Few things in life are better than curling up under a cozy duvet and getting a good night’s sleep. But what if your duvet is off-gassing toxic chemicals and/or contributing to pollution and animal cruelty? Sadly, most duvets are the stuff of environmental and ethical nightmares, filled with petroleum-based polyester or forcibly plucked feathers sterilized with formaldehyde. Rest easy with these carefully curated comforters and eco-friendly duvets.
When choosing a new duvet, you’ll want to consider how warm you tend to sleep, the size of your bed, and how much time and energy you have for upkeep. Some eco-friendly duvets are easier to clean than others, which is an especially important consideration if buying a duvet for a child (or, let’s face it, if you have a dog who likes to ‘towel off’ on the bed after a walk).
If you’re looking for a new duvet, it’s smart to ask the following questions:
- What is the duvet made from?
- Are the materials recycled and/or recyclable?
- Has the duvet been treated with toxic chemicals?
- Does the manufacturing of the duvet harm humans, other animals, and/or the environment?
When it comes to the warmth and heaviness of a duvet, a lot depends on the fill. The fill also determines whether the duvet is naturally flame retardant, machine washable, cruelty-free, or hypoallergenic (or if you need a hypoallergenic duvet cover).
Let’s look more closely at the materials used to make conventional comforters and the problems these materials pose for your health and the environment as a whole.
Our top picks for eco-friendly Duvets
|Product||Highlights||Leaf Score||Product Link|
PlushBeds EcoWool ComforterRead the Review
Haiku Designs Sweet Dreams Silk ComforterRead the Review
|View on Amazon|
Holy Lamb Organics Wool ComfortersRead the Review
|View on Amazon|
Savvy Rest Natural Wool Duvet InsertRead the Review
Savvy Rest Organic Wool Duvet InsertRead the Review
Rawganique Handmade 100% Organic Cotton ComforterRead the Review
Rawganique Organic Wool ComforterRead the Review
Things to consider in Duvets
Duvets – What to Watch out for
Synthetic duvets made with polyester require huge amounts of resources to manufacture, are usually riddled with chemicals that off-gas while you sleep, and wind up sitting in landfill for years before they begin to break down.
Pros and Cons of Polyester Duvets
The majority of conventional duvets are made using polyester, a mass-produced petroleum-based, nonrenewable resource. While polyester is cheap compared to better quality materials, its manufacture is incredibly energy intensive, which contributes to climate change and costs us more in the long run.
Polyester is also teeming with nasty chemicals, the main one being ethylene glycol. This toxin off-gases while we sleep and can be absorbed through the skin, causing respiratory and skin irritation and damage to the nervous system and kidneys. In addition, polyester duvets don’t breathe well, meaning that you’re more likely to overheat, sweat, and have an unpleasant sleeping experience. Furthermore, polyester is frequently produced in factories with unsafe and unfair working conditions, putting workers and the nearby environment at risk. A cheap but toxic duvet provides cold comfort indeed.
Top Tip – Watch out for ‘down alternatives’ or ‘microfiber’ fills – these are usually made with a polyester blend.
There are some good things about polyester, however, aside from the cheap price tag. For example, polyester duvets are easy to keep clean as they are machine washable and can be put in the dryer on a low heat setting. Unfortunately, you’re more likely to need to wash polyester duvets regularly as polyester is highly appealing to dust mites. Polyester also tends to have a short life span, meaning that your new duvet will quickly become lumpy and uneven within a few months, especially if you go for the really cheap options.
Top tip – don’t be fooled by ‘hypoallergenic’ on labels. While people aren’t typically allergic to polyester, there are far better options that are natural and hypoallergenic too.
Pros and Cons of Goose, Duck, and Chicken Down and Feather Duvets
Goose down and feathers are a luxurious option for stuffing and make for a soft, indulgent, lightweight duvet. A down duvet is typically around a third of the weight of an equivalent silk duvet or half the weight of a comparably warm wool duvet.
