When looking at duvets online or in store, it’s not always terribly clear what the duvet is made of. Frankly, the lack of information, and the greenwashing, is enough to make you want to crawl into bed and never leave. Fortunately, some third-party organizations are on hand to help you see in an instant if a duvet has the seal of approval, meaning it is legitimately organic and very likely non-toxic and eco-friendly. Don’t be bamboozled by misleading marketing; know your green certifications for duvets by reading on.
Is this duvet really ‘natural’ and non-toxic?
If you see a duvet marketed as ‘natural’, be sure to check the product’s true credentials. This term carries no real meaning in the US or in most other countries. And, even when a duvet is marketed as certified organic or compliant with Oeko-Tex Standard 100, this could just apply to one small part of the product, such as the outer cover. As I’ve said before at Leaf Score, be an optimistic sceptic whenever you see highfalutin claims about a product, because many companies will generally assume they can get away with the minimum amount of effort needed to hoodwink the average customer.
Fortunately, there are some robust green certifications for comforters that can help you figure out the right eco-friendly product for a good night’s rest. These typically assess the product as a whole, providing reassurance of quality and environmental and ethical standards.
For a duvet to qualify for the USDA Organic seal, for instance, it has to contain a minimum of 95 percent certified organic materials and to be processed without potentially harmful chemicals.
Some certifications go beyond the materials that make up the final product, covering growing conditions for raw materials, manufacturing processes, worker conditions, non-human animal welfare, and social and environmental impact overall.
So, without further ado, let’s look at some of the best green certifications for duvets.
Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
GOTS requires that at least 95 percent of the materials in the duvet be certified organic, and it prohibits outright the use of certain substances even for the other 5 percent, such as chemical flame retardants and polyurethane.
Greenguard and Greenguard Gold
Greenguard is one of the most common green certifications and requires testing of a finished duvet for specific emission limits of formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds. The related Greenguard Gold has more stringent emission limits for VOCs. Both were developed by UL Environment and Greenguard worked with ANSI to become an official standard-setting organization. Neither certification offers reassurance that a product is free from toxins, however, nor do they include a social or animal ethics component.
Green America certifies businesses that actively use their business as a tool for positive social change. To be certified with Green America a business must also:
- Operate a “values-driven” enterprise according to principles of social justice AND environmental sustainability;
- Demonstrate environmentally responsible practices in the way they source, manufacture, and market their products and run their operations and facilities;
- Be socially equitable and committed to extraordinary practices that benefit workers, customers, communities, and the environment; and
- Be accountable for their work by continually improving and tracking their progress and operating with transparency in every facet of their business
Green America has been evaluating and certifying small businesses since 1982 and has worked with companies such as Holy Lamb Organics, PlushBeds, and Haiku Designs, all of whom are listed in the Leaf Score directory for duvets or comforters.
There is also a Green America Gold certification that is reserved for companies who are industry leaders for responsible, sustainable business practices. Holy Lamb Organics is Green America Gold Certified.
International and Organic Sustainable Accreditation (IOAS) is administered by a non-profit organization and certifies the integrity of a product’s claims to be organic, sustainable, environmentally sound, and produced with social justice and fair trade in mind.
Oeko-Tex Standard 100
Oeko-Tex Standard 100 lays out limits for the emission of harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs). It also outright bans the use of certain chemical flame retardants, colorants, and allergenic dyes, but it doesn’t offer any guidance on whether materials are organic or sustainably sourced and it’s not always clear if an entire product or just a single component is certified.
The certification process for the OEKO TEX Certification is fairly robust and includes testing for a variety of hazardous chemicals, pesticides, phthalates, lead, arsenic, and other heavy metals. If a duvet carries this certification, it has been tested and found to contain no:
- Chlorinated phenols
- Carcinogenic dyes
- AZO dyes
- Allergy inducing dyes
The OEKO TEX Standard 100 Certification is voluntary and must be updated each year in order to remain active.
The Eco Institute, located in Cologne, Germany, is an independent organization that has more than 25 years of experience testing products for the presence of pollutants and emissions, even in trace amounts. If a product is Eco-INSTITUT certified, you can be assured that it does not contain even trace amounts of hazardous chemicals and will not off-gas undesirable chemicals and odors into your home. Some of the chemicals the Eco-Institute certification rules out include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), phthalates, formaldehyde, pesticides, heavy metals, and persistent organic pollutants.
kbA and kbT
Duvets made and/or sold in Europe may carry kbA and/or kbT certifications. The former certifies that the product is made with organic cotton and the second translates roughly to ‘controlled organic livestock’, meaning that materials are sourced from suppliers using organic farming methods ‘optimally adapted to the climatic and living conditions of the region’ and using ‘species-appropriate animal husbandry in harmony with nature’ (R).
The kbT certification means that no genetically modified foods or fattening aids are allowed in the rearing of animals, no forced reproduction of the animals is allowed, and practices such as tail docking or mulesing are prohibited. kbT virgin wool also has to be free from pesticides and insecticides, a practice that applies both to the animals and to the soil on which the animals graze.
Responsible Down Standard
If only down will do for your duvet, you’ll want to look for companies who only use feathers and down from certified RDS sources. The Responsible Down Standard was created in 2014 through a partnership between The North Face, Textile Exchange (a global nonprofit dedicated to sustainability), and Control Union Certifications, an accredited third-party certification body with expertise in agriculture and farm systems.
The RDS is an independent, voluntary global standard designed to minimize the harm that comes to geese and ducks in the process of gathering down and feathers. It also provides traceability in supply chains, so you can be certain of where the down in your duvet and other products came from.
Most of the down and feathers in bedding is sourced from waterfowl raised for meat. These birds have their down and feathers repeatedly plucked while they are still alive (causing extreme pain) and are often subjected to force feeding and other inhumane practices.
Down and feathers from RDS certified suppliers have to meet the following six conditions:
- From hatching to slaughter, there is holistic respect for the birds’ animal welfare—proper feeding and handling, proper health treatment, and a safe environment should all be provided.
- Each stage in the down supply chain is audited by a third-party certification body—no matter where an organization lies in the supply chain, it must provide proper documentation that the down has been acquired from an RDS-certified supplier.
- RDS down and feathers are properly identified, so down and feathers that aren’t RDS-certified aren’t misidentified.
- Only products with 100 percent certified down and feathers carry the RDS logo.
- Removal of down or feathers from live birds is prohibited.
- Force-feeding birds is prohibited.
While it remains arguable if RDS-certified down can be considered truly cruelty-free, it is certainly far better than standard down in terms of animal welfare. What this certification does not do, unfortunately, is offer any guarantee over the cleaning practices used in the production of end products. As such, RDS down may still be sterilized and de-odorized using toxic chemicals including formaldehyde. This certificate should, therefore, be paired with other eco-friendly certifications for increased peace of mind across the board.