A Complete Guide to Sustainable Bedding – Reduce Your Environmental Impact    

The growing demand for eco-friendly bedding reflects a shift in consumer behavior and a preference for more sustainable textiles and fabrics. Today, consumers can access more detailed information and understand the impact of their shopping habits and purchasing decisions on the planet around us.

White sustainable bedding

While fast fashion practices still dominate the textile industry and underpin mainstream fashion’s business model, this is changing. The sustainable sector is growing at a consistently impressive rate; over the last few years, items marketed as sustainable grew 5.6 times more quickly than products that were not (HBR).

In this comprehensive guide to sustainable bedding, we define eco-friendly bedding, examine which materials are most sustainable, and explore the textile technologies impacting the bedding and homeware sectors.

What is sustainable bedding? 

Sustainable bed sheets and bedding refers to bedding products that are manufactured in a way that minimizes environmental impact. Some would also expand the definition to require eco-friendly bedding manufacturers to promote socially responsible policies, such as fair working practices.

Several factors determine whether bed sheets are sustainable or not. These include:

The material 

Not all textiles have the same environmental impact. Some require particularly intensive growing practices, while others may produce potentially harmful by-products. Historically, natural fibers were more sustainable than synthetic fibers. However, a new generation of synthetic and semi-synthetic fibers is changing that.

Natural fibers are not always environmentally friendly, either. For instance, regular cotton is associated with significant resource use – it takes approximately 2,700 liters of water to produce enough cotton for a single T-shirt (WWF) – energy-intensive processing, and considerable pesticide use. On the other hand, organic cotton is much better (though not perfect) for the environment.

In many cases, recycled materials are the most sustainable, as they save used materials from being sent to landfills and give them a new lease of life. This is particularly true of recycled polyester, which is often made from the type of plastic found in plastic bottles. 

When it comes to sustainability and material selection, you consider these factors:

  1. Research the growing methods and origins of your textiles.
  2. Prioritize organic materials over non-organic.
  3. Recycled materials are typically more sustainable than new textiles.

Processing

Processing can also have a significant impact on sustainability. For instance, sustainable bedding often utilizes low-impact, eco-friendly dyes and finishes during manufacturing. This reduces the amount of harmful chemicals released into the environment. Companies will also try to use water- and energy-efficient processes during production.

Longevity

The explosion of the fast fashion business model means consumers are encouraged to replace and repurchase items with increasing regularity. But this approach is enormously damaging to the environment. As such, sustainable bedding should be durable, reliable, and long-lasting and eliminate the need to buy new sheets and accessories.

Transparency 

While transparent brands are not necessarily always sustainable, they have less to hide from informed shoppers and are more likely to be forthright with information concerning their sourcing, production processes, and environmental impact. We would go as far as to say that transparency is essential to the sustainable textiles sector, as a lack of information will affect customer trust, and brands will suffer.

End-of-life disposal

The last big sustainability question is what happens with the bedding at the end of its life. Is it recyclable? Will it biodegrade? Or will it just be shipped off to the landfill? How much damage will it do if it breaks down and releases its constituent materials into the natural landscape? Sustainable bedding should always be designed with end-of-life considerations in mind. 

Benefits of using sustainable bedding

The benefits associated with environmentally friendly bedding include environmental, social, financial, and personal aspects. We want to highlight a few of these advantages. 

Environmental protection – Eco-friendly bedding utilizes organic and eco-friendly materials, reducing the demand for less sustainable materials and their resource-intensive processing. It usually results in the product generating a lower carbon footprint.

Healthier environment – By adopting organic, natural fibers, sustainable bedding moves away from the harmful chemicals regularly included in conventional bedding materials. At the same time, many natural fibers often benefit from hypoallergenic properties, making them better suited to people with allergies or sensitive skin. 

Ethical practices – Many textiles, particularly regular cotton, are associated with terrible work practices and regularly flout labor standards. In contrast, many manufacturers of sustainable bedding go out of their way to ensure they source textiles from producers who treat workers with respect and guarantee safe conditions.

Durable and cost-effective – Durable products last longer and need replacing less frequently. While this is good for the environment, it also benefits customers, as they spend less on new products.    

Positive effect on biodiversity – Sustainable farming practices, such as those utilized in organic cotton cultivation, can positively impact biodiversity. This is because they avoid the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers that harm delicate ecosystems.

Comfort – As sustainable textiles are typically a little more expensive than unsustainable alternatives, they are usually marketed as higher-end products. Consequently, the manufacturers invest in and emphasize the performance, guaranteeing comfort. High-quality natural fibers can provide a luxurious feel and a comfortable night’s sleep.

Sustainable bedding materials

Several materials are used in environmentally friendly bedding, each with advantages and disadvantages. Though the list below mentions several textiles, and it may be tempting to view each as a single material, the reality is that quality and sustainability will vary between fabrics. For instance, not all organic cotton is the same. Some use very few natural pesticides, while others deploy more natural pesticides than they would have if using synthetic alternatives. In other words, always do your research and pay attention to certifications and accreditations that enable you to identify authentically sustainable materials.

When looking for bedding that has less of an impact on the environment, consider the following materials:

Organic cotton
Organic cotton requires approximately 88% less water and uses 62% less energy than regular cotton (AboutOrganicCotton). It is also grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. This nurtures healthier soil and promotes greater biodiversity, minimizing the crop’s environmental impact. Look out for the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification to identify high-quality cotton.

