Natural latex mattresses are presented as an environmentally friendly mattress solution that is all natural, breathes and does not off-gas. Natural latex is an amazing mattress material that we think provides the benefits of memory foam without many of the drawbacks. We also recognize that there is a lot of greenwashing that can go into the marketing of these mattresses, so we want to be honest and upfront about the pros and potential cons of latex.
Before we get into the topic any further, let's explain simply where latex comes from. Natural latex comes from rubber trees and is found typically in tropical climates. This is an oversimplification but for the purposes of this blog, it is important to note that there is natural latex, from rubber trees and there is synthetic latex which is a petrochemical product. There are also blends, which is a combination of both.
Critics of the use of natural latex point out to that rubber trees only grow in certain climates, which means that it requires a fair amount of fossil fuels to manufacture and ship latex across the world. This is true. It is also important to realize that "all natural latex" is a bit of a marketing term. No matter what the manufacturing process (talalay, dunlop, or continuous) there at very best a small percentage of additives (foaming agents) required to produce the nice, clean and consistent sheets of latex that are used for mattresses.
Another concern is that and there are cases of large amounts of rainforest being cut down to grow rubber trees for industrial uses. This is a valid and legitimate concern, and while purchasing latex from manufacturers holding credible environmental certifications helps, ultimately it is difficult to guarantee where the raw materials come from. (Side note, our latex is manufactured to GOLS Organic Certification Standards using the dunlop process)
Water use is another environmental concern the manufacturing of latex. The rubber is washed several times during the manufacturing process, and unfortunately, not all manufacturers are responsible for how they deal with there dirty water. This is one of the major reason's why we choose to use only GOLS certified organic latex, because we feel that it is the best way to promote responsible water usage in the manufacturing of latex and to ensure that innocent downstream citizens aren't forced to drink, cook with and bathe in industrial water.
The environmental sustainability of latex is a topic that we could write about extensively, but the point that we want to get across is that in reality, the use of latex is an environmental compromise. Going back to straw or a wool futon would probably be the most sustainable way to make a mattress. However, most North American's today find a mattress made without the use of any foam's just too firm. In fact, a too firm feeling is the number one reason for mattress returns in North America.
So why do we use natural latex? To start we think it is a significantly better option than memory foams or polyurethanes as it is a renewable resource that is not manufactured using petrochemicals. We also think that it is a superior performing product to memory foams, which tend to leave the sleeper feeling stuck and sleep extremely hot. It doesn't produce unhealthy VOC's, and it is comfortable and long-lasting. Owner satisfaction of natural latex beds is extremely high. We know that you need something comfortable to sleep on and that most people would simply not be comfortable on a mattress made with only an innerspring and wool, cotton, hemp or other types of fibers that are used as fills.
Rubber trees also are providing an economic incentive for countries to keep their rainforest, instead of clear-cutting to make room for agriculture, ranching, and other industrial ventures, so while there are also instances where the latex industry is helping to protect the rainforest as well.
At Natural Mattress, we feel like latex is a responsible and appropriate compromise for consumers looking for a bed made of sustainable, healthy natural fibers, as long as you ensure that your latex is sourced from a responsible manufacturer.
To learn more about our natural latex mattress, The Cumulous, please click here.