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Best Organic Pillows: What to Look for in Sustainable Pillows

pillows on a bed
Written By
PARACHUTE TEAM
Photographs By
JESSICA SCHRAMM FOR PARACHUTE
@parachutehome
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When you slide into bed at the end of a long day, you want to be as comfy as possible. But if you're a health-conscious person, strive to live a green lifestyle or care about the state of the environment, you might also want to look for eco-friendly materials — namely, sustainable pillows.

What does this mean exactly, and how do you know if yours are up to par? Read on for answers to these questions, along with insight into what to look for in eco pillows and organic bedding.

What Choose Sustainable Home Goods and Bedding?

Sustainability is the practice of meeting your current needs without affecting the ability of folks in the future to meet their own. It can be applied to anything from environmentally friendly business operations and eco-conscious manufacturing processes, to recycling at home and buying green cleaning products.

Sustainability also often means producing goods with practices that meet ethical and social standards. In the context of bedding and home goods, sustainable products are created without depleting the earth's natural resources.

Organic pillows are one of many sustainable home and bedding essentials that will make a positive impact on the environment and your health. 

What Are Sustainable Pillows?

Sustainable pillows are made with eco-friendly materials, whether it's organic cotton, responsibly sourced latex, ethically grown flax or recycled polyester.Generally, you can count on the best sustainable pillow brands to adhere to environmentally conscious production practices and a fair supply chain.

Additionally, many companies that make organic pillows strive to partner with other companies that align with their values. From packaging materials and shipping to working conditions and wages, and even recycling. That means the entire process of creating the product and getting it into your hands was, to some extent, sustainable.

So, how do sustainable pillows benefit the environment, and are they actually better for your health? Read on to find out.

Why Are Sustainable Pillows Good for the Environment?

One of the primary reasons eco-friendly pillows are good for the environment is that they're often made from renewable materials that quickly and naturally replenish themselves. For instance, cotton plants have a nine-month lifecycle, meaning the harvested fibers grow back in under a year.

Another example is flax, which is used to make linen. Flax plants are remarkably fast-growing, sometimes increasing in size by as much as two inches per day.¹ Some animal-sourced materials are renewable, too, such as wool. Since the fleeces of sheep regrow notably fast, the natural fibers are considered sustainable.

Non-renewable resources, on the other hand, aren't easy to replace. This generally means they can't be replenished at a quick enough pace to keep up with use.

In addition to being a renewable resource, organically grown cotton doesn't disrupt the environment's biodiversity or water quality and has a minimal impact on global climate change. Sustainable pillows are also often packaged and shipped with recycled, recyclable or compostable materials.

Are Sustainable Pillows Healthy Pillows?

So, what does any of this have to do with your health? When you lay your head down at night, you want your pillow to be not only comfortable but also free of potentially harmful substances.

A sustainable pillow is often a non-toxic pillow, as the materials are typically naturally sourced and processed without noxious chemicals. The shell fabric is usually cotton or linen, and the fill is often made of down, all of which are breathable and generally non-irritating.

In addition to being made of eco-friendly textiles, you can rest assured your pillow was created without any potentially toxic dyes, fumey plastics, carcinogenic flame retardants or other irritating synthetic chemicals that impact your well-being.

How Are Sustainable Pillows Made?

There's no set process for how sustainable pillows are made. But generally speaking, each step is carefully considered in terms of its current and future effects on the environment, society and consumer health. This includes growing and harvesting the crops, transporting the raw materials, looming the fabrics, packaging the completed product and shipping it to your home.

Are Down Pillows Sustainable?

Natural pillows often feature cotton or linen shells and down fill. Sourced from the incredibly soft and lightweight undercoat of ducks or geese, the material is considered sustainable because it regrows every six to seven weeks.

The pillows you’ll find at Parachute are made with responsibly sourced down, which comes from humanely treated animals that aren't force-fed. In addition to being sustainable, down is naturally insulating, breathable, and resistant to dust and mildew.

Learn more with our blog, Down vs. Down Alternative: A Comparison Guide.

What Makes a Great Sustainable Pillow?

In addition to being healthy and beneficial for the environment, an eco-friendly pillow should be long-lasting. Pillows need to be replaced every year or two. However, if yours is falling apart sooner than that, it's not very sustainable, as it's contributing to unnecessary waste.

Sustainable pillows should also ideally be breathable, supportive and all-around comfy to sleep on. Whether made from cotton, linen, recycled polyester, wool or natural down, the best option will accommodate your preferred sleeping position.

For those who doze on their sides or backs, a gusseted organic side sleeper pillow will check all the boxes. For folks who catch their Zs on their stomachs, a soft down pillow may be the best option.

Not sure what style is best for your needs? Check out our Pillow Guide: How to Choose the Right Pillow.

What About Pillowcases?

As noted above, the shell is a critical component of a bed pillow. Similarly, your pillowcase material shouldn't be overlooked. Breathable fabrics are best, as they encourage airflow and prevent your head and neck from overheating or sweating while you sleep. Consider natural textiles like brushed cotton, percale, sateen, linen or silk.

The following articles offer more detailed guidance on choosing a pillowcase:

Pillowcase and Sham Guide: How to Choose the Best Options for Your Bedroom

Guide to Silk Pillowcases: Why Sleep on a Silk Pillowcase?

Why Organic?

