Many of us are worried about the issue of sustainability. We worry that we should be doing more for the planet and for future generations. However, a lot of us fail to consider how what we sleep on can impact the environment.
The mattresses that we lie on have an impact on the environment. From the moment the material is made and cut with fabric scissors, there’s an environmental impact. This is not something that most people think about while they lie in bed and get their much-needed rest. However, it is a subject that needs to be at the forefront of mattress buyers’ minds.
The mattress industry creates mattresses that have our health and comfort in mind. These days consumers can choose between a wide range of mattresses without thinking of the environment. However, now is the time to realise just how much of an impact they’re having.
Using Renewable Resources
Many mattress manufacturers have started to use renewable resources. Bamboo, for example, is one resource that has become more and more popular. Not only is bamboo a naturally occurring material, but it’s also very flexible. In some parts of the world, bamboo is used as scaffolding, in others, it is used to make toothbrushes. Now, we find that bamboo is finding its way into our mattresses.
This fast-growing plant is naturally anti-static, antifungal and antimicrobial. If this was not enough, bamboo has very impressive breathability. Therefore, bamboo is a great environmentally friendly material to use.
However, Bamboo cannot be the only material that’s considered to be used to create mattresses. Organic materials such as cotton, hemp and, of course, wool are already traditionally used in mattress manufacturing and are certainly more environmentally-friendly options, processing of these materials can be labour intensive and expensive but with the right suppliers and sustainable sourcing and production processes in place, these materials have a wide range of benefits.
Ideally, mattresses should last at least 10 years and, in an ideal world, be completely recyclable or degradable. Any mattress that can be recycled will need to be made from a sustainable material that contains no innards. The simpler the design, the easier it will be to recycle. This is quite a challenge in itself. Manufacturers will need to source a material that can be made into a mattress that’s comfortable and supportive. It needs to be a material that’s easy to cut using professional shears, and one that will withstand being shipped to stores. Additionally, this single material will need to withstand being used every night by at least one person for at least 10 years.
Any material that is deemed fragile will not withstand the use that mattresses get. The material used, should ideally surpass the consumer’s expectations while also being quite reasonably priced.
Memory Foam mattresses
Memory foam mattresses have a little less impact on the environment, as they often contain far less components, but more could be done. More sustainable materials could be used to create mattresses that support the weight of the person using them. Again, this could be easier said than one. A supportive mattress needs to be made of one material that’s easy to manufacture while lasting a long time.
There has been a lot of fuss about this type of mattress in recent years. Memory foam mattresses can help consumers to sleep better and wake feeling more refreshed. However, they could also be a lot greener.
The Future of Sustainability in the Mattress Industry
The most sustainable mattress will last for many years and begin to degrade when it’s not fit for use. Ideally, sustainable mattresses will be wrapped in very little packaging, which is already high on most manufacturers' sustainability agendas.
A few solutions...
There appear to be a few solutions to the environmental impact that mattresses have. One of them is something of a short-term fix that includes using more sustainable materials today. Another solution is to look for more ways to create usable mattresses that meet and beat environmental criteria. Fewer parts will be used and fewer processes will be undertaken during the manufacturing process. Of course, manufacturers will still need scissors for cutting fabric, safety equipment, and other essential tools. However, if mattresses are made from less material and components, they will be faster and easier to produce.
Sustainability in the mattress industry is something that a lot of people need to take into consideration. When sustainability is taken seriously and is paramount, significant changes can take place. The industry can go from creating products that may do little for the environment to products that are very sustainable.
These days, consumers are looking for products that meet the many environmentally-friendly standards that have been set. Sustainability is a hot topic in all manufacturing across the globe and now the mattress industry has started to dedicate the time, skills, knowledge and money to keep consumers happy, sustainable mattresses are finally becoming a more viable option.
Awarding Sustainability in the industry
In its second year, the National Bed Federation (NBF) Sustainability Award 2021 attracted more than double the number of entries than in 2020, with an encouraging 13 companies putting themselves forward with their sustainable initiatives. Judging criteria included products, waste and energy management, design, packaging, procurement, end-of-life management, employee engagement and corporate social responsibility.
Hypnos pulled out all the stops demonstrating activity and progress on all the award’s criteria and were chosen as the winners by the NBF judges David Fitzsimons, director of circular economy consultants Oakdene Hollins and of the European Remanufacturing Council; Amy Peace, Innovation Lead in the Circular Economy at Innovate UK; and Martin Charter – Professor of Innovation & Sustainability and Director of The Centre for Sustainable Design at the University for the Creative Arts.
Just some of Hypnos’ notable achievements include: 10 years carbon neutral; Red Tractor British traceable wool system; circularly designed mattresses; renewable and recyclable plastic mattress and divan packaging; direct home delivery service; only UK bed manufacturer to become ISO14001 certified for its environmental management system; mattress recycling scheme; social enterprise projects and a new sustainability partnership with Plant Mark / Eden Project.
Judges described Hypnos' entry as “a compelling narrative and shining industry example of the need to take a broad approach to sustainability as possible.”
Runners up, Leeds-based manufacturer’s Harrison Spinks' new ‘Circular by Design’ initiative ensures the sustainability of every new product they produce. As well as materials and energy used, end of life is kept in mind when designing new products, and 100% of its returns and waste products are now being recycled at Spinks’ own facility, diverting from landfill.
Judges chose Millbrook Beds as a finalist for its innovative approach towards design for deconstruction, tackling what is widely regarded outside of our sector as a problem waste stream in sustainability and circularity terms and Silentnight was selected specifically for its world-class example in tackling climate change seriously with a science-based targets approach to achieving net-zero carbon.
It's very encouraging to see so many of the mattress industry giants dedicating resources to improving their sustainability and environmental impact. We will continue to work alongside them, supporting their initiatives and looking for sustainable/environmentally friendly alternatives to essential mattress components, such as tags, tufting tapes and labels.
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