Archive for May, 2014

Are Your Lawn and Garden Pesticides Poisoning You?

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

After a long, hard winter, gardening season is finally upon us. Naturally, we want to have the prettiest lawn and the most productive flower and vegetable gardens possible. And many of us rely on chemicals to achieve that. But did you know that the chemicals we use on our lawns and gardens are infiltrating our lungs, the food we eat and water we drink, and are even being absorbed through our skin?

The pesticides drift from our yards into the air in our homes, land on our tables, chairs, couches, beds and so on. Tests conducted on the levels of pesticides in our home have shown a 10-fold increase before and after outdoor application.

baby_lawnHow many people are affected by these chemicals? A study conducted by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) did blood and urine testing for 23 pesticides on 9,282 people across the country. They found pesticides in 100% of those who did both the blood and urine testing. The average person carried 13 of 23 pesticides tested.

How Dangerous is the Presence of Pesticides in Our Body?

According to a June, 2013 beyondpesticides.com report – which consists of information gathered from the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), The Pesticide Management Education Program at Cornell University, European Union Commission on the Environment, and several other noteworthy sources – 30 of the most commonly used pesticides are associated with various types of human toxicity.

• 19 are linked with cancer or carcinogenicity
• 13 are linked with birth defects
• 21 with reproductive effects
• 26 with liver or kidney damage
• 15 with neurotoxicity
• 11 with disruption of the endocrine (hormonal) system.

This might well be the answer to why the population of the U.S. is so ill compared to other countries.

And, of course, it’s even harder on children – whose immune systems are undeveloped and who tend to spend a lot more time on the grass, floors, chewing on their contaminated fingers and toys than we do.

Our homes, and the homes of our neighbors, are not the only places these pesticides wind up. Of those 30 pesticides in the beyondpesticides report, 17 are detected in groundwater, 23 have the ability to leach into drinking water sources, 24 are toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms vital to our ecosystem, 11 are toxic to bees, and 16 are toxic to birds.

What Are Your Alternatives to Toxic Pesticides?

Eartheasy recommends compost, corn gluten, and offers a host of other natural lawn care tips. Check them out and see which ones work for you.

And enjoy your garden!!

The Human Side of Organic

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Every purchased product, even if mass produced, was made by somebody with materials gathered or processed by real people.

Naturepedic always remembers that, even when sourcing materials. I am fortunate to know and interact with the real people who build Naturepedic organic mattresses. Most of the manufacturing team is made up of Amish men and women possessing considerable skills, and it’s impressive to watch these craftspeople build mattresses. With an office just outside of the manufacturing floor, I see the process frequently.

A reflective moment as our life size organic cotton sheep stuffed animal mascot wishes to become a real sheep

A reflective moment as our life size organic cotton sheep stuffed animal mascot wishes to become a real sheep

That said, although we make our mattresses here in Ohio, even coiling our own springs and then hand assembling them with organic cotton encasements one at a time, we still bring in raw materials like organic cotton, latex, wool and wood.

We don’t have our own live sheep at this point.

Did you know the organic certifications we offer for our mattresses and materials also take into account the human, animal and environmental impacts related to those materials long before our mattresses are even made?

Organic Certification

As a writer for Naturepedic, I generally focus on the end user benefits of a certified organic mattress, such as not being exposed to toxic flame retardants. There are, however, other aspects of responsibility that are near to my heart that do not get mentioned.

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), the standard to which Naturepedic mattresses and our entire manufacturing facility are certified, ensures that crops are grown and harvested without GMOs and toxic pesticides and fertilizers, but it goes beyond that.

GOTS also examines the harvesting and processing of those materials and how it affects the soil, wildlife, insects, and the humans who gather and make the materials. In other words, GOTS looks at the entire global impact.

Cotton

The global cotton industry alone is responsible for some of the worst human rights violations anywhere. A 2007 report from the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) in collaboration with Pesticide Action Network UK found that six of the seven largest cotton producing nations regularly employ child labor, often under the most grueling circumstances.

For GOTS-certified cotton (and any agricultural products), crops must be harvested through employment freely chosen, and all levels of the product must be made without child labor in a safe and hygienic working area. Our mattresses use USDA-certified organic cotton grown in Texas, so we already have a huge step up using USA-grown cotton compared to mattresses made in other countries with lax human rights standards.

GOTS-certified organic cotton also doesn’t use the synthetic pesticides of conventional cotton.

The EJF report mentioned above estimates that cotton covers only 2.5% of the world’s cultivated land yet used 16% of the world’s insecticides. The report found in India, a remarkable 54% of the country’s pesticides were used on cotton, which occupies a little less than 5% of land use under crops!

