Posted by: A Part of the Solution | February 2, 2010

Organic Bedding

I’m so hipped about organic and sustainable issues. The farm manager has come around from incredulity at the lengths to which I will go to obtain foods and products I deem safe and desirable to tolerance and, occasionally, empathy.

I can’t help my obsession with ‘clean’ and ‘green’ practices. It doesn’t seem fair to me that the developed world should be at liberty to take advantage of economies less privileged in order to have cheap foods and materials at the price of contamination and vile systemic disorders half-way around the world. Let alone the matter of my health and the health of those around me. I truly want to be a part of the solution.

We decided early on to split the management and duties here on the farm. The farm manager drives the tractor and the CSA effort. I will run the bed and breakfast. Naturally, we hope to have guests here before we can reasonably expect produce to come out of the garden or livestock to trot, flap or amble out of the barn. Thus my early efforts to put together the pieces of the puzzle adding up to my very own green-focused B&B.

Since I already own a ton–possibly literally–of kitchen gear; I’ve got the breakfast end of the equation all sewn up. But it takes a bed to make a bed and breakfast. We have a couple of clapped out futons doing duty as beds at present. They’re neither comfortable nor aesthetic nor less than ten years old (at minimum). Hence my insistence on getting beds in the door before we get too much farther into the year.

Cotton is a universal component of beds and bedding. Cotton represents 7% of the world’s crops by surface area. It grows on every human inhabited continent. And it is treated with 25% of the world’s pesticide load. All of a sudden t-shirts and Chucks and freshly laundered sheets don’t look quite as friendly and natural as they did a sentence ago.

And I’m not even going to start on flame-retardants buried in the cores of mattresses and pillows. Or the dyes used to give our linens their bright colors and merry patterns. It’s a topic too technical, and too scary. Suffice it to say, the more one knows about accepted bedding practices the less expensive organic looks.

And it is costly. By commercial industry standards, it’s very costly indeed. Just until one decides to pay the tariff for not dumping pollutants nor contributing to one’s own health concerns up front. My advice to anyone thinking of going organic in their bedding: save early and often and remember this is where one will spend a third of one’s life. Peace of mind alone contributes to a better night’s sleep.

There aren’t very many places from which to purchase organic bedding in North America. There are a few in California. There’s one in Boulder. There’s a place in Toronto. And, miraculously, there’s one in Pennsylvania.

I looked and looked across the internet trying to locate a store with a range of mattress lines in the Washington, DC area. We have friends and family down there. We have business to conduct and recreational activities down there. It would have been convenient to work a trip to the mattress store into our itinerary on the Flatlands run.

Instead, we drove 200 miles (320k for those of you following in metric) each way to test out mattresses.

I was surprised. I was surprised by how delightful the latex core, cotton/wool wrapped models at The Organic Mattress Store ( were to lie upon. I was surprised because I’ve slept on other foam-core, memory-foam type mattresses and not been impressed.

I like a firm mattress, so I bought firm mattresses. They have optional pillow-tops to fit every mattress size and built-in pillow-tops, and even fleece-tops for those who prefer wool just under the sheeting. I even bought a couple of their inner-spring models. They’re only guaranteed for ten years; the latex-core mattresses carry a twenty-year guarantee! Averaged out over twenty years, the price of the mattress is more than worth it.

I bought pillows: cotton and wool. I bought mattress pads. I bought flat sheets with which to make the beds in the finest hospitality industry tradition (elastic rips out at the corners before flat sheets require any repair or replacement). I bought pillow cases. And I’m having it all delivered.

Now I’m going to settle on paint colors (low VOC paint, low VOC pigments as per ratings and recommendations from Consumer Reports) and try to get the guest rooms freshly redone before the bedding is delivered in a couple of weeks.


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