GOT GOTS? The Logo to Look For on Cotton Products

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By now it’s clear to most Americans that organic food is more healthful, and organic farming practices are safer for the Earth than conventional methods. When we shop organic it’s always comforting to see third-party organic certifications, because “natural” can mean whatever the manufacturer would like it to. If a food product is labeled “organic,” however, it must contain at least 95% organic ingredients.

Soft, breathable cotton — our favorite textile to wear and wrap up in bed with — has dirty secrets that have long gone unchecked, a fact about which most of America has no idea. Cotton is considered the world’s most toxic crop. (Check out the approximately 20 million results for “toxic cotton” on Google.)

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Organic cotton, like organic food, uses less water, doesn’t poison the soil and its farmers, and isn’t treated with toxic chemical finishing agents. In the U.S., the claim “organic” on textiles is protected by the government. Only textiles labeled with a GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) logo can be claimed as organic.

Check out this simple GOTS video to learn more:

Below are some resources to help you learn about the toxic cotton industry.

Let’s start a clean cotton revolution!

How to get rid of chemicals in fabrics (Hint: trick question)

Chemical cotton 

Fact sheet on U.S. cotton subsidies and production

Pulling the Wool Over Your Eyes – It is possible to pass the open-flame mattress flammability test without chemicals

This great blog from our sister company OMI, (who manufacturers all of Lifekind‘s mattresses), touches on a “hot topic in the organic mattress industry.  Since we don’t use any chemical flame retardants, customers often ask how we can pass the flammability requirements with just wool.  Well, we worked hard to make it possible.  Be sure to watch the video below, which is of one our mattresses during an actual open-flame mattress flammability test (which we pass with flying colors!)

Although we know how important it is to reduce your chemical exposure during sleep (since you spend 1/3 of your life in bed), most of the country doesn’t understand the risks associated with sleeping on a traditional mattress.

As is the case with most specialty products, there is a fairly limited customer base of people who are aware of, and ready to purchase, an organic mattress.  This means that there are companies out there that will say anything in order to take a mattress sale from their competitors.

Since we opened our doors, we have been fighting an uphill battle against greenwashing.  Other mattress companies have thrown in a handful of eco-friendly ingredients and called their products “natural,” trying to charge a premium for something that isn’t much better than mainstream.

Now that the country is becoming more aware of the greenwashing epidemic, we have seen mattress companies telling flat-out lies and mistruths, with the hope of seducing a customer with promises they can’t back up.

One fallacy that you will see promoted is that wool alone can’t be used to pass flammability tests. This argument is often used in a company’s justification for using chemical fire retardants because it is “the only option.”

I am here today to tell you “yes.”  Yes, wool can be used as the sole fire retardant for a mattress to meet federal flammability requirements.  And that, in fact, we have been using wool (without any chemical treatments) as our only fire retardant for years.

The purpose of a flammability test on a mattress is to make sure that the mattress doesn’t flame up in the event of a domestic fire.  We don’t claim to make fireproof mattresses (I can’t even imagine the kinds of chemicals that would go in to that!) We make mattresses that won’t turn into a six-foot fireball if your house catches fire.

Our competitors have shown photos of a piece of wool yarn that is set to fire, and predictably, the fire travels up and burns the piece of wool yarn.

As seen on strobel.com, spreading misinformation about wool used in mattresses.

Well, of course it is going to burn.  It is a natural material that has been shaped into a “wick” and a flame has been set to it.

Of course, you don’t have to just take my word for it.  The video below is an actual open-flame flammability test of one of our mattresses, which shows just how well our chemical-free design works.

The only raw materials used to make this mattress (or any of our mattresses) are organic cotton, wool, and 100%-natural rubber.  The mattress is sitting on a wood-slat foundation.  Both pieces are built in our organic mattress Eco-Factory™ and are GREENGUARD® certified.  There are no added chemicals, no silica barrier, or any other methods employed to assist in the flame test.

So there you have it: It is possible to pass the open-flame mattress flammability test without chemicals.  And we do it every day.

If Textiles Could Talk: “Does that color come in organic?”

In a prior blog  I wrote about the unfortunate toxicity of conventional dyes and how the textile industry historically has a devastating effect on the environment and people’s health. As populations continue to grow and eco-awareness spreads, the clothing industry will need to find viable solutions to this problem.

People have been using “natural” dyes made from plant, mineral, and animal ingredients for thousands of years. In fact, dyed flax fibers, dating back 36,000 years, were found in a cave in the Republic of Georgia. Today, cultures around the world continue the craft of natural dyeing to produce uniquely colored yarns and cloths.

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There is a huge variety of natural substances that can be used to color fabric. Having a broad chemical range, different substances require different techniques, and many require the use of a mordant. Mordants are metallic salts that bind the dye to the fabric, typically applied prior to submerging fabric into a dye bath. Many, but not all, traditionally used mordants are toxic, which presents the same problems as synthetic dyes: human exposure and wastewater disposal. Some popular natural dye extracts have a certain level of toxicity as well. Hmmm…

Though natural dyes can produce rich, complementary colors, many of the bright hues we see in stores are not available as natural dye colors. Even if consumers were to accept those limitations and switch to naturally dyed items only, we wouldn’t have enough land and water to produce all the dye material needed to color the human race’s wardrobes.

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The concept of using agricultural waste as dye material makes good sense. Let’s see where that goes in the future. Ploughboy Organics, a blooming U.S. company, is developing a line of organic dyes and textiles using organic tobacco by-products, and claims the process will use less water and energy than conventional dyeing.

