Imagine a fancy hotel room. Now imagine the bed: What does it look like? A collection of stylish throw pillows? Sheets of the highest thread count? A luxurious down comforter — only the best for top guests like you!
But that’s where most hotels get it wrong: down comforters really aren’t the best money can buy. While we understand how satisfying it is to fall into a layer of fluffy down after a long day, most people find a more comfortable night’s sleep under a comforter filled with wool. And, of course, we at BuyGreen have to mention that wool is also the more sustainable option — but we’ll get to that.
The Deal with Down
The first thing we have to evaluate when determining which bedding is better is where each filling actually comes from.
Down is the layer of loose feathers closest to a duck or goose’s body, trapping air and moisture to keep the bird warm and cozy. The feathers are soft, lightweight and don’t have quills, which make them a seemingly attractive choice for bedding fill. Seemingly. We have to remember, however, what exactly it was that down feathers did for ducks and geese: It held in moisture and trapped heat, two qualities that are not exactly ideal for comforters.
Another disadvantage of down is that — because of its insulative nature — it can trap allergens like mold and dust mites. Chemicals are typically added to down comforters to prevent this buildup of allergens, but as the protection fades over time, you may find yourself waking up with a runny nose, itchy eyes or a cough.
In terms of sustainability, down is also not the optimal choice. Down is organic and biodegradable, but the collection of the feathers is what makes us question just how sustainable a resource down actually is. Most down feathers are collected after the bird is slaughtered for food, though it is also common for birds to be plucked every several months. This process is painful for the animal and — because they are typically slaughtered after some time — certainly not sustainable.
To limit animal cruelty, save on production costs or reduce the natural allergen buildup, many companies manufacture down comforters that contain a mixture of authentic feathers and synthetic fibers. These comforters are usually labeled as “down” rather than “100% down,” and are often treated with chemicals … also not an ideal solution.
What’s Up with Wool?
Wool, on the other hand, is a renewable resource. While the process of collecting down feathers is harmful to the bird, the process of shearing sheep is actually necessary for the sheep to live healthy and hygienic lives, according to the American Society of Animal Science. Certain kinds of domesticated sheep, including merinos, have been bred to produce wool endlessly, and too much wool can make it difficult for a sheep to regulate its temperature or move like it normally would. Sheep are usually sheared once a year, and experienced shepherds (like those who graduate from "sheep shearing school," like the one shown below) can complete the shearing in under two minutes. The wool that comes off a shorn sheep is not only biodegradable, but also one of the most recycled fibers in the world, enjoying a long span of use.
Another interesting way wool production is eco-friendly? According to the International Wool Textile Organisation, 50 percent of the weight of wool is composed of organic carbon, making sheep an important part of the natural carbon cycle.
In addition to being a more sustainable resource, wool also beats out down as a practical filling for comforters. While down can leave you feeling sweaty and clammy, wool is naturally breathable and water resistant. In fact, wool actually regulates your body temperature as you sleep, wicking perspiration away and ensuring a dry, comfortable sleeping environment.
Perhaps best of all for allergy-sufferers, wool is naturally hypoallergenic. The material guards against dust mites and absorbs harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including toxins that come from car exhaust, non-organic cleaning products and certain plastics — makes sense since wool is part of the carbon cycle!
Where Can I Buy Wool Bedding?
BuyGreen has tried to simplify the green-living process for you by selling only certified-organic products, backed by various third-party organizations. The best news for you, after reading an entire article on the benefits of wool bedding, is that we have a wonderful wool products on our site. Rest easy knowing your bed is both eco-friendly and the most comfortable it can be — and get everything from wool-filled pillows and comforters by St. Peter Woolen Mill to the myMerino Organic Wool Comforter by Sleep & Beyond, right on BuyGreen.