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Environmentally minded Mattress Lot is certified gold by Portland's Sustainability at Work program

COURTESY MATTRESS LOT - A Mattress Lot employee delivers bedding by bicycle. Everyone needs a bed, but people have different needs when it comes to buying a mattress, such as comfort, price and durability.

Mattress Lot, an independent retailer on 2406 N.E. Sandy Blvd. in Portland, stresses these factors and a fourth: environmental sustainability.

The company, founded by Michael Hanna in 2010, started as a pop-up store in an old car dealership, but has grown to become the largest-selling independent mattress store in Oregon, a thriving alternative to chain stores.

How did they do it?

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JONATHAN HOUSE - Mary Ruth and Michael Hanna, owners of the Mattress Lot.Hanna, who runs Mattress Lot with his wife, Mary Ruth, credits the company's sustainability values, including pricing and sourcing transparency, an innovative reuse and recycling program, a community-centered "give back" program, and a unique delivery option.

When they first started, Hanna says, they quickly realized that most shoppers were turned off by the standard industry model: high-pressure sales, commissioned sales people, confusing negotiated pricing, and fake "sales" gimmicks (mattresses tagged with higher prices so they can be reduced to appear to buyers as huge discounts).

Mattress Lot uses the "exact opposite approach," Hanna says. Instead, he says, they price their mattresses at the lowest possible price that allows them to run their business effectively, including paying vendors a fair price as well as a living wage to their employees.

"We carry more locally produced mattresses than any other Portland retailer," Hanna says. "About 80 to 90 percent of the products we sell are manufactured right here in Oregon and Washington."

Buying local helps sustain the local economy and cuts down on fossil fuel use from shipping mattresses long distances.

Mattresses manufactured in states or foreign countries with few to no environmental regulations often contribute to higher levels of water pollution, ozone depletion and improperly discarded manufacturing waste, including chemicals and wood and metal scraps, Hanna says.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JONATHAN HOUSE - Mattress Lot employees unload a mattress for delivery. The United States, in recent years, has enacted stricter health and safety standards than many other exporting regions. All mattresses made here must meet flammability testing. The use of some specific toxic additives (including pentaBDE and formaldehyde) and manufacturing chemicals (like chlorofluorocarbon) also are prohibited, as are the use of a group of phthalates (DEHP, DBP, and BBP) in children's mattresses.

However, many of these guidelines are voluntary or self-governed, Hanna says, so it is important to ask the mattress retailer or thoroughly read (hopefully detailed) mattress tags.

Hanna says Mattress Lot only buys Oeko-Tek- and Certi Pur US-certified mattresses, which assures buyers the bedding doesn't contain formaldehydes, PBDE's or foam-based flame retardants.

Mattress Lot carries over 60 different types of mattresses, including traditional coil/innerspring mattresses, memory foam, latex and hybrid latex mattresses. The collection includes all-natural latex options covered with organic fabrics, and Naturepedic, a leading organic-certified mattress maker.

Each one is tagged with details on every component of the mattress construction so the consumer knows exactly what they're getting.

All the mattresses Mattress Lot sells are made with materials that can be recycled.

The store recycles 99 percent of the waste it generates, including the cardboard shipping material and plastic bags the mattresses come in. Foams and fabrics can be processed for use in the carpet industry. Metal springs can be melted down and sold as scrap.

When a customer buys a new mattress, Hanna says they can exchange their old one upon delivery. If the old mattress is in good enough condition, it's donated to Community Warehouse, a nonprofit furniture bank for needy families with stores in Portland and Tualatin. Other mattresses are recycled at ECR, a material recovery facility in Northeast Portland.

"We never ship those old mattresses to a landfill," Hanna says.

Mattress Lot encourages customers to leave their car at home while shopping. Those who bike to the store or use public transportation get free bed delivery when they make a purchase. Mattress Lot also has an optional pedal-powered delivery service for some buyers, via a cart designed and built in Portland and towed by store employees.

All of these efforts helped earn Mattress Lot a Gold Certification Award from the city of Portland's Sustainability at Work program.