Green Attributes and Other Manufacturing Information
Is latex greener than plant-based foam?
It depends how you define “green”.
If we define green as the percentage of natural raw materials, latex mattresses can use up to 95-97% natural latex per volume of raw materials (it is not technically possible to use 100%). However, most latex mattresses sold in the world only contain between 0 and 20% natural latex. Many of these contain petrochemical-based fillers such as styrene butadiene, as well as chemicals such as ammonia (commonly used to preserve fresh rubber sap), which can affect health. As a result, from a safe and healthy to use standpoint, the most important thing to look for is an independent, third-party certification that verifies that the final product contains safe levels of VOCs and other harmful chemicals.
If we define green as sustainable production impact, most latex comes from monoculture rubber tree plantations in countries such as Indonesia, where tropical rainforest has been destroyed to plant rubber trees. Thus the production impact of latex mattresses (latex = rubber) can cause significant damage to tropical rainforests and their wondrous biological and cultural diversity.
This article by Spaldin’s Green Expert provides links to further information surrounding this question. Ultimately, Life Cycle Analysis is needed to quantify which type of mattress has the lowest overall environmental and health impacts and is therefore greenest.