These figures are just for the growing and harvesting phases, but the processing phase can also pose threats to workers and the planet. GOTS-certified cotton cannot be processed with the same harsh chemicals used in traditional cotton that are so detrimental. The certification looks at the whole process, from planting to processing.

Latex

Sourcing of organic latex foam, where rubber sap can be harvested from trees growing in countries without the same level of human rights afforded us in this country, requires even more vigilance for human rights. Our latex is independently certified to the Global Organic Latex Standard, or GOLS. Like GOTS, GOLS certification requires the latex be harvested responsibly, with workers treated fairly.

Additionally, it means rubber sap is harvested in a sustainable fashion with minimal environmental impact.

The Big, Sustainable Picture

Organic cotton fabric being stitched at Naturepedic

Organic cotton fabric being stitched at Naturepedic

Like GOTS, we strive to take a “big picture” approach in looking at overall planetary impact. Certified organic wool certified to GOTS, for example, must come from sheep raised humanely. But that’s not all. Even the wood we use to build our mattress frames has received certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to guarantee it was harvested in a sustainable and responsible manner.

We make you the safest, healthiest mattresses we can possibly make, and you can rest easy knowing that. We hope you’ll also feel better knowing your mattress was made with respect for the planet overall and the people, plants and animals living there.

Jenni June and Naturepedic want to help your kids sleep

Friday, May 9th, 2014
Jenni June, bringing sleep to babies and parents!

Jenni June, bringing sleep to babies and parents!

At Naturepedic, we appreciate the goodness of sleep, and so does our friend celebrity sleep specialist Jenni June. Beginning May 31, 2014, Jenni June kicks off her latest 15-city West Coast tour, bringing good sleep to babies, toddlers and parents!

The tour begins in California with The Family Sleep Event, made up of four 20-30 minute educational discussions. Jenni June understands the frustration parents experience when children won’t sleep, so she makes sessions fun, engaging and most of all empowering. Sessions are designed to give parents immediate tips they can begin using that same night as well as suggestions for building overall good sleep habits in children. Jenni will also cover ways parents can green-proof the sleep environment of their children to promote healthier sleep.

The first 100 registered guests per city get a gift bag with items valued at $80, including a Naturepedic Organic Cotton Fitted Crib Sheet. At the event, parents can also browse baby products from Naturepedic and other companies.

The tour ends on August 9 in Denver. Naturepedic is sponsoring The Family Sleep Event tour and we are thrilled, not only because of our commitment to Safe, Healthy Sleep™  (we are the most highly awarded crib mattress manufacturer in the U.S.), but also because we really like Jenni June!

WEST COAST FAMILY SLEEP EVENT FROM JENNI JUNE

San Diego, CA: Saturday, May 31

Del Mar, CA: Sunday, June 1

Newport Beach, CA: Saturday, June 14

Irvine, CA: Sunday, June 15

Pasadena, CA:  Saturday, June 21

Los Angeles, CA: Sunday, June 22

San Jose, CA:  Saturday, June 28

San Francisco, CA: Sunday, June 29

Eugene, OR: Saturday, July 12

Portland, OR: Sunday, July 13

Olympia, WA:  Saturday, July 19

Seattle, WA:  Sunday, July 20

Boise, ID:  Saturday, July 26

Salt Lake City, UT:  Saturday, August 2

Denver, CO:  Saturday, August 9

Jenni June at the grand opening of Naturepedic's Los Angeles store

Jenni June at the grand opening of Naturepedic’s Los Angeles store

Register for The Family Sleep Event.  You can find more about The Family Sleep Event as well as information on Jenni June’s overall work promoting sleep at her website at jennijune.com.  Read more about the event tour here.

What is Organic Certification?

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

What is large? Bigger than a mailbox? An elephant? A gymnasium?

Big ... but maybe not to a dinosaur! (CC license , Eve Livesey, photographer, on freestock.ca

Big … but maybe not to a dinosaur!
(CC license , Eve Livesey, photographer, on freestock.ca)

The word “large” holds no value without a reference point. A sandwich the size of a dachshund is large. An alligator that size is not.  The same holds true for “organic.”

Alone, the word “organic” is of questionable value. If you’re trying to sell me a product, I have even more reason to question the value of that word, as it will often be contorted to imply elements that simply are not there.

WHAT DOES ORGANIC MEAN?

If a mattress contains “organic” cotton but has a cotton fabric cover treated with a chemical flame retardant, is the mattress organic?  What if the mattress is waterproofed with chemicals like PFCs?  You probably don’t want a mattress off gassing fair amounts of VOCs regardless of whether there is organic cotton there or not, so how do you know what “organic” actually means on a label? How do you know if the label is even truthful?

