Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Frugal Tip Tuesday: How to Recycle Pillows

Here's another fabulous post from our friends at The Greenest Dollar -- good stuff!

I watched the “Story of Stuff” the other night. If you haven’t watched this 20-minute documentary about where our Stuff truly comes from, then give it a look. It’s an informative, sobering look at the true costs of all the stuff we buy and use on a regular basis.

So, what does this have to do with recycling pillows? Well, I’m getting there…

In the Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard talks about how our pillows (and our mattresses and couches and carpeting and curtains…) are treated with flame retardant chemicals, called PBDEs. These chemicals are highly toxic, and yet we’re laying right on them 8 hours a night. Every night.

The problem is that these chemicals leach out of the products they’re put in. And, they’re leaching into us. These chemicals have been linked to infertility, slow brain development, and cancer. Especially in babies and children.

Ironically enough, the very next day Michigan Radio (part of NPR) did a story on these PBDEs. They said that although these chemicals are highly toxic, they’re still allowed because the government doesn’t require companies to list all the chemicals they put in their products.

Of the 100,000 chemicals that are used in this country for manufacturing, only 4% have ever been tested for safety in human interactions. 

And, none of them have been tested in the real world, when they’re in a product and reacting with other chemicals in other products.

Yeah, scary.

So, all of this is still leading up to recycling pillows. Promise.

Now, I consider myself pretty eco-savvy. But I had NO IDEA PBDEs existed, and I sure didn’t know how bad they were. I was shocked to learn that I was completely surrounded by these chemicals.

I know I can’t replace everything in my home. After all, PBDEs are in everything: carpeting, curtains, TVs, cell phones, couches, computers…other than moving to a cave with hay on the floor, I’m probably not going to get away from them.

After feeling sad and miffed about it, I had a EUREKA! moment. I can’t completely eliminate them. But I can work towards getting rid of them where I spend the most time. That is, my bedroom (night sleeping), and my office (day working).

My Tiny Steps To Reducing PBDEs

The first thing I decided I could do is get eco-friendly pillows. And when I say eco-friendly, I mean pillows that are made from buckwheat and kapok, and made here in the U.S.
I found a few options I’m considering.

1. Buckwheat Pillows on Etsy

Courtesy enhabiten on Etsy
Courtesy enhabiten on Etsy

I found a lovely little shop called Enhabiten, on Etsy, that sells handmade buckwheat pillows.
The fabric is hemp that she’s stained with tea, and the filling is balsam and buckwheat hulls.
No chemicals!

She’s selling these awesome little pillows for $28. So far, buying from her is my favorite option.

2. White Lotus Organic Pillows

It’s important to really pay attention when you’re shopping for organic pillows.

For instance, I found out that GIAM makes organic pillows. But, they’re made in China. I’m not 100% confident that their pillows are chemical free, which is why I’m not buying from them.

I did find some awesome kapok and buckwheat pillows over at White Lotus. White Lotus makes all their organic pillows here in the U.S., and they offer free shipping.

How To Recycle Pillows

So now that I’m replacing my pillows (which is Step 1 in my plan to reduce PBDEs in my home), what do I do with the old pillows?

I really don’t want to just chuck them in the trash. But, I can’t donate them (Salvation Army won’t accept used pillows). So, where should they go?

Here is an idea:

1. Your Local Animal Shelter- Many animal shelters need used pillows all the time. They make great dog beds! This is what I’ll be doing with my old pillows.

There were plenty of other ideas (like turning them into smaller pillows, using the stuffing for chair cushions, etc.), but my goal is to get it out of the house because of the PBDEs. Which is why I thought the animal shelter was the best idea.

I did find this creative tutorial at the Undomesticated Wife on how to turn old pillows into cozy dog beds. No sewing involved! I could do this and create some “outdoor beds” for the backyard.

My Next Step To Get Rid of PBDEs
Like I said, replacing everything in my home just isn’t an option. That would be wasteful, and expensive. But I am considering going with a buckwheat or kapok mattress, and donating my current one (which is almost 10 years old anyway). We’ve been thinking about doing this for a while, because our current mattress is so heavy that with just the two of us, it’s almost impossible to move without bursting a vein.

I’ve only just started looking at organic/eco-friendly mattresses, however, and the ones I’ve found are really expensive.

If any of you know of a good company that makes organic mattresses I’d love to hear about them! And if you’re sleeping on a kapok or buckwheat mattress, I’d love to hear about your experience. I’d really like to go with something smaller and more lightweight than what we’ve got right now.

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1 comment:

  1. I personally wouldn't want to make pet beds out of old pillows. I wouldn't want to expose my cat to that stuff either. Just to let you know, you don't have to go as far as buckwheat mattresses to get something that's not going to off-gas or be harmful. What you want to avoid is toxic fire retardant chemicals, PVC/vinyl (which contain phthalates) and other chemicals that off-gas into the air we breathe. Naturepedic crib mattresses, for example, are made with steel innersprings and organic cotton. They're certified by Greenguard Environmental Institute so you can be sure they're not emitting dangerous chemicals into the air. Actually, Greenguard lists products that they have certified as safe so you might want to check their listings for good mattresses for adults. You can find them here. Also, one other thing to look out for, when it comes to buckwheat or similar materials, find out if they have been cleaned (they can be quite allergenic if they have not been cleaned) and by what process. Then make sure that the process didn't involve harmful chemicals.