Exploded view diagram of Horizontal Sleep's biodegradable bed
From Pivot Magazine

‘We plan to tell the truth about the mattress industry’

Ex-IKEA marketing director Len Laycock aims to turn heads with new environmentally friendly Canadian mattress brand, Horizontal Sleep

Exploded view diagram of Horizontal Sleep's biodegradable bedHorizontal Sleep has spent the last three years developing a bed that is nearly 100 per cent biodegradable (Picture courtesy of Horizontal Sleep)

Canadian households and businesses throw out over six million mattresses every year, causing inordinate problems for municipal and provincial landfills. Despite only lasting an average of five to seven years, mattresses take decades—if not centuries—to decompose. Almost none are recycled or even recyclable because of their complex construction from various synthetic fabrics, metal springs, pocket coils and other materials.

Vancouver’s Len Laycock says he has a solution. His company, Horizontal Sleep, has spent the last three years developing a bed that is nearly 100 per cent biodegradable, sourcing organic linens from Portugal, specially woven narrow fabric from Bavaria, Germany, undyed wools from California, and sustainably grown ash lumber for the wooden frames. The product is said to last a lifetime and biodegrades safely compared to traditional mattresses. “My goal is that people only need one mattress,” says Laycock, who was previously the marketing director for IKEA Canada. “I’ve seen up close the appalling amount of waste fast furniture can generate. I decided to start with mattresses because we spend a third of our lives on them, so I figured that would make a big impact.”

The trend toward environmentally friendly beds is slowly underway in parts of the industry. “We are undergoing a radical transformation to become a planet-positive business by 2030,” says IKEA Canada’s head of sustainability, Melissa Barbosa, outlining various mattress recycling programs in progress. Laycock maintains there’s much work still to be done.   

Despite his good intentions, there are significant challenges to launching a new mattress brand. The Canadian mattress market is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of just 1.7 per cent through to 2024—quite low, considering the entire economy’s inflation rate is 1.9 per cent. As it stands, the market is not only saturated, but dominated by two huge American players—Tempur Sealy International Inc. and Serta Simmons Bedding—with a whole slew of internet-based startups—Endy, Leesa, Casper, Purple—which largely compete using super competitive prices. Horizontal’s full-sized bed costs $4,230—more than five times a full-sized Endy and 10 times some IKEA full-sized mattresses. 

“Our current economic model is such that consumers have been allowed to get away with paying for products that have given very little consideration to their long-term impact on the environment,” says Gord Beal, CPA, and vice-president, research, guidance, and support for CPA Canada. “A model that integrates all of the costs including the manufacturing process and the end-of-life disposal process has to be somehow incorporated in the price.” Yet, Beal is skeptical as to whether or not Canadians are willing to pay that price but adds a greater awareness around sustainable practices is emerging.

“[A mattress] is not a prestige purchase like a car or nice clothes,” says Michael Magnuson, the founder and CEO of mattress review site GoodBed.com. “Most people need to be educated to understand why one mattress costs a premium.” 

At press time, Laycock anticipates Horizontal’s launch date to be early 2021. Part of the plan cribs from the competition. As with Endy, Casper and the like, Horizontal will exist primarily online (with the occasional pop-up shop), shipping mattresses to order, reducing inventory and retail costs. Part of the plan is an aggressive confrontation of the competition. Laycock has hired SEO and social media teams to build Horizontal’s web presence, and populated his website with tools that show both the environmental and economic costs of supposedly cheap mattresses. 

Buying a $4,000 Horizontal seems expensive against a $1,000 alternative, but not if you have to buy seven mattresses in your lifetime or, he argues, if those mattresses contribute to the issue of ocean plastics. “We plan to tell the truth about the industry. For that, I think the industry is going to hate us.” 


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