The down and feathers that fill these duvets are rarely sourced in a humane way, however, with most forcibly plucked (repeatedly) from live geese, chickens, and ducks who are reared in cages too small for them to spread their wings. Furthermore, these feathers are typically sterilized with formaldehyde, bleached, and treated with other chemicals to reduce their allergenic potential and naturally ‘gamey’ odor.
The Down Association of Canada (a non-profit organization) administers the Downmark® logo to certify that the down and feathers in a product come from birds killed for meat, i.e. the down and feathers are considered a ‘by-product’ of the meat industry, like leather and suede; the birds are not reared specifically for their feathers. This label does not, however, offer any insight into the conditions a bird experiences before they are killed.
The Responsible Down Standard is a better marker to look for if buying a down duvet. The RDS was created in 2014 through a partnership between The North Face, Textile Exchange (a global nonprofit dedicated to sustainability), and Control Union Certifications, an accredited third-party certification body with expertise in agriculture and farm systems. This certification goes beyond the Downmark® criteria and aims to minimize the harm that comes to geese and ducks in the process of gathering down and feathers. To qualify for the RDS certification, a company must be able to demonstrate that all of the down in a final product satisfies six criteria designed to lessen cruelty (these are listed in Green Certifications below). This standard helps consumers know where the down in duvets came from, but it is worth noting that animal agriculture remains the most significant contributor to climate change worldwide, so organic or wild harvested plant fibers are usually the more eco-friendly option.
It’s also worth noting that down and feathers are not the same. Down refers to the soft material under the breast feathers of geese and ducks. This material helps the birds stay warm in cold weather and doesn’t have sharp quills, which is why it is a popular stuffing for duvets and comforters. Feathers are easier to come by and are often mixed in with down to increase volume as a lot of down is necessary to fill a duvet. This is why down duvets are so expensive. A grading system is used to mark the ‘fill’ of a down duvet, with a number somewhere in the range of 300 to 800 used to indicate how much space is filled by an ounce of down. The higher the number, the firmer the duvet.
Feathers also tend to poke through duvets and both down and feathers collect dust mites, meaning that you’ll probably want to cover your duvet with a tightly woven organic cotton hypoallergenic cover.
One way to enjoy the comfort of down while minimizing the use of animal products is to opt for a HypoDown filled comforter.
Hypodown® combines down with natural fibers from milkweed (Syriaca) to create a hypoallergenic fluffy fill that dust mites don’t like. HypoDown typically comprises 70% goose or duck down and 30% syriaca clusters. It has been rigorously allergy tested and Hypodown® comforters and pillows are guaranteed to be reaction free for 10 years.
Syriaca clusters come from the seed pods of wild collected milkweed plants. These plants provide food for the Monarch butterflies that migrate each year from Mexico through the US and into Canada. It’s possible that by supporting the increased use of syriaca as a filling for bedding and other products, this may support the natural habitat of the Monarch butterflies.
Syriaca clusters have hollow fibers which trap air to help with temperature regulation. These clusters are mixed with down clusters in a ‘HypoDown Blender’ through forced air currents. The two materials are then entwined to create a more uniform fill in one of three fill powers: 800. 700, 600.
Hypodown 800 uses the finest down available which comprises 85% Goose or Duck Down Cluster and 15% small feathers. The final fill is then 70% of this 85/15 down mixture and 30% syriaca clusters.
Hypodown 700 uses premium down comprising 80% Goose or Duck Down Clusters and 20% small feathers. The final fill is then 70% of this 80/20 down mixture and 30% syriaca clusters.
Hypodown 600 uses 75% Goose or Duck Down Clusters and 25% small feathers alongside syriaca clusters. The final fill is 70% of this 75/25 down mixture and 30% syriaca clusters.
Eco-Friendly Duvet Materials
There are plenty of good options available for natural, eco-friendly duvets. Natural fills don’t off-gas, have a lower carbon footprint (typically) than synthetic fills, and are more easily recycled, upcycled, or able to break down naturally. Some eco-friendly duvet materials to look out for include:
- Organic wool
- Organic cotton
- Wild harvested ethical silk.
