The topic of green sex has been on my mind for a while. It first came up years ago, when I was writing for this amazing no-longer-in-existence-website that tried to make the world a better place by letting writers write about things they cared about and potentially educating the world in the process. Back then, I came across a report telling that scientists in Australia were working on a microchip that could be implanted into men as a sort of on/off switch similar to a vasectomy. No condoms, no waste, no babies taking up space. All of which sounded good to me.
More recently, I was reminded again of my interest in green sex at a bachelorette party. Thrown by an environmental studies major/vocal vegetarian-lifestyle advocate, after dinner we wandered into a nearby sex shop. Wandering about, gazing at truly massive plastic penises and surrounded by other sexual accoutrements individually wrapped in those crazy, annoying, thick plastic wrappers that everyone cuts themselves on, I started to wonder about people’s sex lives and if they paid attention to the environment when it came down to getting down. Everyone clearly makes a lot of effort to not be wasteful when it comes to the kitchen. But what about the bedroom?
Here’s a rundown of what greening your sex life entails to get you started. Of course, it won’t work for everything or everyone, so definitely use your own judgment and do your own research for your preferred method of sex.
Birth control: In terms of over-population being a major problem in climate change, and given that most would like to avoid the big A, any birth control method you choose is better than none. That said, some methods are more eco-friendly than others.
Hormonal options: You probably already know how these work, and that they include pills, rings, shots and chips. Some people have expressed concern that women on ‘The Pill’ or other hormonal birth controls aren’t really friends of the environment, because the hormones end up in waterways, affecting fish and wildlife and probably humans. In reality, most of the estrogen that ends up in water is from industrial farming and via means other than the birth control pill. And women produce and eliminate natural estrogen as well. There are pills that don’t use synthetic estrogen, but only progestin, so you can try that. But if you’ve found a pill that works for you, you probably don’t need to give it up out of your love for the environment. The only definitive downside of the pill on the environment is that as a prescription drug, it comes with a lot of packaging and paperwork—definite environmental hazards.
Barriers: Condoms, probably the most well known and talked about barrier method of birth control (and pretty much the only way to prevent STI’s), are usually made of latex. Latex is biodegradable, so even if you get busy on the regular and rely on condoms for protection, tossing them in the trash shouldn’t be a problem because they break down eventually. Except that condoms aren’t just latex. They also have hundreds of other things added to them for your protection—and to the detriment of the environment, as the additives prevent the latex from breaking down. For the most part, condoms usually don’t make up a large percentage of household trash. However, if you need to use condoms, consider investing a little more and opting for fair trade condoms that rely on sustainably sourced rubber, and there are also vegan condoms that don’t use casein. Look for brands like French Letter, Glyde, Sir Richards and Sustain (not only fair trade and vegan, but also gives 10% to women without access to birth control). Lambskin condoms are also an option, but they don’t protect against STI’s. Diaphragms and cervical caps are also eco-friendly because they are reusable, but were somehow more popular in the past than in today’s no-fuss world. And they tend to be less reliable than other methods and don’t protect against STI’s.
Etc: Apparently The Rhythm Method (tracking a woman’s fertility to determine when she is most likely to conceive) is gaining in popularity, and while it’s pretty clear why having no hormones, no physical barrier and no packaging would be eco-friendly, it is also potentially less reliable, depending on how diligent you are with your measurements, and it doesn’t prevent STIs. (There are now apps to help with this, and it’s been considered as affective as condoms at preventing pregnancy). IUDs are also eco-friendly and long-lasting, but may have other issues. If you’re totally certain that kids are not a part of your life plan, or if you’ve already had all you want to have, then surgical means for you or your man are definitely a long-lasting option. And of course, there’s that future-sounding option in which an implanted chip allows men to use a remote control to decide whether they want their sperm to flow or not, and there has been talk of a similar remote-controlled family planning method for women, as well.
Toys: Whether you’re flying solo or with a partner, sex toys are definitely environmentally detrimental. There’s just a whole lot of packaging to make sure that the toy hasn’t already been tested on somebody’s package. Or box. Once you get around the packaging issues, there are other concerns—primarily the presence of phthalates in plastic, especially the rubbery toys. Phthalates are known hormone disrupters, and getting all personal with them probably isn’t a good way to go about avoiding them. Look for phthalate-free marks on boxes to avoid it. Green sex toys may not be available at your local sex shop, but given that many people purchase them online, you’ll have no trouble finding eco-friendly substitutes for your current stash.
The Alicia Silverstone-endorsed (according to Cosmo) leaf vibrator uses phthalate-free materials, rechargeable batteries and recycled packing materials for shipping. You can also find whips from recycled rubber, paddles from sustainable wood, solar-powered vibrators and companies that manufacture products in a carbon neutral facility. Glass dildos have been around for eons longer than their modern counterparts and have always been eco-friendly. If you have an old toy collection lying around, you can even search for companies that recycle old sex toys so that your efforts to update your new bedroom buddies don’t leave your old friends wasting away in a landfill.
Lubes: Whatever your sexual activities and proclivities: don’t forget the lube. A healthcare professional once swore to me by the power of organic olive oil, which is perfect–if you’re in a committed and toy-free relationship. Oil and petroleum-based lubes don’t work for condoms or playthings, but traditional lubes can contain chemicals and toxins meant for machinery rather than private parts. As a result, you may experience burning, irritation, rashes and even risk some infections. Eco-friendly lubes tend to rely on ingredients you can pronounce, and are often vegan and edible as well, so you don’t have to remember not to put your mouth there.