Naturalmat Wins the Queen’s Award for Sustainable Development
The team at Naturalmat have told us of the great sense of pride they feel, having won the Queen’s Award for Sustainable Development. The committed team have been quietly crafting organic, beds and mattresses from sustainable and renewable materials in Devon for over 20 years now. Naturalmat’s mission is to create a healthier sleep environment to benefit not only the health and well-being of those using the products, but also a greener supply, manufacture and disposal process to benefit the wider environment.
The business grew from the founders – Mark Tremlett’s & Peter Tindall’s desire to harness the luxuriousness of natural materials and avoid the synthetic man-made materials prevalent in the industry. Initially creating mattresses for the marine industry, they saw the poor quality of the plastic foam mattresses used on high spec boats, and developed an alternative that was comfortable, sustainable, organic and all-round superior, making use of local resources. When Mark Tremlett had his own child, they realised that the situation was shockingly the same in the nursery industry, with babies sleeping on polyurethane foam pads covered in plastic. Safer Sleep Guidelines are still clear about reducing the risk of babies overheating – so a breathable, natural fibre mattress from Naturalmat remains a safer choice for parents in the UK and abroad looking for a healthy alternative. Once Naturalmat was established in the worlds of marine and nursery, the business started manufacturing larger mattresses – up to emperor size – for adults looking to furnish their own bedrooms with organic materials, and hotels looking for sustainable alternatives to the mass-produced mattress industry.
By developing products that use raw materials from sustainable, renewable resources we drastically reduce our reliance on the petrochemical industry. The majority of the global bed and mattress industry uses synthetic foams and fabrics such as polyurethane foam, polyester and other materials that are derivatives of oil. Not only are these materials not sustainable, they are not as efficacious in their application as natural fibres, which are inherently more breathable allowing heat and moisture to dissipate, making for a healthier sleep environment by reducing the risks of overheating or allergen build up. Unlike much of the UK mattress industry, Naturalmat does not use fire retardant (FR) chemicals in products and are proud to have developed a product range that meets the relevant British Fire Safety Standards without the use of any FR additives.
Naturalmat works with local organic farms within a 50-mile radius of its factory in Topsham, Devon to source all of the wool it requires, ensuring a local resource is used in a local product. Wool is an extremely versatile material; not only is it a perfect natural insulator, keeping you cool when it’s warm and warm when it’s cold, but it is also a natural fire retardant. Wool slows down the burn rate of the fabric significantly, which means it adheres to the British Fire Safety Standard but does not give off any toxic gases and it will naturally biodegrade at the end of life. This reduces air, water and soil pollution, contamination and ultimately deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals.
The Environmental Audit Committee have launched an inquiry into the impact of toxic fire-retardant chemicals in everyday life on human health and the environment and mattresses have been cited as a particular area of concern due to the heavy use of organophosphates in the industry. Naturalmat is exemplary as despite being a relatively small player in the huge bed and mattress manufacturing industry, they have fought for over 20 years, to create a product and business model that goes against the grain of the inherently toxic and environmentally damaging industry. Whilst it would be cheaper and easier to use materials and suppliers common to the rest of the industry, Naturalmat has created a unique alternative for anyone who is mindful of health and sustainability for the home or hotel.
Naturalmat’s products are made entirely of natural and sustainable materials. One of the core materials is wool which Naturalmat buys direct from farms in their surrounding areas of Devon, Cornwall and Somerset that are either Soil Association Certified or Organic Farmers and Growers Certified.
Naturalmat’s other commonly used materials are:
• Fairtrade coconut fibre – otherwise known as Coir which was historically used in upholstery. Naturalmat buys direct from a certified organic plantation in Sri Lanka, used in place of or alongside metal springs to provide bounce to a mattress.
• Organic cotton – Soil Association and Global Organic Textile Standard Certified, used across allNaturalmat’s bedding range.
• Natural latex – Rainforest Alliance Certified, created from the sap of the rubber tree, to provide an entirely natural and breathable alternative to synthetic foam fillings.
• Wood – FSC Approved, used to build bed frames, headboards and finishing touches such as bed legs.
• Cotton Denim – Waste off cuts from the Jean industry, which Naturalmat upcycles to uses as a cotton padding.
Naturalmat manufactures all of its range from their premises; Mark’s family boatyard on the banks of the river Exe just outside Topsham in Devon. Since 2012 the bedworks is powered by a solar PV generating system that provides all of the electricity required to run the site. This coupled with local sourcing has enabled Naturalmat to produce a mattress that has the lowest carbon footprint in the UK.
Since the inception of Naturalmat back in 1999 everything used in the manufacture of the mattresses is a natural material that is either recyclable or biodegradable. The after-life of mattresses in the UK has long been a huge environmental issue with approximately 80% going to landfill which equates 167,000 tonnes of waste per year, and if you consider the bulk that a mattress represents, that means a very deep hole in the ground!
Recent developments have now enabled Naturalmat to be the first UK manufacturer to offer a closed loop manufacturing system for their mattresses. As all materials are biodegradable or recyclable, Naturalmat can now recuperate their mattresses at the end of their life, break them down into their original component parts and then upcycle into new products such as pet beds or cushion fillings. The customer can either accept a credit (to go towards their new mattress) for the value of the materials that have been recovered or accept the products that have been upcycled.
Naturalmat’s organic and sustainably made offering is unique, which is why more and more consumers in both the UK and internationally choose to buy from Naturalmat. Naturalmat supplies organic beds and mattresses to the hotel industry all over the world, with clients including Hoxton Hotels, Z Hotels, Qbic, as well as working with the very large international hotel chain in Six Senses Resorts, which leads the way in sustainable, luxury tourism. Through exporting its products Naturalmat is promoting British wool and driving foreign wealth back into the British economy. Overseas customers are willing to spend with Naturalmat as they are reassured by its quality, reputation and sustainable credentials.
Naturalmat has a global distribution, with products sold all over the world via e-commerce and direct sales. Naturalmat’s retail stores are in Devon, London, Copenhagen and Barcelona.