You demand certification to a rigorous, globally recognized, third-party verified standard such as Global Organic Textile Standard (GOLS)  or the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS). Whether for an individual component or an entire finished product, a global standard defines and ensures materials or products live up to the definition.

RED FLAGS FOR THE GREEN WORLD

So what greenwashing organic logo tricks are out there? Here are a few:

 Organization Memberships as Proof

Be cautious when you see memberships to organic and environmental organizations and groups used to prove organic authenticity of a product. We proudly belong to many organic and sustainability organizations but know membership doesn’t verify our products. While we are members of the Organic Trade Association (OTA), for example, we don’t suggest that demonstrates our mattresses are organic; we use GOTS to show that. Sadly that sneaky join-a-club logic is used by some companies: pay membership dues to a trade organization then use the organization logo to “prove” organic veracity. It just doesn’t work that way.

Improperly Used Logos

Naturepedic uses USDA certified organic cotton grown in Texas which we proudly mention on our website. What you won’t see though is the USDA logo on our mattresses. Why? Because that is a label for agricultural materials. The USDA does not certify cotton fabric, furniture or mattresses. They don’t even allow the use of their logo on manufactured products, so if you see that logo, it doesn’t verify the mattress or fabrics are certified organic.

Fake Certifications or Meaningless Graphics

The great thing about living in the information age is you can quickly find out the details of a “certification” with a quick online search. If you’ve never heard of a certification before, it’s time to check.

The FTC is becoming more vigilant against deceptive green labeling practices, but that they won’t catch all offenders. In 2013 the FTC required EcoBaby to stop using their made-up NAOMI organic seal. The FTC said the logo gave the impression of a third-party, independent certification based on objective criteria, which wasn’t the case. In this extreme example, the company had actually created a false, and meaningless, certification!

Similar to fake certifications are eye-pleasing graphics masquerading as certifications. A pretty image of a leaf that reads “organic,” “earth friendly,” or some other green claim may simply be a picture created by the company’s graphic artist.

Pieces vs. Whole

We offer GOTS certification for our entire mattresses, but that certification can also be for individual components. (Our entire manufacturing facility is GOTS certified.)  GOTS-certified components are great. However, if you want your entire mattress GOTS certified, be careful. Sometimes the GOTS logo is used to imply a whole product is certified when in reality only select components are.

 WHY CERTIFICATION? SO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GETTING.

Look for the GOTS logo for organic authenticity

Look for the GOTS logo for organic authenticity

The bottom line is independent, legitimate organic certification lets you understand exactly what you’re getting, and not what a company wants you to think you’re getting.  Demand more and understand what a certification means.

Otherwise, you might just get a pretty logo and a bunch of chemicals.

Making Better Decisions: Eileen Fisher

Monday, May 5th, 2014

I have to admit I’m not much of a fashionista. I don’t quite follow the industry, which is not to say I don’t respect it or admire it. I just don’t necessarily prioritize my time or my budget as much as my friends do. When I do buy new things, I like classics and basics. And for convenience sake, I like washables. I just don’t have the time or patience for dry clean only.

Aside from the time and cost to take my “special” clothing to some other building and drop it off and pick it up, dry cleaning isn’t something that’s great for the environment. Why? Chemicals. Are they really necessary? I have countless items of clothes that suggest dry cleaning that went on the delicate cycle and once hung turned out fine. (Instinct and experience with a variety of laundered items prevails, please don’t send me your clothing bills if you test and ruin an item!)

So what are we to do when we need a red carpet worthy outfit that worn once requires a wash? Purchase the right fabrics – and even entire lines of clothing – in the first place! Don’t just read the tags to see if it’s your size, flip it over, see what it’s made with and manufacturers’ suggested laundering tips. Avoid buying those which are truly dry clean only. If you pay a little more for those items, count up your time, your transportation costs and that dry cleaning receipt you saved.

Is it possible? Of course. Where do you buy it? Well it’s as close as your local favorite department store. I just recently discovered Eileen Fisher clothing line. (If you’re thinking “Did you live in a hole?” refer the beginning of this blog post.) If you’re like me and haven’t heard of her, you’re welcome. A co-member of the Companies for Safer Chemicals Coalition, Eileen Fisher offers eco-friendly lines of clothes made with organic, sustainable and no-dry-cleaning-necessary textiles.

thisiseco

eileenfisher

And I’m sure you know how I feel about organic… Saving myself time on the laundry and saving the planet from pounds of insecticides to grow cotton? Two-for on this “Making Better Decisions” Monday.

Find out more about Eileen Fisher at eileenfisher.com, on Twitter see the #thisiseco campaign.

Naturepedic hosts gala for first Organic Mattress Gallery

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

Hollywood celebrities,  organic and vegan food, wine, music and organic mattresses. Sounds like a party … And it was!