Organic cotton is one of the most sustainable materials used to make pillows and pillowcases. It's grown without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, plus the textile is GMO-free and naturally breathable. Not only that, but organic farming typically relies on rainwater as opposed to water extracted from the ground, which depletes the natural resource.

Learn more about organic bed linens in our blog, Are Organic Sheets Worth It? What to Look for in Organic Bedding.

Labels to Look For

So, how do you know if your pillows, sheets and duvet are sustainable? Keep an eye out for these labels.

Global Organic Textile Standard: The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is a global leader in textile processing standards for cotton and wool. A GOTS certification ensures a textile was made without chemicals that have been shown to cause cancer, birth defects and other serious health conditions.²

Responsible Down Standard: The Responsible Down Standard (RDS) is a global certification for pillows, duvets and other products filled with down. It ensures the feathers were ethically removed from live birds that aren't force-fed and are otherwise humanely treated.³

Fair Trade: When a product is certified Fair Trade, you know it was created using practices that support local farmers, artisans and the community. The standard also ensures that workers are paid a fair wage.⁴

Oeko-Tex: When a textile carries an Oeko-Tex Standard 100 label, each component of the product has been tested to ensure it's free of substances that could harm the environment or your health.⁵

Get more details in our article, What Is Oeko-Tex? Learn About This Textile Certification Standard.

Sustainable Bedding for Better Health

Aside from an eco pillow, also consider sustainable bedding. For starters, naturally sourced textiles like cotton and linen are inherently breathable. This means air can easily pass through the fabric and that it won't trap heat. When you sleep with breathable bedding, you're less likely to overheat or suffer from night sweats.

With organic bed linens free of synthetic dyes, chemical softeners and other potentially hazardous substances, you might also minimize your chance of developing an allergic reaction, respiratory issues or a skin rash. And speaking of skin rashes, buttery-soft brushed cotton is not only sustainable but also a top choice for those with eczema and other skin sensitivities.⁶

Placing greenery throughout your space might also help you breathe easy at night. Take a look at The 14 Best Plants for Bedrooms for ideas.

Where Are Sustainable Crops Grown?

Sustainable crops can be grown almost anywhere in the world. For instance, the bedding, bath, and home products you’ll discover at Parachute use Turkish cotton sourced from the Aegean Region of Turkey, whereas its long-staple Egyptian cotton is grown along the Nile.

Flax can be grown in the U.S. or Europe, wool often comes from sheeps in New Zealand and down comes from European ducks or geese. Additionally, most of the bedding you’ll shop at Parachute is manufactured in a family-owned factory in Portugal.

Generally speaking, sustainable agricultural practices should protect the environment, improve soil fertility and expand the planet's natural resources. Other goals include paying fair wages and improving the quality of life for farming communities.⁷

To learn more about how these naturally sourced textiles and bedding inserts are made, check out our Fabric and Bedding Materials Guide.

Sustainable Baby Bedding

There's nothing more important than the well-being of your children, and what you bring into your domain matters for their health. With that said, organic baby bedding is definitely worth considering if you have a little one at home.

Infants and toddlers, in particular, are more susceptible to chemically treated fabrics, as their skin is roughly 20% thinner than an adult's.⁸ While blankets and pillows aren't recommended until at least 12 months of age to minimize the risk of suffocation, breathability is also crucial at every stage.⁹ That's why natural fabrics like brushed cotton, linen and percale are ideal for crib sheets, toddler pillows,  and other children's bedding materials.

For additional insight into this topic, see our Baby Pillow and Blanket Guide: When Can Newborns Sleep With a Pillow and Blanket?

The Benefits of Natural Laundry Detergent

Mild (and preferably unscented) laundry detergent is recommended for babies, as well as anyone else with sensitive skin. But did you know using natural detergent is also better for your clothes, your washing machine and the environment?

That's right — plant-based formulas free of synthetic additives are ultra-gentle on fabrics and unlikely to cause fading. If you think that means your clothes won't get clean, think again, because plant enzymes and naturally derived surfactants do an incredible job of removing dirt and fighting stains.

Additionally, biodegradable formulas dissolve quickly, even in cold water. Plus, they're safe for your septic system and go back into the ground without any harm. What's more, natural laundry detergents are usually free of phosphates and synthetic cleaning agents that could poison fish, pollute the planet or disrupt the ecosystem.

Want to take your laundry sustainability a step further? Hang-dry your clothes and bed linens instead of tumbling them in the dryer to minimize your energy use. Alternatively, Wool Dryer Balls can cut down on your drying time and fluff up your linens without the need for a chemical fabric softener.

For a deeper dive on this topic, see these articles:

Why Use a Natural Laundry Detergent? Your Questions Answered

Do Dryer Balls Really Work? Everything You Need to Know About Wool Dryer Balls

What About Your Mattress?

Do natural and organic materials matter for a mattress? You bet! Just like laying your head on sustainable pillows and snuggling up with breathable bedding, your mattress plays a vital role not just in your comfort but also your health.

That's why the Eco Comfort Mattress is made with 100% organic cotton and pure New Zealand wool. Thoughtfully designed for spinal alignment and pressure point relief, it's good for you and the environment.

Check out these blogs for more guidance on shopping for a mattress:

A Decision-Making Guide for Buying the Right Mattress

The Eco Comfort Mattress: Everything You Need to Know