(Eco) pillow talk | Queen of Green | David Suzuki Foundation
Photo: (Eco) pillow talk

Wool pillows are naturally resistant to dust mites and mildew. (Credit: Lindsay Coulter)

Did you know February is "Bedroom Month"? (I just invented it.) Weekly, I'll dish on all things bedroom-y — from pillows and mattresses, to birth control and clothing storage!

Week one (of four): Pillows I have known

If you're lucky, your head rests six to eight hours every night on a pillow. But what's your pillow made of?

Knowing all your eco-options can help you rest easy.

Most pillows are made from synthetic materials like petroleum-based polyester. Go ahead, check the tags, I'll wait...

Natural fabrics and fibres are better because they won't off-gas. My pillow extended family includes down, kapok, buckwheat and organic wool.

Eco-pillow options I've drooled on:

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Down pillows

Some down and feathers used to make pillows, comforters and jackets are harvested from live birds and birds that have been force fed. And some down pillows contain feathers sterilized with formaldehyde. (Feather Industries only uses biodegradable detergents to clean and disinfect feathers and down.)

My down pillow tag bears the Downmark® brand of The Down Association of Canada (a non-profit) and says "Down and feathers are normally harvested from goose and duck farms as a by-product of the poultry industry. Birds are not raised for their down, but rather for their meat — just as leather is a by-product of the beef industry." "Live plucking" is considered less than humane and economically brainless. (Of course, these labels don't say anything about sustainable or humanely raised fowl.)

Kapok pillows

Silky threads from the flower seeds of the kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra) can be harvested without chopping down the trees. These pillows are firmer than down or wool options. And apparently great for people who sleep on their backs! I found mine at Dream Designs.

Buckwheat pillows

Just like it sounds — full of buckwheat hulls! Usually these are made with a zipper hulls can be removed to adjust loftiness. Here's an example of a Canadian retailer.

Organic wool pillows

Naturally resistant to dust mites and mildew, this one was my favourite until I killed it in the laundry. It turns out they're best spot-cleaned. Oops!

Eco-pillow options I haven't tried:

Natural rubber pillows

Natural rubber is renewable and biodegradable — best for side sleepers?

Organic cotton pillows

Many pillows mentioned above come with organic cotton covers. But some pillows are made from 100 per cent organic cotton.

Which one will you try? Comment on this blog to win a natural rubber pillow and $100 gift card from Obasan and the book Ecoholic Body by Adria Vasil (draw date March 15th, 2014)!

Sincerely,
Lindsay Coulter, a fellow Queen of Green

February 3, 2014
http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/queen-of-green/2014/02/eco-pillow-talk/

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98 Comments

Mar 17, 2014
8:33 AM

Thank you for this information. I find all your posts very helpful.

Mar 14, 2014
11:52 AM

I have a buckwheat pillow (great for adjusting support to my ever-cranky neck) but I’d love to try the natural wool! Promise I wouldn’t kill it!!

Mar 13, 2014
1:17 PM

I would try the wool one, since it resists mites and mildew, that would be really good for long term since they say after so many years, thats’ what your pillows are full of. They all sounds neat though.

Mar 12, 2014
9:19 PM

Definitely will be using this guide when we go shopping for pillows soon! Great timing as we are in the market for new pillows and new mattress. We have organic Natura mattresses for our children in their cribs and time to make the investment in our own mattress and pillows as they are ready to be replaced.

Mar 12, 2014
9:59 AM

I’ve heard buckwheat was Canada’s main crop before wheat and synth. fertilizer was pushed. Apparently gets nutrients from air and adds them to soil. Sounds healthy!

I’ve showroom tested a natural rubber mattress and LOVED the firm, floaty softness, but no way could afford it. I’m a side sleeper, and am loving the chance to try for the Natural Latex Pillow!

Mar 12, 2014
9:57 AM

I am enamoured with my natural rubber pillow, and am in the process of slowly replacing all our family pillows with healthier options.

Mar 12, 2014
9:52 AM

I’ve heard that buckwheat needs no fertilizer and was Canada’s main crop before wheat and synthetic fertilizer was pushed. Apparently gets nitrogen from air and put nutrients into the soil. Sounds healthy!

I’ve showroom tested a natural rubber mattress and LOVED the firm, floaty softness, but no way could afford it. I’m a side sleeper, and am loving the chance to try for the Natural Latex Pillow!

Fingers crossed!