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The Naturepedic Organic Mattress Gallery in Los Angeles hosted a lively Grand Opening Gala on Sunday, April 27. Festivities kicked off at noon when Debbie Levin, president of Hollywood’s Environmental Media Association, took charge of the giant scissors for the official ribbon cutting. A sunny California day added an extra special touch as Naturepedic founder Barry Cik rolled out the green carpet for the guests, literally. Of course an organic mattress store would have a green carpet!

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Founder Barry Cik with actor Frances Fisher

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Founder Barry Cik with customer and actor Wendie Malick

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Celebrity Certified Sleep Consultant, Jenni June

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General Manager Ted Metas with Jason, Barry and Jeff Cik and VP of Operations, Charlie Beer

The gala proved to be loads of fun, with plenty of conversation, laughter and shared interests concerning healthier products. The event also marked an important milestone for Naturepedic, officially recognizing our first company-owned standalone showroom. We couldn’t have asked for a better day! If you’re out that way, make sure you visit our Los Angeles Organic Mattress Gallery at 456 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles, one block south of Burton Way.

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Actor and customer, Constance Zimmer, lounges on a certified organic mattress

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CEO Jeff Cik with actor and customer Raphael Sbarge

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The Apprentice’s Omarosa with EMA’s Debbie Levin and actor and Naturepedic customer Wendie Malick

See all of the photos on our Facebook page! Or review the live-tweeting fun that was had with #NPLAGO 

Flame Retardants, Polyurethane Foam and Flashover

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

The Risks

There’s a lot of discussion over health concerns associated with chemical flame retardants, particularly those found in mattresses and furniture. One of the most common classes of flame retardants, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which was widely used for decades before the environmental community focused attention on it, and pressured manufacturers to stop, has been linked to an unsettling smorgasbord of issues including thyroid disruption, developmental issues in children, memory and cognitive problems, lower IQ and reduced fertility.

Studies of other flame retardants are seeing links to cancer. Groups representing firefighters in various states are raising concerns about the toxicity of flame retardants, arguing they increase the risks for cancer in first responders while doing little to retard fires.

So with these types of risks, why in the world are chemical flame retardants so prevalent?

The question lies less with the flame retardants themselves and more with the polyurethane foam in the furniture and mattresses.

Then vs. Now

Travel in time to a living room in 1940s America. The cushioning materials in the furniture include natural materials ranging from cotton, excelsior (wood shavings), down and horse hair.

Image from a magazine ad from 1955 - things were a little bit different

Image from a magazine ad from 1955 – things were a little bit different

Now today. Couches, chairs, crib mattresses, changing pads, and adult mattresses (including memory foam ones), are often filled with polyurethane foam, an intensely flammable material.

Flame retardants are used in an attempt to offset the stored energy in polyurethane foam, although their effectiveness is questionable, as you’ll see

Flashover

A “flashover” is the point in a house fire when an entire room self-ignites as a result of the heat caused by a fire.

Watch the eye-opening video above made by the National Institute of Standards and Testing. A room furnished with the typical synthetic fabrics and polyurethane foam cushioning of today reaches flashover in an astonishing three minutes and forty seconds!  Comparatively, a room furnished with items as would be found in a 1950s or so house takes almost a half hour.

The vintage materials burn, but without the rapid heat release of the polyurethane foam, which has been called “solid gasoline” by the National Association of State Fire Marshals. In fact, burning untreated polyurethane foam can reach temperatures of 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit in only minutes! That incredible heat release leads to an incredibly rapid flashover.

While other materials in the room contributed, the immense impact of polyurethane foam can’t be overstated.

Where There Is Smoke

You probably also notice the billowing black smoke from the fire. As mentioned earlier, firefighters have become increasingly concerned about the inhalation of carcinogenic flame retardants found in the smoke and increased cancer rates in firefighters.

Beyond the risk of flame retardants, though, is the risk of the deadly and debilitating hydrogen cyanide gas released from burning polyurethane foam. Inhaled hydrogen cyanide quickly leads to confusion, unconsciousness and death. Hydrogen cyanide is the gas used in the 1995 Tokyo subway attack and was implicated in the deadly concert fire in Rhode Island in 2003.

Highly Flammable Materials Require Flame Retardant Chemicals

When looking at the materials in your next mattress for you or your children, consider not only the materials in the mattress, but the flame retardant chemicals those materials demand. When buying a mattress, remember the 3 minute 40 second marker on the video.

Naturepedic Mattresses Contain No Flame Retardant Chemicals

Naturepedic organic mattresses do not require flame retardant chemicals to pass government flammability standards. We begin by using less flammable materials in the first place. Simply put: polyurethane foam requires chemical flame retardants, and we never use polyurethane foam.