Here’s a riddle for you? How is a latex mattress like maple syrup? The answer? They both come straight from a tree. Seriously. And nobody knows this better than Chantal Travers, the owner of Willow Mattress. Chantal took her team to visit a rubber plantation in Thailand, the plantation where the organic latex for their Willow mattress line comes from. They all came back sold on latex mattresses more than ever.
“It was a fascinating trip,” said Verity Dibben, Chantal’s right-hand person. “We took a truck out to the middle of this plantation, which was a long way from Bangkok. The guy got out of the truck, stripped back the bark and latex just started seeping out of the tree into this little cup. When the cups were all full, they poured the latex into a tank and sent it off to the factory to be made into a mattress. It’s that simple. Latex is the most natural thing you can think of. It’s just juice from a tree and harvesting it doesn’t hurt the tree at all – they live for decades! ”
So, in other words, in a very similar way you tap a tree for maple syrup, rubber trees are tapped for latex. And make no mistake: memory foam is not latex. Foam is man-made. Latex is made by Mother Nature herself.
A little background
Over 99 percent of the world’s natural latex is tapped from the Hevea brasiliensis tree, which originally came from Brazil. In the early 20th century, the tree was introduced to Southeast Asia, primarily in Malaysia, Indonesia, Burma, Cambodia and China. By the 1920s, latex was known regionally as “white gold”. At one point, even Singapore was big into rubber plantations. In fact, approximately 40 percent of the land area of Singapore was occupied by rubber plantations in 1935, driven by the demand for rubber tyres. Today? Most natural rubber still comes from Southeast Asia where the trees are still grown on large rubber plantations.
And you know what? All those rubber trees are actually good for the environment. Chantal explains. “Everybody knows that trees keep our air clean so all those trees on the plantations are doing their part to help the environment. In addition, if the rubber tree plantation wasn’t there, people would likely be turned over to other industries which would likely be less Earth friendly.
But they do need a lot of rubber trees to make one mattress! To make a queen size latex mattress, it will take a whole day’s output of twelve acres of rubber trees. That means there are a lot of trees working to clean the air while they make the farmers money at the same time.
Organic latex mattresses versus natural latex mattresses
Willow Mattress now carries two kinds of latex mattress: natural and organic. So what’s the difference? Well, to you – not all that much. The product you sleep on is pretty much the same either way, providing the same health benefits and comfort. The latex from the tree goes through the same process at the factory. The difference between natural and organic latex is really in how the trees are grown. Trees on organic plantations are grown – as you’d suspect – without pesticides. Because it’s a bit harder to grow trees this way, there’s a higher price tag associated with organic mattress. But if you buy an organic mattress, you can rest easy knowing that you’ve done your part for the planet – and the organic farmer, too.
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