Mar 12, 2014
7:07 AM

Considering we spend a third to half of our lives sleeping I am greatful for this article on pillows.

Coming from a family and town where beauty and cost effectiveness were valued more than the environment, I have been trying to educate myself to increase my awareness on living a greener life. The amount of information is overwhelming at times, but I know I can come here for guidance and education on cleaning and products, not to mention my purchasing power, that help me reduce my carbon footprint.

Thanks for all the great work you do!

Mar 11, 2014
10:24 PM

I am allergic to wool and feather…so I don’t think sleeping on them is a good idea for me. I tried the buck wheat ones before when i was growing up in Taiwan. It became super hard after I slept on it for a while…and just a very think layer of it under my head..so maybe not that either.

I have not tried Kapok or natural rubber…but wouldn’t Natural rubber smell like rubber? the smell of it..can you sleep on it?

I am a side sleeper…so far I have problems with my large ears…when sleeping on one side too long..so…kapok probably would be the best bet for me?

I recently spend 80 dollar on purchasing a pillow with a center lower pocket, but the filling is not cotton, just some artificially made fiber..it still hardens up and pressed on my ears if I don’t place my ears in the center pocket properly…

Very difficult to get proper sleep…and yes..still searching after all these different types of pillow I purchased…and sitting there…not helping at all. sigh..

Good luck everybody on getting some sleep

Linlianne Lee, Coquitlam BC

Mar 11, 2014
8:41 PM

A kapok pillow would be great! We have some kapok Thai mats and we love them for lounging on the deck in the summer.

Mar 11, 2014
5:57 PM

I’ve been trying to find Canadian retailers that sell reasonably priced vegan pillows — I’m so glad I found this review!

Mar 11, 2014
11:33 AM

I’ve been thinking a lot about the fabrics that are used in my bedroom and how they affect the environment and our health. I had just been contemplating changing my pillow so I would love to try and natural rubber pillow!

Mar 11, 2014
10:32 AM

I do not want a rubber pillow but I did share this with Facebook. Every living thing deserves care and respect and the thought of down being plucked out of a living animal with no thought to the pain incurred makes me violently ill.

Mar 11, 2014
7:57 AM

I am a side sleeper with constant neck pain due to inadequate pillows. I would love to try a natural rubber pillow!

Mar 10, 2014
7:58 PM

I think I would probably try the organic wool pillow or the natural rubber pillow They both sound like great options!
However, I might lean towards the natural rubber pillow as I am side sleeper and find it hard to find a “comfy” pillow!

Mar 10, 2014
7:58 PM

I think I would probably try the organic wool pillow or the natural rubber pillow They both sound like great options!
However, I might lean towards the natural rubber pillow as I am side sleeper and find it hard to find a “comfy” pillow!

Mar 10, 2014
7:39 PM

I’d love to try a wool or buckwheat pillow!!

Mar 10, 2014
6:56 PM

I like the sound of the Buckwheat pillow. I may also give the organic cotton one a try. Thanks for all the information.

Mar 10, 2014
6:39 PM

I’ve been using feather pillows that belonged to my grandmother when she was a child…back to a day before they used chemicals! They were also made to last with durable canvas covering.

Mar 10, 2014
4:13 PM

This is one area that I rarely think about but would have a huge impact on daily activities. I’d definitely be interested in the wool or rubber pillows.

Mar 10, 2014
3:31 PM

The bedroom is the only environment I haven’t greened. My sheets and pillow cases are organic cotton but I haven’t been able to afford to replace pillows, mattress, duvet, duvet cover, etc.

I would appreciate help in getting closer to detoxifying my bedroom so very much. I never win anything but I’m hoping and praying this time. :-)

Mar 10, 2014
12:25 PM

I’d love to try the natural rubber!

Mar 10, 2014
10:42 AM

I have been using a buckwheat pillow for years, that I purchased from a local company in Carp, Ontario (just outside of Ottawa). I bought it to help treat my TMJ (cracking jaw) and not only did it help that, it made my neck feel much better and my sinuses clear up! It’s easy to keep clean and, while I find it a bit noisy, I got used to that. After a number of years it became flat and the buckwheat shells compressed. It’s time for a new one and I would love to try an organic wool or rubber one for me and my husband, who is always struggling to find a comfortable pillow. Thanks for this post — it reminded me that it’s time to look for new, and Eco-friendly, pillows!

Mar 10, 2014
10:26 AM

The natural rubber sounds great! I too have killed a wool pillow by putting it in the laundry, it was a sad day.