Noon Design Studio in Los Angeles specializes in dyeing natural fibers using natural ingredients and non-toxic mordants.

Saco River Dyehouse claims to be the only GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified yarn-dyeing factory in the U.S., and is now operating in Biddeford, Maine.

DIY. Safe, natural dyeing is definitely doable. If you do it yourself you can control which substances are used. I recommend you research the effects of the chemical compounds of each individual plant, mineral or animal used, as well as for the mordant recommended for each dye material.

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Until truly sustainable dyeing systems are invented and adopted for mass production, I recommend backing the alternatives. Buy GOTS-certified organic textiles that were produced using low-impact dyes or none at all. Support colorgrown cotton, hemp, untreated wools, and recycled fabrics. Look for up-cycled items (clothes and accessories made from repurposed textiles and used clothes).

If items are certified organic to the GOTS standard, they will have the following qualities:

  • All chemical inputs (e.g., dyes, auxiliaries, and process chemicals) must be evaluated and meet basic requirements for toxicity and biodegradability/eliminability
  • Prohibition of critical inputs such as toxic heavy metals, formaldehyde, aromatic solvents, functional nano particles, and genetically modified organisms (GMO) and their enzymes
  • The use of synthetic sizing agents is restricted; knitting and weaving oils must not contain heavy metals
  • Bleaches must be based on oxygen (no chlorine bleaching)

Here at Lifekind, we only use colorgrown organic cotton, meaning the colors you see are the natural colors of the plant fibers that were used to make the product– NO DYES! More on colorgrown cotton to come…

Is an organic mattress worth the money – A Peek Inside Mattresses

It’s no secret that Lifekind® is big on purity. It’s also no secret that other mattress makers claim to be big on purity too, so when consumers are searching for the purest mattress they can find, it quickly becomes a matter of sleuthing out the truth.

From the outside, most mattresses look about the same. I totally understand why people will see a mattress that claims to be “natural” or “organic” for a fraction of what a Lifekind mattress costs, and they purchase it.

Naturally, comfort is a big part of why people purchase the mattresses they do. But if you’ve found Lifekind, you’re most likely also interested in what goes into making our certified organic mattresses — what you will be sleeping on for the next 20 years. Let’s dig a little deeper and look inside a few different mattresses.

This first picture (below) shows a conventional synthetic foam rubber mattress, much like the ones you will find in mattress showrooms around the world. It looks pretty on the outside, nice and fluffy, and just begs you to climb into bed.

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But once you look inside, you see something completely different.

The first layer is the cover material. Then there are several layers of conventional synthetic foam (notorious for offgassing, not to mention the petroleum it contains and the hardship it puts on the Earth to produce), bleached and highly processed cotton, more foam, and then a base layer that is made from cotton scraps.

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This second picture is of a popular “organic” mattress brand that specializes in crib mattresses. Underneath the “food-grade” polyethylene mattress cover (made entirely from petrochemicals), you can see bleached cotton. The blue layer is a Tyvek-like material. Then cotton that is of an unknown grade (the specks you see in there are debris – stems from the cotton plant, along with other unknown detritus), then a plastic mesh layer. The cotton filling they use is most likely organic, but other than that, this mattress does not contain organic materials. Yet it is selling every day because the manufacturer touts the benefits of its “organic” mattresses, misleading consumers into believing that they are purchasing a pure, organic mattress without offering any clue about what is going on inside the mattress.  Naturally, most consumers won’t cut open a new mattress, so there is no way for them to know.

The third picture shows the inside of a GOTS-certified organic Lifekind mattress.  Looking at the layers from the top down, you can see our organic quilting, which includes only certified organic wool and organic cotton cover material. Sandwiched between layers of certified organic cotton canvas is high-quality, certified organic cotton padding. No silica, Tyvek, or other synthetic, non-organic materials are included in its construction.  The innersprings used in the mattress are made of untreated virgin steel, wrapped in four layers of certified organic cotton.

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Could there be a connection?

The other day I heard a colleague say something that made me think. She was talking with a customer and describing today’s “chemical” mattress market as being a lot like the tobacco industry of the fifties. People were told back then that cigarettes weren’t bad for them, the same way today’s consumers are told that chemical flame retardants and formaldehyde-containing memory foam in mattresses aren’t just safe, but can even be good for them — and it worked like a charm. Skyrocketing cancer rates were the result.

Growing up in the seventies, with the Surgeon General’s warning on every cigarette pack, I wondered how Americans of my parents’ generation could have been so naive. How could they not have known that smoking was dangerous? Sure, cigarette ads featured endorsements from beloved movie stars, cartoon characters, even the family physician (“More doctors smoke Camels than any other brand!”), but average people must have known intuitively that something was wrong. Right?

Maybe not.

I’m guessing that Americans back then, like us, wanted to believe that something they enjoyed was safe, and that the government would tell them if it wasn’t. Yesterday’s cigarette ads featuring leading physicians have become today’s two-page layouts for memory-foam mattresses in environmental magazines, targeting a health-oriented clientele that would run in the opposite direction if they knew what memory foam was actually made of.

Hazardous chemicals are a part of almost everything we use, including our mattresses, and cancer rates have never been higher. Could there be a connection? Many consumers don’t want to think so.

After all, the government would tell us if it were dangerous. Right?

(To see test results showing over 60 volatile chemicals emitting from a memory-foam mattress, see Walt Bader’s book Toxic Bedrooms: Your Guide to a Safe Night’s Sleep.)

Sylvia, Sales Supervisor