Did you know that your bedding—the cozy blankets and sheets that keep you cozy all night long—actually have some pretty eye-opening environmental impacts?
In the latest Good Together podcast, Liza Moiseeva, Brightly’s CMO and co-founder, discussed this topic and more with Colin McIntosh. As the CEO and founder of Sheets & Giggles—a sustainable bedding brand famous for its eucalyptus sheets—there's no better person to discuss the ins and outs of the industry.
So, why choose eco-friendly bedding materials like eucalyptus over popular materials like cotton or polyester? Well, McIntosh and his team noticed these fibers had some adverse effects on the planet. For instance, it takes 2,800 gallons of water to produce just one cotton bedsheet, while polyester is made from petroleum and leaches an alarming amount of microplastics. “If you wash your [polyester] sheets once a month, that's upwards of 100 million or more microplastic fibers that are being released into your waterways every year from just one polyester sheet set,” says McIntosh.
Meanwhile, eucalyptus—and a variety of other materials—offer just as much comfort without causing discomfort to the planet. Continue reading below to learn more about these eco-friendly bedding materials.
3 Eco-Friendly Bedding Materials to Try
Up first, bamboo. “Bamboo can be grown without pesticides, which is great,” says McIntosh. “It can use a little water and it's a very fast growing crop.” In fact, bamboo can grow up to three feet per day and regrows naturally. This makes it an effortlessly regenerative plant, perfect for keeping up with consumer demand.
Harvesting also results in very minimal soil disturbance, since it doesn't need to be pulled out at the root in order to pick it. Also cool: The bamboo plant itself absorbs carbon dioxide and produces 35 percent more oxygen than trees, which makes it an excellent ally in the fight against climate change.
With that being said, it's important to ensure the bamboo is sustainably sourced. When considering bamboo bedding, check to see if the product uses Certified Organic or FSC certified bamboo. It’s also important to note that “the vast majority of [bamboo fabric] is what's called 'bamboo viscose', which is made with a process that utilizes a very harmful toxic chemical called carbon disulfide," says McIntosh.
Viscose, which is a type of rayon, should typically be easy to spot, though. The Federal Trade Commission requires these fabrics to be labeled as “rayon made from bamboo," making it easier to identify bedding that may have potentially been produced with harmful chemicals. For a sustainable bamboo bedding brand, try Ettitude.
A second eco-friendly bedding option is eucalyptus, also known as Lyocell. “Lyocell has no plastic in it, there’s no petroleum, no petrochemicals,” says McIntosh. “It’s made to be a closed loop process where the wood is processed into a fiber using a non-toxic solvent called amine oxide.” McIntosh goes on to explain that this solvent is then able to break down harmlessly and can be nearly 100% recaptured and reused to create another batch of fiber.
The lack of water and energy needed for production is also attractive. Opting for lyocell over cotton can save up to 96% of the water and 30% of the energy that would have been used to create cotton sheets.
Most importantly though, eucalyptus makes sleeping in comfort a breeze (almost literally). “What eucalyptus Lyocell does is it will wick, distribute, and evaporate moisture across the bedsheet incredibly efficiently compared to any other fabric,” says McIntosh. He says this makes it a great option for hot sleepers.
Like bamboo though, it's important to ensure that the eucalyptus is sourced sustainably. So what does that look like? Well, the key is to look for labels indicating that the fabrics are derived from sustainably-managed forests, such as PEFC or FSC. In the case of Sheets & Giggles, the company asserts that it doesn’t harvest wood from ancient or endangered forests, but rather it’s eucalyptus originates from sustainably managed and biodiverse farms.
Lastly, we have organic hemp. It's a popular option for eco-friendly bedding since it's stronger than cotton and very durable, so it won’t break down when you wash it. Because it's organic, it’s manufactured without chemicals. And compared to cotton, it uses significantly less water to grow and process.
Like bamboo, hemp also grows at an incredible rate, taking only 3 to 4 months to reach maturity. Once the plant is mature, it then yields a great deal of fiber. In fact, it produces about 220 percent more fiber than a single cotton plant.
Where McIntosh feels it comes up short is its comfortability. In his opinion, it's not the ideal fabric for ultra soft bedding, but that doesn't mean he's completely written it off. "If hemp ends up becoming more suitable for really wonderful bedsheets, we'll be one of the first people to adopt it," he says.
Now, while hemp, bamboo, and eucalyptus each have their pros and cons, they're all certainly more planet-friendly than conventional cotton or polyester bedding. So regardless of which material you pick, you can be sure that the environmental impact of your bedding will be one less thing keeping you awake at night.