Kapok duvets remain somewhat elusive but are likely to become increasingly popular as they are lightweight, soft, and sustainable and make a good alternative to down duvets. Down and kapok are excellent all-season duvet materials as these help with temperature regulation. In general, the more down there is in a duvet, the better it will be at regulating temperature. Wool is also excellent for temperature and humidity regulation, but wool duvets are best if you like a thinner, heavier duvet that drapes more closely over your body.
You might also consider a pair of seasonal comforters instead of a single all-season comforter. For instance, a thicker kapok or down duvet in winter and a thinner kapok, cotton or silk duvet in summer. Or, you could choose to go with a cooler duvet suitable for summer and pair this with a coverlet or seasonal blanket when the weather cools down. That might mean a light kapok or down duvet, or a summer wool duvet in summer paired with a heavier, warmer blanket in winter.
Regardless of which bedding set-up you prefer, choosing a duvet made with natural materials is better for breathability, comfort, durability, and all-round health. A quality duvet can easily outlive your mattress and may last for several decades without needing to be replaced. If more people choose an eco-friendly duvet this could help to keep millions of tons of material out of landfill.
Pros and Cons of Kapok Comforters
If you haven’t yet heard of kapok, you’re in for a treat. This silky fiber is harvested from the seed pods of tropical trees called Ceiba pentandra. Also known as Java cotton, Kava kapok, silk-cotton, Samauma, or ceiba, kapok It is significantly lighter than cotton, feels very similar to down, and is wonderfully sustainable.
In the right conditions, the kapok tree can grow up to 13 feet in a year, and some trees reach over 160 feet high, forming the canopy of a rainforest. Kapok fibers are harvested from seed pods after they fall once the rainy season is finished. This means that the trees do not need to be chopped down or harmed in any way to get the fibers.
Kapok cultivation does not require pesticides and may help maintain important eco systems while providing good jobs for workers in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, northern South America, and tropical west Africa.
Kapok duvets are very soft, fluffy, and luxurious, making kapok a natural alternative to down. Kapok is also hypoallergenic, and resistant to mold, and dries quickly.
To care for a kapok duvet, machine wash on a gentle cycle. Kapok duvets can also be dried on a cool cycle in the dryer.
Pros and Cons of Organic Wool Duvets
Wool naturally wicks moisture away from your skin, so wool duvets are excellent for maintaining a constant temperature. A fluffy, breathable, organic wool duvet will help you stay cool on summer nights while keeping you warm and cozy in winter. Wool does have a heavier, stiffer feel than down, kapok, or synthetic duvets, though, and will drape over your body like a blanket. A winter weight wool duvet is similar in terms of warmth to a regular weight down duvet (look for a winter wool duvet weighing around 800 g per square meter; a summer wool duvet would weigh around 500 g per square meter).
The resilience, softness, and ability of wool to maintain loft depends a lot on how the wool is processed, including techniques called carding and garneting. Companies like Holy Lamb Organics and Rawganique use these traditional techniques to create higher quality wool products that stand the test of time, making their products much more eco-friendly and cost effective in the long-run.
Most wool is from sheep, but some is from goats, alpacas, or other animals. To care for an organic wool duvet, spot clean with a dilute vinegar solution and then air the duvet outside in the sun or on a sunny window ledge indoors. These duvets can be fluffed in the dryer with tennis balls.
Wool is also naturally resistant to mold and mildew, has natural flame-retardant and antimicrobial qualities, and is resistant to dust mites, making it a great option for allergy sufferers. Wool also offers the most organic options in this category. If you see a cheap wool duvet, check to see if it is organic by looking for the USDA Certified Organic label or, ideally, GOTS certification. To really up your eco game, look for an organic wool duvet that carries the European kfB certificate awarded to products made with wool sourced with minimal animal exploitation. In the US, wool duvets marked with the PureGrow™ label use wool from Californian farms that practice sustainable sheep ranching. EcoWool is another excellent standard that provides reassurance that wool is sourced from small US farms where farmers manage their flocks humanely and care for the environment.