Mar 10, 2014
9:26 AM

Rubber pillows? I’m curious…

I guess we have a bunch of synthetic pillows at my house, but the best ones are the down ones. I think the down was collected by my grandmother in Iran. Rice bags (the ones with zippers) are useful for pillows, and then you pull a nice cover over it.

Synthetic and I think cotton pillows aren’t so nice because they go flat after a while and are not too comfy.

Mar 10, 2014
8:15 AM

What would be the best pillow for a person with neck issues? Can you recommend a food pillow to put between your knees to help keep the spine straight for a side-sleeper? Thnx

Mar 10, 2014
5:16 AM

I will never again use wool or down products. The way these animals(poultry and sheep) are used and abused is inhumane and cruel.

Mar 10, 2014
4:12 AM

My naturopath and I have been tackling the cause of all my headaches, and I was thinking that a more supportive pillow could be very beneficial…and voila, your article comes, like kismet. Thanks for all the great information!

Mar 10, 2014
12:46 AM

Where do latex memory foam pillows and mattresses fit on the scale of noxious gas giving?

Mar 09, 2014
8:20 PM

I’ve been sleeping on a kapok pillow for about 5 years now. When I bought it, it was stuffed so full that I was able to make two pillows out of it! You’re right, it definitely is firmer than down, so I switch between it and a softer pillow I have. (Which I have had for so long now, I can’t remember what it is made of, but I’m guessing it isn’t any of the ones you mentioned.)

Mar 09, 2014
8:07 PM

I bought a natural latex mattress and pillows last year — all are very comfortable and working well for me. Thanks for your article!

Mar 09, 2014
7:52 PM

We have a buckwheat pillow. It was mine, but my hubby took it over. Not really my thing, but he loves it. I’m curious to try the rubber or wool pillow options.

Mar 04, 2014
8:57 AM

This article really hits home as I sit writing with a ‘kink’ in my neck. Over the past year I have had a sleep study, started snoring and recently invested over $500.00 in new pillows!

I purchased two $300.00 (Siberian white down) pillows online only to return them

None of these pillows had the Downmark Brand (which I was aware of but incredibly forgot when buying pillows) nor did I consider the thought that even pillows made of synthetic materials would off-gas!

I’m grateful for Ms. Coulter’s article reminding me of health issues and educating me on the alternatives. I’m still searching for the perfect pillow and a good night’s rest… and you can bet tonight’s (Eco) pillow talk will include this article.

Sincerely,

Heather Jones Pickering, ON

Mar 02, 2014
3:38 PM

I’ll try the buckwheat and natural rubber pillows!

Mar 01, 2014
5:51 AM

I’m interested in the wool pillows, but rubber sounds interesting too. We’ve been in the market for pillows for a while but it never occurred to me that there were green options, thanks for this post!

Feb 28, 2014
11:37 AM

Wow, thanks for this blog. I would gladly try any of these alternatives, I’m really curious however, on Buckwheat pillows. As someone who up-cycles clothing, reusing something that is not chemically treated and is sourced locally is comforting, naturally!

<3 Sarah from Hamilton

Feb 28, 2014
7:12 AM

Kapok pillows sound incredible!

Feb 28, 2014
5:33 AM

I’m a side sleeper and the rubber one seems interesting :)

Feb 27, 2014
9:18 PM

Hmm… a recent minor car accident has left me with a bit of whiplash and I generally wake up with a sore neck these days. I’ve been using a contoured foam pillow to help stabilize it but I haven’t noticed any real benefit and would much rather have an eco-friendly, non-toxic option anyway. Most curious about the Kapok and rubber pillows you mention…

Feb 27, 2014
9:00 AM

Interesting to read the Eco-friendly pillow options available. I wonder if some of these are available for pets?

Feb 25, 2014
7:33 PM

This is very interesting. I have been looking for a new pillow and I am going to research some of the options you have listed here. Very helpful — Thank you!

Feb 25, 2014
1:47 PM

Organic wool sounds tempting!

Feb 25, 2014
10:35 AM

Kapok pillow sounds like the one for me! Besides trying to live a more green life style I am trying to train myself to be a back sleeper.

Feb 25, 2014
10:12 AM

This is great advice. I’ll keep it in mind when I’m in the market for a new pillow!

Feb 24, 2014
5:27 PM

So interesting! I didn’t realize their were so many pillow options. Something I always hated about the chemicals in my home is that I likely have my head laying on a bunch of them for 8 hours a day- breathing all of them in. Gross! Thanks for this!

