It's easy to forget about the importance of a good night's sleep when we're all so busy trying to do more and rest less, but the right amount of sleep is essential for a healthy lifestyle.
We spend one-third of our lives sleeping, so it's also important to be aware of what we're sleeping on, not just how many hours we're sleeping on it. Most mattresses have a lifespan of ten years, equivalent to 29000 hours of sleep time, and that doesn't count Sunday-daytime Netflix bed sessions and the odd roll-around.
Considering how much of our lives we spend in bed, our mattresses should be made of safe materials, but many aren't. Cheap mattresses are often made with synthetic materials like polyurethane, a petrochemical resin that contains isocyanates (a known respiratory toxin). Cheap mattresses are also wrapped in polyester casings, another petrochemical fibre - and certainly not something we should spend a third of our lives wrapped up in.
Andrew McCaig agrees, and as the founder of The Natural Bedding Company, he's 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.
Andrew stepped away from the workshop to talk all things dream state, and share a week in his shoes running The Natural Bedding Company...
Which certificates or accreditations are you most proud of achieving and why?
Certifications and accreditations are an important part of business today, to back up the claims that we make about our products, and we insist they are always up to date. Our latex company in Sri Lanka has a zero carbon footprint and we are proud to be associated with them. With the world in climate chaos, it makes us proud to have this relationship with our friends in Sri Lanka too. 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 (TNBC) here in Sydney. I feel like we have very similar values, especially around carbon offsetting. Their passion and commitment align with those of TNBC. 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 TNBC 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 for one of your mattresses?
Our mattresses are handmade in our own Sydney workshop. An organic cotton and hemp cover is placed on the mattress table with layers of wool, organic natural latex and rubberised coir. The cover and contents are handsewn together so that no glues are required to hold the layers in place.
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 unfold. 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 product. Our TNBC mattress manufacturers are a small team of four people. They are trained and supervised, to ensure that the finished product is of the highest quality. We are very proud of our mattresses!
Why do you utilise latex, cotton, wool and coir in particular?
After much research many years ago, I came across natural latex as a material that offers wonderful and lasting support to the body. We use organic natural latex as it is carbon neutralised, and grown and manufactured organically too. The wool is an Australians Downs wool, free from added chemicals and treatments, offering exceptional temperature regulation properties. There is also something so comforting about wool! The optional coconut fibre is not certified organic but is an all-natural, chemical-free material that offers a firmness difficult to match. All our suppliers have been visited in person as we look for authenticity in the claims our suppliers make. With our overseas suppliers, we look for fair trade when we visit the factories and the communities that support these factories. There are some wonderful community schemes that are created and supported by these suppliers too.
Traditional foam mattresses can be made with petroleum-based materials which can emit VOCs (volatile organic compounds). How do you ensure that your mattresses do not release any kind of VOCs?
VOCs are also a naturally occurring presence in our environment, it's more about whether they are toxic VOCs or not. Our latex is tested and certified in European laboratories for levels of toxic materials, including VOCs. There is a very small amount of VOCs (less than 2%) of the total product that may be present in latex. It is not possible to manufacture any latex rubber, organic and natural included, without creating VOCs. No toxic chemicals which emit VOCs in big volumes are added to the organic natural latex foam rubber. When and if we discover that a customer is very chemically sensitive, we will send a sample of our latex to them to test if they are going to have a reaction. We believe in transparency so that people can make informed decisions.
Why did you decide to expand your product line from mattresses to bed linen?
Everyone puts protectors and sheets on their beds, just as when we buy a new vehicle we put it into a garage to protect it. We spend a long time in bed and so having natural fibres like linen, organic cotton, and hemp sheets to luxuriate in while we sleep is not only a treat, but it adds to our healthy home environment, and a healthy planet.
Which mattress do you sleep on and why?
I sleep on the Deluxe Mattress. When I began this business in 1984 I was making and sleeping on cotton futons. So I enjoy a firmer mattress. I created the Supreme, but as I progressed in years, I found it too firm and so I created the Deluxe for more cushioning on the hips and shoulders. Our full latex mattresses seem to be the winners in popularity though.
You are transparent with your customers about the materials you use. What one shocking fact do you think a lot of people are unaware of?
Across the board, most people have no idea what they are sleeping on and the content of a product they lie on for approximately one-third of their lives. Common mattresses are a cocktail of chemicals; electro pollution, fire retardants, mould sprays and dust mite sprays. Some people do not realise this until they open their new commercial mattress and end up getting sick. Our mattresses bring natural qualities from the rubber tree, which means they are not required to have fire retardant sprays, mould sprays, or dust mite sprays.
Many mattresses end up in landfill. What would be the difference between the break-down of a traditional mattress, compared to one made by The Natural Bedding Company?
When exposed to air and sunshine, our mattresses will naturally break down, and they can be used for permaculture amongst other things. There is a company that is recycling innerspring mattresses and this is great news however a lot of people do not know about them.
Describe the Dreamer mattress in three words?
Dreamy. Supportive. Luxurious.
Spend the next third of your life sleeping on a healthier and far more comfortable alternative, and shop The Natural Bedding Company's range online.
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