Also, look for wool that is processed without the use of any dyes or bleaches. Bleached wool contains toxic compounds including dioxins. Conventional processes used to treat wool include: Carbonizing, a process which uses carbonic acid to dissolve chaff; Shrink proofing; Chemical scale removal; and moth proofing, all of which can involve harsh chemicals that result in contamination and off-gassing.
Pros and Cons of Organic Cotton Duvets
Conventionally grown cotton is resource-hungry and involves the use of pesticides and other chemicals that damage the environment and are bad for human health. Organic cotton is grown and processed without pesticides, formaldehyde, or other harmful chemicals and is very soft, making it an excellent option for cozy comforters.
Many eco-friendly duvets have organic cotton covers, but some are entirely made with organic cotton. These duvets tend to be heavier and feel firmer, making them a good option for an extra layer in winter. Cotton duvets can become flat over time, however, and because cotton shrinks when washed in warm or hot water, it is best to wash on a cold gentle cycle and air dry, or simply spot clean with dilute vinegar solution.
Pros and Cons of Hemp Duvets
Hemp is a wonderfully sustainable, renewable resource with myriad applications across multiple industries. Hemp duvets are particularly good if you like to sleep with a duvet in summer but want to stay cool while you snooze. That’s because hemp is one of the most breathable materials, managing to keep its cool even in hot and humid temperatures, and helps wick moisture away from your skin. This means it’s good for keeping bedding feeling fresh, especially as hemp is naturally anti-microbial and anti-bacterial. Hemp is resistant to mold and mildew and doesn’t hold onto odors.
Unfortunately, hemp duvets just aren’t that widely available. It can be a fairly expensive fiber to use to fill a whole duvet, but it’s certainly worth the investment if you live somewhere particularly humid.
Hemp is also a very environmentally friendly fiber as the crop is naturally resistant to pests and grows so thick that it prevents the growth of weeds around the plants. This means that you don’t typically need to use pesticides or herbicides when growing hemp, nor do you need fertilizers as hemp actually enriches the quality of soil. Because hemp roots grow deep, they are good at using groundwater and help reduce soil erosion.
If you live in the European Union, consider buying the Landon Hemp Duvet from The House of Pillows as this carries a wealth of excellent eco credentials and certifications.
Pros and Cons of Silk Duvets
Silk duvets are luxurious but tend to be expensive and fraught with ethical issues. In conventional silk production, cocoons made by silkworms on silk farms are put in boiling water before the worm breaks out of the cocoon (which would cut the thread). The worms are then boiled alive as silk farmers unravel the cocoon to produce a continuous thread that can measure as much as 500 meters in length. This silk is typically known as Mulberry silk and comes from many generations of inbreeding of silkworms for commercial purposes. Such inbreeding has resulted in silkworm moths that are too heavy and disfigured to fly or even move naturally, and the farming practices result in significant suffering and premature deaths of the moths.
So-called ahimsa or peace silk (also known as Tussah silk) is harvested after the silkworms emerge from the cocoon. As such, ahimsa silk threads are much shorter and have to be spun together to create a single thread. The yield is also lower per cocoon, but the spun yarn is softer, stronger, and more like linen than silk. If the cocoons are harvested in the wild and the silk is not treated with toxic dyes, the resulting silk could be considered a sustainable eco-friendly fiber, especially as silkworms feed on mulberry leaves, meaning that there is little energy input (although considerable water input) involved in silk production.
If a company can demonstrate its commitment to harvesting wild silk and avoiding the use of toxic chemicals during processing, silk can be a good choice for a comforter. Silk is a natural temperature regulator and is lightweight but warm, so is a good option all year round. Silk also wicks moisture away from the skin, so is ideal if you tend to perspire a lot while sleeping or live in a humid climate. And, with proper care, silk can be very durable, lasting some 15-20 years. However, silk is a little tricky to care for. Some types of silk are machine washable on a delicate cycle, while others need to be dry cleaned (which normally involves toxic chemicals). If washed, silk should be dried by ironing while damp as it tends to wrinkle and stiffen if line dried.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
When it comes to the environmental impact of duvets, it’s not just your choice of a new comforter that matters. Landfills are teeming with toxic duvets made from synthetic materials that leach chemicals into the soil and water supply. It’s important to note that the term ‘biodegradable’ is not regulated in the U.S., so instead of being a sign of eco-friendliness, it can simply mean that a duvet will degrade (eventually) into some other harmful chemicals when exposed to air and light.