Feb 24, 2014
5:57 AM

I have never put much thought into what my pillows are made of, but I do hate the off-gassing of my memory foam pillow. I have to hang it on my clothesline for two days just to air it out before I use it! I think it’s time for me to change.

Feb 23, 2014
9:06 PM

The wool sounds great. The buckwheat sounds like it would be noisy…is it?

Feb 23, 2014
8:06 PM

I have yet to try any of these! I think I’ll start with wool…hopefully I notice an improvement in the quality of my sleep!

Feb 23, 2014
7:49 PM

Also tried buckwheat and found it too noisy. Am currently trying a Natura pillow with natural latex and organic wool

Feb 22, 2014
6:45 PM

Fascinating! Right now in class I’m researching for an assignment the chemicals used in every day products that we don’t even think about…that’s how i stumbled upon your article. Queen of Green, I just sent you a tweet! From @katmariewiebe. I haven’t even thought about the environmental and health effects of my pillow! Something I will be looking into more for sure!

Feb 21, 2014
2:57 PM

This is a very informative article. I would love to try the natural rubber/latex as I’m a side sleeper and now that I know it is chemical free and comes with organic cotton and silk cover, this would be my best best.

Feb 21, 2014
9:20 AM

This pillow looks lovely. I know most of use could you a greener and better night sleep! I will be looking into these!

Thanks so much for sharing this find!

Feb 20, 2014
2:37 PM

The Buckwheat pillow, I love buckwheat noodles, so I think I’ll love buckwheat pillows!

Feb 19, 2014
9:01 PM

I’m definitely not into the down pillows.. I don’t trust the no ‘live plucking’ statement. I would like to try the organic cotton pillow :)

Feb 19, 2014
6:39 PM

These look awesome!!

Feb 19, 2014
5:00 PM

A good night sleep is so crucial to a healthy lifestyle. Thank-you for this helpful pillow talk!

Feb 19, 2014
12:37 PM

I am a side sleeper and my hubby is a back sleeper. Interesting to see we should be using different pillow. Does anyone know of a physical store in Nova Scotia where I can buy a natural rubber pillow?

Feb 19, 2014
12:30 PM

The Organic Wool Pillow gets my vote to try! If it’s your favourite, Lindsay, then that’s the one for me!

Feb 19, 2014
11:04 AM

I need new pillows and I think I am going to try Kapok pillows.

Feb 19, 2014
10:46 AM

I would try all of them!

Feb 19, 2014
9:46 AM

So happy to come across this blog! I’d love to try out the rubber pillow. Buckwheat sounds like an interesting option too

Feb 19, 2014
9:09 AM

We switched to buckwheat pillows last year, and love them! They do make a bit of noise when you shift, but it certainly didn’t take us long to adjust.

Feb 18, 2014
7:09 PM

So far, I’ve tried the down pillow but would definitely love to try the other alternative options. Love the pillow talk!

Feb 17, 2014
6:52 PM

I ‘d try all of these. Have tried buckwheat, it’s slightly noisy. Kind of. Wasn’t firm enough for me.

Feb 13, 2014
11:37 PM

I would be most interested in trying out the buckwheat pillow!

Feb 13, 2014
7:59 PM

That looks like one nice (if a little pricey) pillow.

Feb 12, 2014
6:26 PM

Great finds! Any suggestions for bricks and mortar retailers in the GTA where I could “try” any of these pillows before buying them?

Feb 12, 2014
3:17 PM

I’m in shopping mode for bedroom supplies so looks like I picked a good month! Thanks for the advice :)

Feb 12, 2014
3:10 PM

Thanks for the useful information…look forward to reading more.

Feb 12, 2014
3:09 PM

Thanks for the useful information…look forward to reading more.

Feb 11, 2014
10:10 PM

Wow, why did I never before think about getting a wool pillow? I wear merino every day, my favourite fibre!

Thanks for the inspiration!

Feb 11, 2014
5:40 PM

I’m wondering if pillows and mattresses stop off-gassing over time. I have an older Obus form pillow that is made of foam, which I had thought might be “done” off-gassing. Is this true?

Many thanks!

Feb 11, 2014
5:39 PM

I’m wondering if pillows and mattresses stop off-gassing over time. I have an older obus form pillow that is made of foam, which I had thought might be “done” off-gassing. Is this true?

Many thanks!