Linen
Manufactured from flax fibers, hemp requires fewer pesticides and less water than conventional cotton, making it a much more sustainable crop to grow. The resulting linen is light and breathable and becomes softer with each wash, making it a popular option for clothing and particularly well-suited to warmer climates. Though more challenging to grow than many other textile crops, it benefits from several valuable characteristics, including natural antibacterial properties.

Hemp
Naturally resistant to mold and bacteria, hemp is something of a super material. It grows quickly and requires minimal water and pesticides, making it highly sustainable and an increasingly popular option for bedding. It also has a remarkably low environmental impact and can act as a carbon sink, absorbing CO² from the atmosphere.

Lyocell
One of several new semi-synthetic materials, lyocell, is made from wood pulp (usually) from the eucalyptus tree. Soft, breathable, and comfortable, it is growing in popularity as consumers switch to new materials. TENCEL™ is the best-known brand of lyocell and is famous for its closed-loop production processes that recycle water and minimize environmental impact. Not all lyocell is manufactured in this way, so pay attention to exactly how your textile is made and where it comes from.

Recycled materials
Recycled cotton and recycled polyester both rescue materials that are otherwise heading for the landfill. This makes them a sustainable choice and a great option to minimize your environmental impact. You can even find brands that recycle plastic bottles to create their polyester bedding. Just make sure you ensure that the products have the appropriate non-toxic accreditations.

Sustainable bedding brands

If you are looking for eco-friendly bedding and need help identifying brands with a good reputation for eco-friendly products, look at our suggestions below. 

Showa Nishikawa is a Japanese company with more than 450 years of history. However, that does not mean they are unwilling to embrace new technologies. Its products utilize sustainable materials wherever possible, while many also incorporate Polygiene StayFresh™ to keep them odor-free and reduce the need for washing. But more on Polygiene StayFresh later.\

Showa Nishikawa

Owl + Lark pays a lot of attention to the materials it uses in its bedding products. Dedicated to enhancing customers’ circadian fitness, the company produces sleep technologies designed to improve your rest and provide the ultimate comfort. Its Ionsilk™ Fitted Sheet is an excellent example. Made from TENCEL™, it is fully organic and benefits from sustainable production and processing methods. It also features integrated Polygiene StayFresh technology to extend the product’s expected lifespan and reduce the resource consumption required to maintain it.

Finally, Nordifakt is a Danish company passionate about leveraging new technologies to create more sustainable products. Its Antibacterial Christianshavn Bedding is 100% recyclable, OEKO-TEX® certified, and includes Polygiene technology. In other words, it ticks all the sustainability boxes.

Nordifakt

Textile technologies for eco-friendly bedding

As you can see, textile sustainability does not just come down to material selection. We can also utilize textile technologies to improve material performance and equip fabrics with new characteristics that enhance their sustainability. Polygiene StayFresh is arguably the best example of this type of technology. An advanced antimicrobial treatment based on silver ion technology, the Polygiene StayFresh solution prevents bacterial growth in materials, keeping them fresh and smell-free for longer. 

How does this make the materials more sustainable? By keeping bedding smell-free for longer, Polygiene StayFresh reduces the need for washing, enabling you to clean your sheets less frequently. This significantly impacts resource consumption – cutting the amount of electricity and water you use – while extending the product’s lifespan. As a result, your longer-lasting bedding does not need to be replaced as regularly, reducing the product’s overall impact and saving consumers money.

It is also important to note that Polygiene StayFresh is integrated into textiles at the point of manufacture. It is not applied onto textiles but built into the fabric, preventing leaching. It is entirely skin-safe and suitable for use in bedding, making it an excellent way to enhance material performance.

Polygiene StayFresh and sustainability – the stats

Combining Polygiene StayFresh with sustainable and ethically sourced materials drastically improves the product’s environmental impact. When we carried out a Life Cycle Assessment on a Polygiene-treated T-shirt, the results were astounding. Polygiene StayFresh enabled customers to skip every other wash without feeling dirty or smelling unpleasant, cutting laundry time in half. In the process, the technology:

  • Reduced the product’s environmental impact by a third.
  • Saved 51 kWh of energy a year.
  • Saved 3,800 liters of water annually. 
  • Freed up the equivalent of four full days, usually spent washing items.

On top of this, by reducing the need for washing, Polygiene StayFresh ensures bedding and other textile-based items last longer, providing greater value to consumers, strengthening brand-customer relationships, and reducing the number of products being disposed of.  

Polygiene, Mindful Living and sustainable bedding

At Polygiene, we like to talk about Mindful Living. This is the idea that we need to be aware of the impact of everyday actions and recognize that small changes – such as skipping every other bedding wash – can have tangible, measurable, and positive effects. When it comes to bedding sustainability, we believe we can achieve a lot if forward-thinking businesses work together to provide consumers with sustainable products that encourage and facilitate eco-friendly shifts in behavior.

Achieving a more sustainable future will not happen if we refuse to cooperate. Change requires a holistic approach that touches on every aspect of the product lifecycle. Material selection impacts harvesting and end-of-life disposal. Textile technology can improve product performance during use while delaying the product’s end-of-life disposal or recycling.

The Polygiene team believes sustainable bedding and eco-friendly textiles are the future. So is Polygiene StayFresh. To learn more about our groundbreaking solution, head to the Polygiene StayFresh product page.