Organic cotton, wool, hemp, kapok, and other natural plant-based materials are the best options for truly biodegradable, eco-friendly duvets. And, as with every household product, before you even consider sending a worn-out comforter to landfill, think about ways to repurpose, upcycle, or recycle it.
You could donate lightly used duvets to a nearby retirement home, shelter, or social housing for those in need. A duvet can be folded and sewn into a new cover to make a comfy bed for your cat and/or dog or donated to an animal shelter. You might also remove the filling and use it to stuff a cushion or for crafting purposes. Or, if you brew beer at home, use your old duvet as a carboy cozy during fermentation.
Green Certifications for Duvets
If you see a duvet marketed as ‘natural’, be sure to check the product’s true credentials. This term carries no real meaning in most countries, and even when a duvet is marketed as certified organic or compliant with Oeko-Tex Standard 100, this could just apply to one small part of the product, such as the outer cover.
Fortunately, there are some robust green certifications for comforters that can help you figure out the right eco-friendly product for a good night’s rest. These typically assess the product as a whole, providing reassurance of quality and environmental and ethical standards.
For a duvet to qualify for the USDA Organic seal, for instance, it has to contain a minimum of 95 percent certified organic materials and to be processed without potentially harmful chemicals. Few duvets meet the USDA Organic standards, but we’ve found some that do.
Some certifications go beyond the materials that make up the final product, covering growing conditions for raw materials, manufacturing processes, worker conditions, non-human animal welfare, and social and environmental impact overall.
One of the most important logos to look out for when buying a duvet is GOTS.
Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
GOTS requires that at least 95 percent of the materials in the duvet be certified organic, and it prohibits outright the use of certain substances even for the other 5 percent, such as chemical flame retardants and polyurethane.
Greenguard and Greenguard Gold
Greenguard is one of the most common green certifications and requires testing of a finished duvet for specific emission limits of formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds. The related Greenguard Gold has more stringent emission limits for VOCs. Both were developed by UL Environment and Greenguard worked with ANSI to become an official standard-setting organization. Neither certification offers reassurance that a product is free from toxins, however, nor do they include a social or animal ethics component.
Green America certifies businesses that actively use their business as a tool for positive social change. To be certified with Green America a business must also:
- Operate a “values-driven” enterprise according to principles of social justice AND environmental sustainability;
- Demonstrate environmentally responsible practices in the way they source, manufacture, and market their products and run their operations and facilities;
- Be socially equitable and committed to extraordinary practices that benefit workers, customers, communities, and the environment; and
- Be accountable for their work by continually improving and tracking their progress and operating with transparency in every facet of their business.
Green America has been evaluating and certifying small businesses since 1982 and has worked with companies such as Holy Lamb Organics, PlushBeds, and Haiku Designs, all of whom are listed in the ecoHome directory for duvets or comforters.
There is also a Green America Gold certification that is reserved for companies who are industry leaders for responsible, sustainable business practices. Holy Lamb Organics is Green America Gold Certified.
International and Organic Sustainable Accreditation (IOAS) is administered by a non-profit organization and certifies the integrity of a product’s claims to be organic, sustainable, environmentally sound, and produced with social justice and fair trade in mind.
Oeko-Tex Standard 100
Oeko-Tex Standard 100 lays out limits for the emission of harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs). It also outright bans the use of certain chemical flame retardants, colorants, and allergenic dyes, but it doesn’t offer any guidance on whether materials are organic or sustainably sourced and it’s not always clear if an entire product or just a single component is certified.
