A Guide to Choosing Sustainable Bed Linen

A Guide to Choosing Sustainable Bed Linen

Our bedrooms are our sanctuaries and our beds the very heart of these spaces. The fabrics, textures, thread counts and tog ratings that we choose are deeply personal, but getting these choices right is the cornerstone of a comfortable and calming environment which, in turn, is the foundation for a good night’s sleep.

As advocates for slow design and slow interiors, we believe in taking your time to make considered choices when furnishing and decorating your home. Our bed linen, duvets and pillows need to last the test of time and stand up to daily use, while also offering a cosy place to unwind and find quiet.

This guide explains how to make more sustainable choices when choosing bed linen and duvets. For more inspiration on choosing more environmentally-friendly textiles for clothing and interiors, read our sustainable fabrics guide.

Tips for Choosing Sustainable Bed Linen

Consider natural fabrics

Polyester is made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and therefore partly comes from petroleum. Synthetic fabrics are usually not biodegradable and can be resource intensive to produce, while also releasing tiny microfibres or bits of plastic every time they are washed, which can be ingested by marine life and enter the food chain.

Fabrics from natural crops are preferable, but before you reach for the 200 thread count cotton, here are a few things to remember. Cotton production is water intensive and there can be heavy use of pesticides (that can pollute local waterways) since the crop has a high risk of infestation. Where possible, look out for organic cotton with the GOTS label, The Global Organic Textile Standard. This means the fabric has at least 95% certified organic fibres, waste water must be processed safely and working conditions and pay are fair, among other requirements.

Linen is another sustainable choice when it comes to bed linen. When not dyed, linen is biodegradable and uses much less water than cotton to be produced. Plus according to Good On You, every part of the flax plant is traditionally used to produce linen, with linseed oil a useful by-product. Linen is also breathable and said to be more durable than cotton. The downside? It can be pricey due to the manual techniques often used to produce the fabric and can be slightly rougher than cotton at first, but should become softer with each wash.

Choose the best quality you can afford

Like with clothing, a cheap duvet cover is unlikely to stand the test of time and it is unlikely that those who produced the item were paid fairly. Bargain prices can be enticing, but these items will likely deteriorate more quickly and need to be replaced more often, and someone else will pay the true cost of the item.

Where you can, invest in the best quality bed linen that you can afford, so that you can enjoy it for years to come.

Research the origin of down and feather duvet and pillow fillings

Down can be a contentious subject. Down is very fine feathers from geese and ducks which makes fantastic insulation. Down is often more expensive than its synthetic counterparts, but generally considered superior quality, longer lasting and warmer. Down is softer and lighter than feather, meaning you can create a high tog duvet that’s very lightweight.

However, there are concerns over animal welfare when it comes to down and feather usage in duvets and winter jackets. Around ten years ago, it was revealed that down sourced from live-plucked livestock in Hungary was used in Patagonia’s outerwear. The brand’s investigation into their supply chain raised awareness of the inhumane practices that many brands had overlooked. By the end of 2015, Patagonia was one of 40 brands whose virgin down sourcing adheres to The Global Traceable Down Standard, created by The North Face in association with Textile Exchange, which reviews the entire supply chain for forced feeding and live plucking, from the parent farm to the final factory.

Many other brands are including the traceability of their down in their sustainability reports and The Responsible Down Standard is another certification to look out for when researching.

Some call for down duvets to be avoided entirely, while others remind that down and feather are a by-product of the food industry and are a natural and biodegradable resource, whereas synthetic filling materials, such as polyester, are often oil-based.

In short, down can be a conscious choice environmentally, but research is required to ensure products are produced ethically, and the use of an animal by-product is of course a personal decision.

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