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Be Green

It's bedtime! The green way...

You're probably wondering what's un-green about sleep. Well, technically nothing! It's not the sleeping that's the problem, it's what we often sleep ON. A large majority of us sleep on mattresses that contain polyurethane foam. First of all, polyurethane can off-gas. Which means it releases chemical compounds that you end up breathing in. Night after night for a good third of your life! Scary, yes? And let's not even talk about infants and kids who sleep more and have underdeveloped immune systems.
Plus, it gets worse. Because polyurethane is so flammable, many countries (including ours) require mattresses and furniture to be treated with flame retardants. The most common are compounds known as PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers).
According to the EPA, PBDEs can cause liver, thyroid and neurodevelopmental toxicity.
Health Canada takes a much more conservative stance on PBDEs and flame retardants in general. But they have been banned in many parts of Europe.
The jury's out about exactly what they do to humans. But they certainly compound our indoor pollution problem. And with so many toxins in our air, water and physical environment, anything you can do to lower your overall toxic load is probably a good idea.

Enter Essentia.
It's a Montreal-based company that's taking environmental responsibility to a whole new level.
You may have heard the name before if you watch CBC's Dragon's Den. One of the dragons accepted to go into business with Essentia (which might help with pricing... more on that later)


What does Essentia do?

They make eco-friendly memory foam mattresses and pillows. Memory foam is supposed to be the most comfortable way to sleep on the planet. Most folks who try it never go back. Unfortunately synthetic memory foam is flammable (and needs to be treated with toxic flame retardants). Plus, many complain that it's not very good at temperature regulation because it doesn't breathe (you get hot and sweaty and then cold and clammy).
But Essentia claims to have found a way around both the comfort issues AND the environmental ones.

What makes Essentia green?
Well, I would urge you to check out their website.
But here are the highlights:
* The mattress is made of natural latex and doesn't off gas.
* They produce practically no waste. It's incredible! On the website they say they produce 88% less waste than your average mattress manufacturer. The real figure might be even higher! This is because every mattress and pillow is hand made. It's kinda like baking a cake. A liquid latex blend batter is poured into a mould, cured and presto, a mattress or pillow. No clippings, no fabric wasted, no toxic dyes, glues, etc.
* Their factory is in the same building as their showroom: Therefore, no transport emissions.
* Their website is stored on a windpowered server! I kid you not! How green is that?
AND, they are members of 1% for the planet: So they donate one percent of all profits to green initiatives.
From everything I could find both on site and on the internet, Essentia is one of the greenest companies there is with tons of thought being put into every step of production and sale

In terms of comfort and health benefits:

* Great for allergy sufferers and asthmatics (dust mites can't live in memory foam)
* Great for those with joint pain or back issues.
* Great for babies or the elderly (both of whom often spend more time in bed)
* Great for the bed-ridden and those prone to bed sores.

Ahh, you knew there would be a but...sigh...it's a price issue.
Essentia's cheapest queen sized mattress sells for $1500. And prices go up from there to about $4500
Pillows start at $99 and go up to about $199
Jack Del'Accio is working on bringing prices down. He says when he launched his company three years ago, the cheapest mattress cost $3000. He's already brought the price down by half while improving the actual mattress. Del'Accio says he hopes to bring prices down further to the point where any premium for choosing a green mattress would be minimal.

Gosh, I don't know about you but I hope he's working fast!

So here's my question: would you sleep better on one of Essentia's mattresses, knowing that the company put so much time and care into its production and delivery? Even if it meant shelling out some green? Is $1500 reasonable for what they offer? (It is the equivalent of synthetic foam prices, but way more expensive than your average box spring).
Leave me a comment or call our talkback line (514) 597-5626
And don't forget to check out some of the Be Greens you might have missed over the holidays.
Happy New Year!

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Comments (4)

K Fahey


Your information on Green sleeping this afternoon had me go back to the major department store and cancel my purchase of a regular mattress which I made last weekedn. I did not know that "green" mattresses existed. Even when I had asked the department store about alternatives, they did not have information on such a product.

Later this afternoon I visited another major store and asked specifically about greener mattresses and to my surprise, I discovered that there are two different brands currently being carried at the particular department store I shopped at (Sears in the city). Your very current information has prompted me to think more Green especially now as we will be making a few big purchases due a minor home upgrade/renovation to make our home more energy efficient and greener (after 20 years of inefficiency). So thank you very much for your show and I will be checking your website often.

I guess this year my new years' resolution is to really think of greener alternatives for all purchases, flooring included.

Thanks again, love your show!

Posted January 5, 2009 10:29 PM



I'm no expert but it seems to me that the production of Latex for hypo allergenic and health use is stripping the forests of Indonesia and Malaysia in order to keep up with the production and demand for Latex. It is my understanding that rubber plantations are not in any way Green.

Posted January 6, 2009 09:27 AM

Daphnee Nadler


Hi Geeta,

Thanks for posting valuable information about Essentia. I will be visiting Essentia's showroom in Laval sometime soon.
In my latest online searches, I have come across a mattress manufacturer named Natura (www.naturaworld.com). They write, in their FAQs section, that their line of organic latex mattresses are 100% natural. The website has a dealer locator and I have found that there are quite a few shops in Montreal carrying these mattresses.
It is my hope that, with more demand for organic mattresses, the costs to manufacture and sell them will come down.
In the meantime, it looks like I have a lot of fun mattress-testing ahead of me!

Posted February 12, 2009 02:15 PM

Elena Alonso


What happens if you're allergic to latex?

Geeta says: I asked the company this question and they say that the proteins in latex that usually trigger people's allergies are neutralized by their process. So even folks who are allergic shouldn't have trouble with their mattresses. I have no independent verification of this, but since they have a pretty solid returns policy, I reckon you have nothing to lose by trying.

Posted April 21, 2009 07:23 AM

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