Feb 11, 2014
1:57 PM

It’s great to see there are some natural options out there other than down. I’m allergic and live in a small city where there aren’t many options in the stores. I’ll keep an eye out for these!

Feb 10, 2014
2:39 PM

Hello! I have tried just about every pillow going. I am a side sleeper so like something not too puffy!! It is a little like Goldilocks, finding the one that is just right!! We have some buckwheat ones made here in New Brunswick.

Feb 10, 2014
1:11 PM

fingers crossed

Feb 10, 2014
1:10 PM

These pillows sound very health conscious would live to try for my family as my oldest has mild asthma

Feb 10, 2014
10:22 AM

Thanks for the pillow talk — looking forward to your post on birth control.

Feb 10, 2014
4:01 AM

I watched a video of you about making recycled paper and it was soo easy! i absolutely love your site! it has definitely informed me about so much more! especially on down pillows i never knew! im also a side sleeper and i was shocked and when i read there was an eco friendly version for those pillows Thank you for being so insightful and letting the world know!

Feb 09, 2014
4:12 PM

All those pillows look so nice and comfortable! But I they’re all quite out of my price range, and I have to admit, even if they weren’t I’d find it hard to justify $85 for a new pillow.

Feb 07, 2014
6:52 PM

I think I would like to try a kapok or buckwheat pillow.

Feb 07, 2014
6:32 AM

Very good subject!!! I try to eat bio and local as much as I can, I clean with baking soda, vinager and lemon, I do not buy product with a lot of chemical for my skin and hair but I never thought about that… what am I breathing all night… what my IKEA pillow is made of… I am scared right now!!

Feb 06, 2014
6:01 PM

My favourite is that ergonomic pillow from Ikea. It’s around $20 and is really comfy. It’s made of foam though — didn’t realize there could be nasty off-gassing

Feb 06, 2014
1:04 PM

The natural rubber pillow sounds like a fabulous option. I’d definitely give it a try next time, and as a side sleeper these days (pregnancy caused me to switch from being a tummy sleeper to side sleeper) it would be great choice for me.

Feb 06, 2014
6:34 AM

It’s great to know what options are out there, but unfortunately, down pillows aren’t a good choice for our household because of breathing problems, including asthma. Any ideas on which pillows are best for people with breathing problems? Thanks!

Feb 05, 2014
8:22 PM

Thanks! Good to see some of the options out there.

Feb 05, 2014
7:09 PM

I had a silk pillow before. It’s not as comfortable as memory foam. Some of these more environmentally friendly pillows like buckwheat is definitely worth a try.

Feb 05, 2014
4:30 PM

I love the idea that the kapok fibres can be harvested without harming the tree — this one is now on my wishlist!

Feb 05, 2014
3:26 PM

The info on harvesting methods for down pillows was particularly useful. (I like my natural rubber pillow which came with my mattress made of natural rubber and organic cloth.)

Feb 05, 2014
8:18 AM

Sweat rots silk :( If you want to sleep better at night, say no to wool and feather pillows and yes to one of the cruelty-free, natural options instead :)

Any commercial process that involves animals, involves animal exploitation.

Feb 04, 2014
1:37 PM

I’d really like to try an organic cotton pillow!

Feb 04, 2014
11:46 AM

I just got an all natural wool pillow for christmas and I love it so far! I have also used buckwheat pillows and I really liked it but felt that it could be better. I haven’t done it yet but I have been wanting to sew the pillow case in different compartments and fill it with buckwheat at different densities to create a buckwheat “contour” pillow.

Feb 04, 2014
11:11 AM

The kapok pillow sounds super interesting — looking at the link now!

Feb 04, 2014
11:03 AM

I hope to find a healthier option for my pillow that is also more affordable.Some of these pillows are too expensive :(

Feb 04, 2014
10:59 AM

I’ve wanted to try a buckwheat pillow for a while now, but the Kapok also sounds like it’s worth looking into. Or maybe wool.

Feb 04, 2014
10:35 AM

I’ve never heard of silk pillows. Are they made from eco-friendlier silk? http://davidsuzuki.org/blogs/queen-of-green/2012/01/what-makes-a-wedding-dress-eco-friendly/

Feb 04, 2014
10:33 AM

I have a kapok pillow from Dream Designs too, but I find that it has lost it’s shape and is lumpy now… any suggestions for remedying that?

Feb 03, 2014
3:52 PM

What about silk pillows? It is supposed to be naturally resistant to dust mites and breathable.

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