You’re doing your best to be a conscientious consumer—reading labels, recycling, buying organic foods and eco friendly or green products for your home.
Looking for these “earth friendly” labels feels like an easy way to do the right thing. But beware – not everything that says “green” really is, and even if a product carrying this label might be a little better for the environment, it may still be hazardous to your family’s health.
Take furniture, for example. A lot of mattresses are labeled “eco” or “green” but still contain poisons like flame retardants, foam and plasticizers that are harmful to humans (especially babies and toddlers).
(And a new label on couches and chairs is supposed to let you know if the cushions contain fire retardants or not – but that can’t be trusted either.)
It’s unfortunate, but what can you do?
Forget “Going Green” and think “Non-Toxic” instead
Fortunately, if you forget about the eco friendly or green labels and look for products that are truly non-toxic, not only will these products be safe for your family, but they’re almost guaranteed to be more ecological as well.
When I first made my mind up to “go green” I relied on labels to ease my fears about pollutants and lessen my guilt about what all these products were doing to the environment. I thought that organizations like the EPA were protecting me and that I could count on labels to inform me and keep my family safe.
Turns out I knew very little about the real issues.
Lets Face It–It’s the Wild West out There in Terms of Toxins
The government allows WAY too many chemicals into products without safety testing, and there are no regulations of claims that companies can make. Claims about safety are flimsy at best and completely false at worst.
If you really want to be safe and non-toxic, the unfortunate reality is, you’re going to have to do some research—you can’t trust labels and you can’t trust claims.
So what should you look for if you’re trying to find non-toxic products?
Here are a few rules of thumb as you start your quest to find the best and safest products for your home.
“Eco” and “Green” Don’t Mean Harmless
In fact, eco friendly and green don’t mean much at all. Neither do natural nor earth-friendly. They are just buzzwords that companies throw around to get your attention.
Take mattresses again: If you see a mattress labeled eco foam, bio foam, or soy-foam, all it means is the company has replaced a tiny portion (usually 5-20%) of standard-use polyurethane foam with soy or another plant-based material.
The majority of the mattress is still made of polyurethane foam —one of the dirtiest and deadliest materials around. Plus, the small amount of soy that is added to the foam is almost always GMO soy, which is not in the least environmentally friendly.
For a genuinely earth friendly and non-toxic option, look for non-foam fillings, like organic cotton. Which brings us to our next point…
Organically Grown Is Great, but What about Processing?
Textiles that have gone through toxic chemical processing can still carry the USDA Organic label.
That’s because the USDA Organic label only tells you that the growing process was pesticide, GMO and fertilizer-free. It says nothing about processing of the final product.
For non-agricultural products—like clothing and mattresses—a more informative label is the Global Organic Textile Standard or GOTS label. It tells you that the whole process, from growing to final product, meets strict ecological, social, and non-toxic safety standards.
Next, it’s important to know if the entire mattress is GOTS certified or just the cotton inside.
Some organic mattresses contain individual materials (cotton or wool) that are GOTS certified while a very limited few have earned the GOTS certification for the entire mattress. This means that not only are the individual materials certified, but the finished mattress is certified as well. This ensures that ALL components meet a strict, healthy and non-toxic standard.
The Naturepedic mattresses and the Soaring Heart mattresses we carry at Healthy Child are 100% GOTS certified.
Self-Certification Is a Sham
Because companies know that you’re looking for assurances when you buy products, they’ll create their own labels or certifications that adhere to some arbitrary standard they’ve concocted out of thin air.
Needless to say, this kind of self-regulation is rarely meaningful. These labels don’t illuminate potential environmental issues or promise much of anything in terms of safety.
No GOTS Label? Sometimes That’s OK
Sometimes, a genuinely ecological and toxin-free mattress won’t have the GOTS label. It’s expensive and time consuming to go through the certification process and some great, small businesses just can’t afford it.
It just means you’ll have to dig a little deeper to find out what’s inside. When investigating, here are some good questions to ask:
- How does it pass flammability standards?
- How is the cotton or wool grown AND processed?
- What other materials are used for coverings, coils, etc?
- Are there any dyes, plasticizers, biocides, or other chemical treatments?
If you can’t find someone to answer these questions, find a different company with someone who can.
Don’t Count on Labels–Do Your Homework
It’s easy to get caught in the weeds when negotiating the tricky terrain of product labels, certifications and safety claims.
Eco friendly or green labels make us feel good but until there’s some standardized and regulated criteria most of them mean very little. We suggest reading, researching, and talking directly to people at the top to find a company you can trust. A good business will be available to answer questions and address all of your concerns.
At Healthy Child, we’ve done a lot of research—over 20 years of it, in fact. And we’ve done a lot of digging and talking to small manufacturers who can’t afford the extra expense of costly certification.
We only sell products we know are non-toxic. We will happily answer any questions you may have about our products. When you’re ready to buy, we hope you’ll trust us to deliver safe, non-toxic and eco friendly products for your family.
Question: What’s more important to you, being eco friendly or limiting your family’s toxic exposure?