A: Early spring, with its changeable weather, is a great time to invest in a green comforter, especially because bedding tends to go on sale right around now. If you want something that you can use through all four seasons, it should insulate without suffocating. Natural fibers are the most breathable and the most sustainable because they’re easily recycled and compostable. Look for fabrics and comforter fillings are those made with either recycled materials or certified organic plant fibers.
If you don't want to break the bank, try this organic cotton covered and filled comforter from Sears or this organic cotton option filled with recycled polyester fill made from drink bottles from Pottery Barn.
Pricier materials often have better loft and insulating properties. Wool, for example, is a great natural insulator, keeping you warm in winter and just warm enough in summer. I'm a fan of this luxe (and cruelty-free) version from Rawganique and this all-season wool comforter from EcoBedroom.
If you're partial to the softness of goose down, just pay attention to how it's extracted. The process can be painful, and often birds are even killed for their feathers. Fairly new to the market, and worth encouraging if you can afford it, are comforters made of down that’s gathered after it’s naturally shed by birds or eiderdown, which has been self-plucked from a duck’s breast to line her nest. (What won’t a mother do?) Supposedly, eiderdown isn’t collected until the nest is abandoned, but it’s best to ask the retailer for confirmation. You could also try fluffy kapok, which is a plant-based alternative to down.
Silk is soft and a good insulator, but isn’t as durable as other natural fibers, and is often taken from cocoons that have been boiled, killing the pupa inside. Look for ahimsa, or "peace silk," which comes from cocoons harvested after the butterfly or moth has emerged. You could potentially fill a silk sleep sack with a wool blanket in the winter and then remove it during the summer.
For an in-depth comparison of the eco-impacts of materials, see Fabrics International’s analysis. Also check out my list of more green bedding companies and our rundown of the best eco-friendly pillows.
Mindy Pennybacker is Whole Living’s eco expert. She regularly answers readers' green-living questions. She is also editor of GreenerPenny.com and author of Do One Green Thing: Saving the Earth Through Simple, Everyday Choices.