Andrew McCaig is the founder of The Natural Bedding Company and an advocate for healthier, organic alternatives to synthetic sleeping scenarios. The Natural Bedding Company's range of mattresses have been making it hard to get out of bed for nearly four decades, but for all the right reasons - they're Australian made, organic, sustainable, ethical and damn comfy.
I should know; I've just spent a month sleeping on a King Size Dreamer and I've been in slumber bliss. It could be the multiple layers of carbon neutralised organic latex, or it could be the layer of Australian Downs wool and certified organic cotton and hemp casing, but whatever it is, I've been sleeping like a baby.
Perhaps The Natural Bedding Company's secret is its founder. Andrew's deep respect for the environment and his strong passion for a good night's sleep stems from his personal connection to the world around him and he leads by example through The Natural Bedding Company. He demonstrates practices which are in the interest of humanity, continually questioning how his actions impact on his immediate environment...
What do you feel when you see mattresses dumped on sidewalks?
Throwaway culture is rife. It takes one drive around the city on a council clean-up day to see the extent of our waste, and there are always plenty of mattresses. To me, this seems like a symptom of a wider ailment. We live in a world where we have lost connection with our planet, and with each other. It seems like many people are looking for this connection outside of themselves, in the digital and the material. We crave instant gratification. Each day I take time to prepare good food and contemplate my day. I see the confusion in our world and peoples' unhappiness. I am not able to change what is happening on a global level directly. I am only able to change myself and take responsibility for my actions. I want to lead by example where I can. I want to demonstrate practices which are in the interest of humanity, and continually question what I am doing and how my actions impact on my immediate environment. It’s about accountability. When my actions are not helpful to myself or improving my environment for others, I make changes. Nothing is fixed. We cannot walk away from our responsibilities, our connectedness, our humanity. All our actions today, even small, impact on the planet, our children and future generations tomorrow.
When I first moved into my apartment block the rubbish bin room was a very unpleasant place to visit. Everyone was using this room to dump everything, sometimes in the bins, sometimes on the floor. The room should have been declared a health hazard. At the time, I needed a project as I wasn't working after recovering from a stroke. With some support from the council, I cleaned that whole room myself so it could be functional for the community who lived there. I made it my responsibility. As individuals we have the power to make small changes ourselves, we can make offerings to the collectives and ecosystems we inhabit, and so we do have the power to influence change more broadly, we’re just often not empowered with that knowledge.
Why is supporting locally-owned and family-owned businesses important?
Small businesses that are family-owned can generate a sense of community. This offers an alternative to the multi-national corporations that appear in our shopping malls and online, which tend to breed a kind of scary anonymity. There is room for everyone in the marketplace. Small, family-owned businesses can create a focal point and a site from which community can grow, as well as fostering a sense of creativity, collectively and as individuals. Community business is inspiring. I love to support locally owned businesses myself and believe this fosters a more heartfelt connection to the products I buy. With The Natural Bedding Co, I try to collaborate with local traders as much as possible, the strength of their businesses feeds back into the strength of my own. I regularly go to the local farmers’ markets in the inner west. My money goes directly to the stallholders and I have the opportunity to meet the owners face to face. I know where and how my food is grown and this also encourages me to reduce waste.
What are you so passionate about paying ethical wages?
It is so important to me to align myself with, and learn from, similar-minded companies. I am always asking questions about who we are buying from and how their workers are treated. We do not do business with companies who are not transparent about their work practices.
The price of garments at large department stores and online retailers always leaves me wondering about the person producing and sewing it. We work with local sewers to produce our mattress textiles, so I have an idea of labour and cost. I always think, what are my responsibilities as a consumer? Can I find a similar garment somewhere from a business working from a more ethical framework? Sometimes this is difficult, even impossible, but it is about doing the best I can and keeping myself informed. It’s about remembering that large companies don’t always want me to be informed, so I can then choose to actively seek that knowledge myself.
What do you feel about 'greenwashing'?
With the world in climate chaos, it makes us proud to have a great relationship with our friends in Sri Lanka (for our latex). Because of its geographic location, Sri Lanka may experience the negative impacts of climate change sooner, or more dramatically than us in Australia. Aside from the importance of maintaining our own carbon-neutral footprint, we believe that by working with a company in a nation like Sri Lanka we are contributing to local change there as well. We are sending a message that greener businesses can be very valuable economically, and in doing so we hope we can contribute to a wider shift in attitudes towards sustainability at this crucial time.
I have visited this company and maintain a close relationship with the owners. Recently their CEO visited The Natural Bedding Company here in Sydney too. I feel like we have very similar values, especially around carbon offsetting. Their passion and commitment align with ours. Their practices and policies reflect a respect for the planet and for their workers. Unfortunately, others will always participate in practices which do not align with ours. It can be cheaper of course, but also in some places, there is just not as much information and education around the issues that inform our business model. All we can do is continue to lead with our beliefs and practices, and allow room for change, as more relevant information emerges. It is an exciting and ongoing journey and what’s important is how we travel along that path with an open mind and as much consciousness as possible.
What does the production process look like from design to completed product?
Our mattresses are made with love. Each part of our mattress-making process has been researched and is continually evolving. The process is being updated all the time as our research and customer feedback unfolds. We are diligent in striving to provide a product with which both we and our customers are completely satisfied. Over the years we have changed our latex suppliers and other products as our knowledge and production techniques, and their impact on the planet have changed. For instance, we have found new mills to process our hemp and organic fabric for the mattress covers. Each mattress begins with an organic hemp and cotton cover. We have this cut and sewn locally to the dimensions required by the customer. This cover is then lined with Australian Downs wool, which we get from a supplier in Victoria. Layers of organic, certified latex foam are then stacked within, often with a layer of coconut fibre depending on the customers desired firmness. In a process known as tufting, each mattress is then hand-stitched, using 10-inch upholstery needles, to secure the internal layers. Each mattress is inspected, measured and some are even photographed before they are wrapped and ready to be picked up or sent out to our customers.
One thing that has not changed over the 34 years that we have been creating mattresses - is our dedication to a healthy, natural and beautifully made products. The Natural Bedding Company mattress manufacturers are a small team of three people. They are trained and supervised, to ensure that the finished product is of the highest quality. We are very proud of our mattresses!
Rest easy knowing it's on an organic, ethical mattress and learn more about The Natural Bedding Company range here.
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