Green futons

Hi Slick,

Terms like green, natural, ecofriendly, organic and many others have so many different and conflicting meanings that it’s difficult to know what someone means when they use them. All of these are used by many different companies and they have as many different meanings it seems as there are people using the words.

Just to give a few examples out of dozens …

There are certain types of materials and even foam that uses recycled bottles (PET). Many would argue that these are green and that recycling bottles or plastic is a green activity but in many cases in practice is is anything but green. The resulting product can no longer be recycled and will end up in a landfill anyway, the original material is still plastic, and in some cases the manufacturing process can be energy intensive.

In the same way bamboo and other viscose fabrics are made from a renewable resource but the process of turning a cellulosic material into a fiber is very energy intensive and can use some harmful chemicals and processes that can harm the environment.

Polyfoam and memory foam is another example where many foam manufacturers replace a small percentage of one of the petrochemicals used to make it with a chemical that uses a plant oil but the plant oil is no longer a plant oil when it has been chemically modified for use and the so called “green” or “ecofriendly” polyfoam that results is still primarily a petrochemical product. In addition to this … much of these use soy and the planting of soy is part of the problem with the destruction of the South American rainforests.

In addition to this … the definition of “green” depends on which part of the production cycle you are looking at. For example … a factory may produce its own power from renewable energy (and one of our members is completely off the grid and produces it’s own power from solar, wind, and thermal energy as an example) so it could be said that anything they produce is “greener” than another product that was similar but was produced with a different type of power.

In the same way … a mattress that is shipped compressed uses less space and energy in transportation so it could be considered “greener” than the same mattress which was shipped without compression.

Natural is another example that can have many different meanings and organic is the same.

Assuming that you are looking for more “natural” materials though rather than just “green” … then natural fibers like cotton or wool, 100% natural latex, and even recycled steel (which is more “green” than virgin steel) would all make good choices. There is no natural or even “green” memory foam or polyfoam so if natural, organic, or green is important then these should be avoided. In addition to this you may also want to look at a futon that uses wool as a fire barrier or with a prescription from a medical professional a manufacturer can make you a futon or a mattress that doesn’t use a fire barrier at all (and save you some tax).

With natural fibers … I would also look for materials that don’t contain any pesticides which means either “organic” or something that can be verified that uses organic methods in its production cycle even if it doesn’t have an organic label. Ecowool is an example of this where the wool is probably more organic than some organic wools and yet it isn’t certified as organic.

With some of the developments in futons over the years … there really isn’t much difference between some of them and some of the thinner mattresses you will find. The line between them is fuzzy except of course futons are two sided, thinner than some mattresses, and in many cased used as a combination sleeping system and couch. There are many futon manufacturers who use natural or organic materials and I would tend to focus on these. Post #2 here has a few sources that may be useful for research or as a reference although I haven’t done nearly as much research into futon manufacturers as mattress manufacturers. The materials used and the guidelines for both though in terms of what is good and worse quality would be the same. Futons that use innersprings also use a lower profile innerspring than their mattress counterparts and other than this … layering would be similar to a two sided mattress.

If you are only using the futon for sleeping, then some of the local mattress manufacturers may be a good choice and could easily make you a thinner mattress. Post #2 and 4 here includes the better choices in the Chicago area that I’m aware of and one of them is a member here and may be able to make you a two sided mattress/futon based on the materials that you choose.

A quick search on “futon, chicago” also turned up many Chicago options for futons and once you decide on the materials you want to include (either green, natural, organic or a combination) … and looking at the designs in the futon thread I linked may help here … then I would make some calls and ask them if they sell a futon that has the general type of materials that you want to use that you can test.

I wish I could be more help but unfortunately I don’t have a list of local futon outlets or manufacturers like I do with mattresses … even though the materials used and the “research” process (making sure you know the details of what is in the futon layers) are the same.

In general though … if natural is important … I would be looking at organic cotton and wool, innersprings, and natural latex.