Sustainability conversations spark a few green thoughts | Sheila Long O’Mara

We’re less than a month away from Earth Day — April 22 — the day we mark the birth of the environmental movement that sprung to life in 1970. For the past 54 years, we’ve been talking in an organized, somewhat collaborative approach, how to combat climate change and reduce the impact we are having on the land in which we live.

Some years the push has caught greater attention than in other years, and as of late, the drumbeat to make a difference in reducing our use of plastic, sustaining our forests and becoming better stewards of our world and the resources it provides has gotten louder and stronger.

At this year’s International Sleep Products Expo held in Columbus, Ohio, that movement, that push, that drumbeat was resoundingly louder than it has been in year’s past throughout the industry.

The Expo, for those not aware, hosts a wealth of companies related to the mattress business every couple of years. Think of it as a market for mattress makers. The Expo is where they go shop for components — such as springs, foam and FR materials — that go into building the guts of a mattress. Textiles companies bring their latest fabric designs for covers, and equipment suppliers set up roll-pack, sewing and other machines to show the latest in technology and efficiency.

Mattresses require a lot of materials to deliver a comfortable place to recover from the day. Some of those materials can be tough on the environment, and then, disposing of an old mattress responsibly adds another layer to the impact the industry has on our world. Mattresses take up a lot of space in our landfills,and many of the materials take a significant amount of time to break down. The Mattress Recycling Council has established programs in four states and is working with other state legislators to develop more.

At this year’s event, space after space had products and machines designed to offer mattress manufacturers sustainable solutions that could be incorporated into new beds to lessen the impact the business has on the environment. Products from FR solutions to fabrics to natural foams to wrapped springs perforated so they can easily be stripped to make separating materials easier for recycling at the end of a mattress’ life.

Often at trade shows, when it comes to green topics, there will be one or two thought leaders that stand out from year to year. That is still the case, but more and more companies are stepping into the ring with creative solutions. A push from across the category and from all players can eventually make the difference.

As Kermit the Frog first belted out in 1970 on Sesame Street, “It’s not that easy bein’ green; it seems you blend in with so many ordinary things.” Companies who are embracing the sustainable movement agree with Kermit: It’s not easy; it requires ingenuity and innovation. Or as my kids say, big brains.

But it requires all of us, and how cool would it be that, like ol’ Kermit, so many sustainable and “green” products will find their way into our business so that they all blend in and become ordinary things?

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