Going Green: Certification & Education Programs within the Industry

Bedding manufacturers are responding to growing consumer interest in making environmentally friendly buying decisions by offering new, innovative products. Various certification programs have also emerged to verify bedding industry claims that their products are “green.” Unlike government regulations, with which all manufacturers must comply, pursuing these certifications is voluntary.

Unlike the new Federal Trade Commission guidelines, which manufacturers are required to follow, many choose to participate in the programs outlined below to promote their commitment to environmentalism. Those who win certification can ask retailers to display the certifying organizations’ seals of approval on their display products and hangtags featuring the certification information, thus, drawing consumers’ attention to these products. The main certification programs available to date include the following:

CertiPUR-US Certification

Focusing on flexible polyurethane foam, the CertiPUR-US Certification guarantees that the foam used has been tested and does not contain the following toxins: ozone depleters, PBDE flame retardants, mercury, lead, heavy metals, formaldehyde, and prohibited phthalates. To qualify for certification, the foam must also have low VOC emission levels. Certification authorizes manufacturers to use the official seal, hangtags, information cards, educational videos, and to list its name on the CertiPUR-US website.

Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)

This standard for all organic textiles includes both environmental and social provisions. To label a product with a GOTS-certified “Organic” designation, at least 95% of it must consist of certified organic materials. Products that are less than 70% organic fibers can be labeled “Made with Organic.” GOTS certification also covers every step of the processing and supply chain. In addition to meeting restrictions on certain chemicals in both the product and its packaging, companies that seek certification (including all processors and manufacturers) must adhere to the International Labour Organization’s working conditions and labor laws.

Oeko-Tex Standard

The International Oeko-Tex Association’s auditing and certification system focuses on the textile and clothing industry, including mattress toppers and bedding. The association’s member institutes conduct the tests to certify products as compliant with the Oeko-Tex Standard 100. Additional independent tests are required to ensure adherence to the more rigorous Oeko-Tex Standard 1000 that ensures that environmentally friendly operations are being followed generally in the textile and clothing industry. Tests for all harmful substances include legally banned materials and harmful chemicals that are not yet officially controlled. The level of testing needed is determined by how closely the final product comes in contact with the skin. To be elevated to Standard 1000, the manufacturer must meet all of the material requirements of Standard 100 as well as standards concerning wastewater, air emissions, dyes, energy optimization, and workplace safety. All certifications are renewed annually.

Specialty Sleep Association’s (SSA) Environmental & Safety Program

Since the launch of its Environmental & Safety Program in 2010, the SSA has educated consumers about the specific components of sleep sets through its seal/tag and consumer contents labeling program designed to disclosure what’s within the bed. This is not a certification program but one that helps consumers understand the environmental and safety attributes of products made by participating manufacturers.

The SSA has three, increasingly stringent seal levels, some details of which are described below.

-Level I: The product must contain at least 20% natural, bio-based, or pre-consumer recycled content and meet all federal safety flammability requirements. The manufacturer must also provide a warranty for the product and participate in an annual survey to identify carbon footprint issues.

-Level II: In addition to meeting Level l requirements, manufacturers must be able to show that certain components—such as top fabric and foam products—are Oeko-Tex Standard 100, Global Organic Textile Standard, or CertiPUR-US certified.

-Level III: A higher percentage of natural or recycled content is required and the entire final mattress be certified by one of the above-named programs. All three levels require participating companies to display a Consumer Disclosure Label, which lists the mattresses’ material content.

Visit www.sleepinformation.org, www.certipur.us, www.global-standard.org, www.oeko-tex.com.