It all started on the way to the mattress store. Because we spend a third of our lives in bed, and mattresses are major sources of health issues that can stem from chemical exposure to design comfort, mine needed immediate attention.
Let me backtrack a few weeks to a specific physical malady that caused me to readjust many of my daily habits that were due to an unexpected herniated disk that was pressing on my sciatic nerve in my lower back. Let’s just leave the rest of the explanation to one big, “OUCH.”
In the never-ending pursuit of creating healthy choices for my home, my husband and I had plunked down some hefty bucks about 5 years ago for truly eco-friendly, mattress that, at the time was the answer to our sleep dreams. It provided years of soft landings and sweet dreams. Now those landings were causing a fluffy mess to my back, and there was no comfort or shuteye at bedtime.
Fast forward to the mattress store. The salesman sized us up for the true greenies that we are. Could it have been my over usage of the words organic, natural latex core, and sustainable? He led us to what he swore up and down was the most natural firm mattress in his stable. It consisted of a natural latex core, with a pleasing, renewable bamboo covering. More importantly, the mattress was firm enough to handle my aching back.
Once we got the mattress home and my hubby started to position the mattress onto our platform bed, I noticed he was ripping away at all the attached tags. I grabbed the tag that had the words written in capital letters, “UNDER PENALTY OF LAW, DO NOT REMOVE THIS TAG.” I never understood the fervor over those labels, but I always headed the message in fear that the possibility of the tag police was lurking over my shoulder. Anyway, the tag exposed the mattress materials as being 87 percent natural and the rest some man-made cocktail of stuff.
Were we greenwashed? Were they out to get us at the mattress store? Are the claims of true sustainability for your home with regard to building and decorating materials becoming a ping-pong game of chance based on our eco-friendly choices? I might be naive (and I hope I am) about this issue, but I don’t believe that the catchphrase “reduce, reuse and recycle” are a just a passing holistic fancy.
What is greenwashing, and can it be applied to my mattress situation? There are a lot of definitions out there for these new “green” terms. This meaning just about sums it up, “Greenwashing is the practice of making an unsubstantiated or misleading claim about the environmental benefits of a product, service, technology or company practice.”
This New York Times article thinks we are being duped, “More buyers and tenants want their homes and offices to possess these (green) virtues. But, as claims of environmentally sound design multiply, a problem has come up. How can anyone be sure that a particular carpet really was made from old trash bags, that a redwood did not die for that deck, that a pump in air-circulation system was a high-efficiency model?”
How can we be sure? There are some general certification systems (like LEED for home buildings) that can standardize and compare a set of ratings that capture whether a product was made in an environmentally friendly way, without exploiting local labor, and that its use would have little impact on the environment. But, what about the thousands of other products produced under the guise of “green”?
So, a funny thing happened on the way to the mattress store–I came home with the mattress of my dreams and maybe got a little greenwashed in the process. Oh well, I can blame it on my aching back, I’m blaming everything else on that this week anyway! Been greenwashed lately?