Duvet marketing materials don’t always make it easy to tell what’s actually in a duvet. Many bedding companies highlight their ‘organic’ cotton covers but fail to mention that the fill is synthetic. Oh, and that organic cotton isn’t actually organic at all. Here are the most important green certifications for duvets, so you know what to look for to avoid greenwashing.
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Is this duvet really ‘natural’ and non-toxic?
If you see a duvet marketed as ‘natural’, be on alert. This is usually a way to make a synthetic or conventional cotton-covered duvet sound less toxic and troublesome. In the U.S., the terms natural and non-toxic aren’t subject to regulation. Even the word organic can be misused and, worse, some companies misuse certification logos to greenwash their duvets.
Fortunately, there are some robust green certifications for duvets and comforters that assess the product as a whole, providing reassurance of quality and environmental and ethical standards.
Some certifications go beyond the materials that make up the final product, covering:
- Manufacturing processes
- Worker conditions
- Non-human animal welfare
- Carbon emissions
- Overall social and environmental impact.
Without further ado, here are the most important 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:
- Hazardous chemical flame retardants
- Azo dyes
- Regulated phthalates
- Conventional cotton and associated pesticides.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organic certification applies to duvets that:
- Contain a minimum of 95% organic fibers
- Don’t contain non-organic fibers
- Are made only with cleaning agents, dyes, and finishes approved under organic regulations.
This makes the USDA Organic certification quite similar to GOTS, although it doesn’t cover social and environmental factors to the same degree.
If you see a duvet labelled as 100% organic, this means it comprises purely organic fiber content and is made with organic processing aids only. If you see ‘made with organic materials’ on a duvet, plus the USDA Organic seal, this means the duvet contains genuinely organic materials but doesn’t comprise only organics.
Oregon Tilth Certified Organic (OTCO)
GOTS and USDA Organic use Oregon Tilth to certify organic fibers. As such, you may see Oregon Tilth Certified Organic (OTCO) mentioned in the marketing for a duvet alongside GOTS or USDA logos.
OT is an independent non-profit organization that advocates for organic farming. OTCO is not a certification in itself but is one of the most trustworthy organic certifying bodies. It’s also a good indicator that the raw materials in a duvet came from the U.S.
MadeSafe is one of the most robust non-toxic certification programs around. It is run by a non-profit and checks the composition of products and any chemicals involved in their production.
The downside of this seal is that MadeSafe doesn’t actually test the products. Instead, it relies on companies being honest and transparent.
On the plus side, MadeSafe prohibits the use of more than 6,500 chemicals known to harm the health of people or planet. This is more extensive even than some European standards.
MadeSafe also has an education and advocacy side and helps companies find suitable alternatives to toxic chemicals and materials.
Assuming a company is being honest and transparent, MadeSafe certified duvets are free from:
- Behavioral toxins
- Developmental toxins
- Endocrine disruptors
- Fire retardants
- Heavy metals
- High-risk pesticides
- Reproductive toxins
- Toxic solvents
- Harmful VOCs.
Companies that carry MadeSafe certification include Coyuchi, Naturepedic, and Avocado. Thankfully, these companies also have a more ethical approach to business in general, given that the MadeSafe certification program doesn’t encompass social or environmental factors beyond the safety of materials and chemicals.
I strongly recommend that anyone searching for a safe and sustainable duvet looks for both MadeSafe certification and other seals such as GOTS, Fair Trade, Climate Neutral Certified, and so forth.
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 duvet 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.
If you buy a duvet made with some synthetic or semi-synthetic materials, or with recycled content such as polyester, you may notice it carries a bluesign® logo.
bluesign is a Swiss certification program that looks at the entire supply chain and every process that goes into making a duvet. It is chiefly concerned with the use of toxic chemicals but also looks at water conservation, worker safety, and environmental impact.
You’re most likely to see the following on a duvet made with bamboo or recycled polyester:
- “Contains materials that meet the bluesign® criteria” – where some but not all meet the standard
- “Product meets the bluesign® criteria” – where the whole product satisfies the standard.
bluesign® doesn’t typically apply to duvets made with natural materials like organic cotton, kapok, or wool, unless they’re mixed with polyester, PLA, or recycled content or have a semi-synthetic bamboo cover.
Made in Green by OEKO-Tex
Going beyond OEKO-Tex Standard 100, Made in Green by OEKO-Tex is for products “manufactured using environmentally friendly processes and under socially responsible working conditions”.
To qualify, products need to be made in facilities certified by STeP by OEKO-TEX® – the Sustainable Textile & Leather Production (STeP) modular certification system. This covers the entire textile and leather production chain, incorporating ecological and social standards.
Made in Green isn’t as wide-ranging or strict as GOTS, but OEKO-Tex does at least test products.
This is a great certification to look for if you’re buying a duvet made with any synthetic or semi-synthetic materials or those that don’t tend to have organic certification (such as hemp or linen).
I also love that OEKO-Tex provides a QR code on the product label itself. This means you can very quickly scan the label and find out exactly how and where your duvet was made. Compared to GOTS, this is bringing certification into the 21st Century.
Greenguard Gold 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.
Greenguard Gold has more stringent emission limits for VOCs than Greenguard, but it still isn’t a guarantee that the duvet is totally free of toxic chemicals. This certification also doesn’t include any social or animal ethics components.
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 making duvets such as Holy Lamb Organics and PlushBeds.
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.
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.
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.
Global Recycled Standard (GRS)
Bedding companies have begun making duvets using recycled polyester, down, and feathers. Some even use recycled cotton or other materials for the covers. How can you tell if this is genuinely recycled material, though?
Check for the GRS certificate!
Global Recycled Standard (GRS) is a program that verifies the source of materials said to be recycled. It also encompasses additional environmental and social criteria, with a focus on reducing the harmful impact of production on people and the environment. The certification also looks at:
- Transparent communication and honesty
- Responsible production
- Stakeholder engagement
To qualify for GRS, the material or product must contain at least 20% recycled materials.
Certified B Corporation
B Corp certification doesn’t apply to duvets themselves but rather to the Certified B Corporations (B Corps) making them. This seal means that the company operates using a triple bottom line approach of people, planet, and profit, instead of just profit (like most companies).
The general idea is that the company uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. To achieve and maintain B Corp status, a company must meet strict standards for:
- Social and environmental performance
- Accountability and transparency.
The organization behind the certification program carries out regularly audits of a company’s practices and products to determine their beneficial impact on employees, community, the environment, and customers.
If you’re looking for a safe and sustainable duvet, going with a B Corp is a good start. Almost always, B Corps will offer duvets that are made with more eco-friendly materials and processes in a more equitable, ethical way.
If you’re not sure about the credibility of a company’s certifications, check out IOAS.
International and Organic Sustainable Accreditation (IOAS) is administered by a non-profit organization and certifies the integrity of a product’s claims. This applies to claims that a product or company is:
- Environmentally sound
- Produced ethically
- Made with recycled materials.
Given the widespread fraud in the organics sector and in regards to other sustainability and non-toxic seals, IOAS has its work cut out. If you see that a company works with IOAS, this is a really good sign that it takes certification seriously and isn’t out to greenwash its products.
Final thoughts on certifications for duvets
A new duvet can seriously spruce up your sleep. But if you buy a duvet only to find out it’s not as natural or non-toxic as you thought, you could end up losing sleep instead.
Check for the relevant certifications above before you part with any cash. And make sure to check that ID numbers are valid and current. If they’re not, contact the company. It could be a simple mistake or the certificate might be in the process of renewal.