The certification process for the OEKO TEX Certification is fairly robust and includes testing for a variety of hazardous chemicals, pesticides, phthalates, lead, arsenic, and other heavy metals. If a duvet carries this certification, it has been tested and found to contain no:
- Chlorinated phenols
- Carcinogenic dyes
- AZO dyes
- Allergy inducing dyes
The OEKO TEX Standard 100 Certification is voluntary and must be updated each year in order to remain active.
The Eco Institute, located in Cologne, Germany, is an independent organization that has more than 25 years of experience testing products for the presence of pollutants and emissions, even in trace amounts. If a product is Eco-INSTITUT certified, you can be assured that it does not contain even trace amounts of hazardous chemicals and will not off-gas undesirable chemicals and odors into your home. Some of the chemicals the Eco-Institute certification rules out include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), phthalates, formaldehyde, pesticides, heavy metals, and persistent organic pollutants.
kbA and kbT
Products made and/or sold in Europe may carry kbA and/or kbT certifications. The former certifies that the product is made with organic cotton and the second translates roughly to ‘controlled organic livestock’, meaning that materials are sourced from suppliers using organic farming methods ‘optimally adapted to the climatic and living conditions of the region’ and using ‘species-appropriate animal husbandry in harmony with nature’ (R). The kbT certification means that no genetically modified foods or fattening aids are allowed in the rearing of animals, no forced reproduction of the animals is allowed, and practices such as tail docking or mulesing are prohibited. kbT virgin wool also has to be free from pesticides and insecticides, a practice that applies both to the animals and to the soil on which the animals graze.
Responsible Down Standard
If only down will do for your duvet, you’ll want to look for companies who only use feathers and down from certified RDS sources. The Responsible Down Standard was created in 2014 through a partnership between The North Face, Textile Exchange (a global nonprofit dedicated to sustainability), and Control Union Certifications, an accredited third-party certification body with expertise in agriculture and farm systems.
The RDS is an independent, voluntary global standard designed to minimize the harm that comes to geese and ducks in the process of gathering down and feathers. It also provides traceability in supply chains, so you can be certain of where the down in your duvet and other products came from.
Most of the down and feathers in bedding is sourced from waterfowl raised for meat. These birds have their down and feathers repeatedly plucked while they are still alive (causing extreme pain) and are often subjected to force feeding and other inhumane practices.
Down and feathers from RDS certified suppliers have to meet the following six conditions:
- From hatching to slaughter, there is holistic respect for the birds’ animal welfare—proper feeding and handling, proper health treatment, and a safe environment should all be provided.
- Each stage in the down supply chain is audited by a third-party certification body—no matter where an organization lies in the supply chain, it must provide proper documentation that the down has been acquired from an RDS-certified supplier.
- RDS down and feathers are properly identified, so down and feathers that aren’t RDS-certified aren’t misidentified.
- Only products with 100 percent certified down and feathers carry the RDS logo.
- Removal of down or feathers from live birds is prohibited.
- Force-feeding birds is prohibited.
While it remains arguable if RDS-certified down can be considered truly cruelty-free, it is certainly far better than standard down in terms of animal welfare. What this certification does not do, unfortunately, is offer any guarantee over the cleaning practices used in the production of end products. As such, RDS down may still be sterilized and de-odorized using toxic chemicals including formaldehyde. This certificate should, therefore, be paired with other eco-friendly certifications for increased peace of mind across the board.
Check out the ecoHome directory for conscientious options for eco-friendly duvets and comforters.
Companies to Consider for Conscientious Comforters
With so many eco-friendly duvet materials available, a huge number of companies, small and large, have popped up in recent years offering products that sound eco-friendly, at least at first glance. Upon closer inspection, a lot of the hype from these companies is revealed as simple greenwashing.
As far as possible, the companies and products included in the eco directory are there because they not only produce safe products from natural materials, but also show a commitment to environmentally friendly manufacturing practices and charitable enterprise.
These companies include:
- Holy Lamb Organics (https://www.theultimategreenstore.com/t-affiliate.aspx or some products on Amazon)
- Savvy Rest
- Sleep & Beyond
- Haiku Designs.
Some other good options include:
- Wayfair (Red Barrel Studio and Alwyn Home)