must meet the organic regulations set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Policy -- or the Global Organic Textile Standard.

"For fabric to be considered organic under GOTS, the growing of the fiber must be certified organic, then all stages post-harvest must be certified to our standards," says Sandra Marquardt, North American representative for GOTS. "That includes the spinners, weavers, knitters, and traders -- all the stages of the business-to-business chain must be certified for transparency."

For a product to gain a GOTS "organic" label, at least 95 percent of the fiber used has to meet its high standards. This means from the soil to the packaged product, the use of pesticides, harmful chemicals, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and toxic dyes all are prohibited. Other key provisions include a ban on child or coerced labor and strict wastewater treatment.

"GOTS is truly the standard," Tannen says. "If it doesn't have a GOTS label, I would be extremely suspect."

Not only should you make sure the fabric is NOP- or GOTS-certified, Marci Zaroff also recommends taking a closer look at the company's behavior. Zaroff is the founder of Under the Canopy and a board member for the Organic Trade Association.

"In terms of brands and what kinds of companies are people supporting, pull the curtain back and look at the missions and value systems of the companies you're supporting to make sure you're not supporting some sort of green-washing story," Zaroff says.

Besides the environmental and social justice benefits of organic textiles, covering yourself in organic sheets at night may benefit your health, too. According to Zaroff, sheets made of nonorganic fibers have been saturated in up to two pounds of chemicals like pesticides, formaldehyde and chlorine bleaches, which can be a major skin irritant.

"Your face is against your pillowcase, or you're wrapped with bedding around you. If you think about it, your skin is the largest organ in your body and the primary organ for absorption," Zaroff says. "So it's not just about what you put in your body, it's also what you put on your body that makes a difference."

Organic proponents also claim the fabric promotes better sleeping habits due to breathability and comfort. It's important to note, though, this claim has not yet been confirmed by a scientific study.

"Your sleep is crucially important, so having something that gives you that much more comfort and you start sleeping better, it's really an easy investment to make," Tannen says.

Prices of organic home fabrics are comparable to conventional bedding prices -- Boll & Branch sheet sets start at $200 -- but the lack of excess chemicals also leads to higher quality, softer and longer-lasting products, makers say.

"Cotton is an incredibly strong fiber, but when you apply a lot of these chemicals, they're actually eating away at it," Tannen says. "You're weakening the product and that means over time it's not going to last as long."

Don't think you have to compromise great style to be eco-friendly either. There are numerous companies with products online or department stores that can satisfy your love of the planet and design. The GOTS website even has an online database to find organic fabric companies.

Like organic foods, organic bedding seems to support a lot of contemporary ideals about bettering the environment, society and your health through conscious consumption.

"If we don't think about the products we're choosing and the companies we're supporting, what kind of world are we leaving for our children and our children's children?" Zaroff asks.

If you're still not sold on going organic, some companies even allow you to try products for a trial period so you can judge for yourself.

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