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There are a lot of misleading terms that get tossed around in the world of clean bedding. One of the most hotly debated in recent years is that of plant-based foam used in mattresses. While you may think anything that says plant-based is naturally safer, there are a few things to know about this option. Let’s take a closer look at this matter, as well as some of the disadvantages of plant-based foam.
When a mattress says plant-based foam, it generally means it contains natural elements harvested from a natural source. For example, a latex mattress is generally harvested from rubber trees so it is considered from a natural source. Most traditional mattresses use a petroleum base as their main component as opposed to a naturally occurring ingredient. As the knowledge expands about what chemicals can do to human health, more and more consumers are looking for more natural alternatives. The term plant-based makes consumers take a longer look at a mattress.
Not all mattresses made from natural elements are the same in composition and this is an important distinguishing factor for consumers to fully understand. Some mattress companies will present their mattress to the public as a natural alternative by saying it is plant-based, but that doesn’t mean it is completely natural or the best option available. Many mattresses will indeed use natural materials such as latex or cotton, but they also combine it with elements of other toxic materials to some extent.
Another factor to consider is that plant-based does not necessarily equate to organic. Organic is free of chemicals. There is nothing stopping a manufacturer from labeling a mattress plant-based, but then spraying chemicals during the growth or manufacturing of the product. Not only that, but the fact that they combine synthetic materials with natural ones, but only tout the natural ingredients, can confuse consumers into thinking it is all-natural when it is really only a percentage of the mattress that is actually naturally-based. Many companies of integrity are taking a stand against this practice by attempting to expose the truth of this somewhat shady practice of deception. Savvy Rest, a leading brand in the industry, reports, “there are mattresses labeled “green” that use 20% soy Visco, and call this blended material “natural memory foam.” The resulting mattress can be 80% petroleum products and 20% natural.” When looking for a completely chemical free mattress, the key is to look for options which say organic or 100% natural. Since organic regulations are regulated by the USDA, you can rest assured this word hasn’t been associated with a product full of potentially harmful chemicals in the same way “plant-based” has over the years. Most of the time, plant-based is simply a term used to fool consumers.
The majority of the time when a mattress says plant-based foam, it is mostly soy. While soy is a plant found in nature, it is not necessarily one of the most environmentally sound solutions. In fact, most people would agree that the use of soy is one of the biggest disadvantages of plant-based foam.
The main reason is that soy production isn’t the best option in terms of sustainability. The World Wildlife Federation has been monitoring the effects of soy farming on the environment for a while now and they have found some serious disturbance. The WWF reports, “Soil erosion and environmental impacts from the ever-increasing use of pesticides are a growing problem where soybeans are grown.” Soy, in general, is in such high demand, that growing it without pesticides, or organically, is nearly unheard of in the mattress industry. It doesn’t help that soy, unlike cotton and rubber trees, uses a lot of space to produce a much smaller crop which further detracts from its sustainability for the planet. This is why soy or plant-based foam is so hotly debated within the natural products industry.
The responsibility of making the right choice often rests in the hands of the consumer. If people learn the disadvantages of plant-based foam, such as soy, and stop buying it, manufacturers will, in turn, stop making it. To make sure you make the right choice in a natural mattress, you want to make sure you are able to identify the ingredients used in the product. If it says plant-based, but doesn’t list the plant, it is probably soy. Most manufacturers and dealers would be happy to help clarify this matter for you so you can make the right choice for both your health and the health of our planet.