Sustainability and Sex
I never really considered the environmental impact of my bedroom escapades. Even after being vegan for a year, I had no clue that condoms weren’t vegan, and I never really considered the environmental impact of the glittery silicone dildos I was ordering in abundance from LoveHoney. Now that considering the environmental impact of your lifestyle is becoming more and more commonplace; with low package fruit and vegetables, zero waste stores and charity shops gaining traction and presence- the sustainability of sex is an area left unexplored by the mainstream.
Considering the ingredients, the materials, the working conditions and the environmental impact of pleasure can seem overwhelming. Here is a comprehensive guide on ways to consider the footprint of your shenanigans.
Although perhaps using no protection at all could seem like an amazing eco-friendly way to enjoy sex; for the vast majority of us, this is simply not an option. Condoms are the most used contraception; with most people using condoms as the primary method in both long term and casual relationships; protecting from many STIs/STDs as well as unwanted pregnancy.
Unfortunately, although effective at preventing the above, the impact of many mainstream condoms on the environment is not so comforting. Inherently a single-use item, most condoms are made from either polyisoprene (a synthetic material) or non-biodegradable latex. Condoms stay in our environment much longer than it takes to use them. Furthermore, many of them contain casein (a by-product of sheep and cow milk), meaning they are not only not environmentally friendly but also not cruelty-free.
There are a few condom brands such as HANX, the Green Condom Club, or Fair Squared who provide vegan and more environmentally considered forms of protection, and as much as I’d love to endorse these condoms, they are considerably more expensive, than quite frankly already expensive condoms. So, don’t fret if you can’t make a condom swap! Even buying in larger quantities to avoid the increased carbon footprint or excess plastic packaging can cut your environmental impact.
Past condoms, many of us choose to use more than one barrier method to keep ourselves safe during intercourse; with a large proportion of vagina-owners opting to use birth control such as the pill, IUD, or implant. Although within the realms of protection and barrier methods your number one concern and consideration should be your health, safety, and sanity. If you want to consider the environmental impact in your decision; going for a less package intensive and more long term barrier method reduces the environmental impact. The pill, for example, is very package-intensive compared to the implant or the IUD. The IUD is often hailed as the most “eco-friendly” of birth controls since it lasts up to 5 years and has limited packaging and plastic. However, once again, within such a delicate issue – put yourself first. It’s simply interesting to consider different methods and their footprints. Prioritising your health and safety is key.
Lube is no longer regarded as something needed by OAPs for their occasional sexcapades. In the 2013 study “Women’s perceptions about lubricant use and vaginal wetness during sexual activities” of 2,451 women aged between 18-68 found that overall, women felt positive about lubricants and 9 out of 10 women felt that sex was more comfortable and pleasurable when using lubrication. But most lubes are packaged in plastic tubes or bottles to preserve the slipperiness, and if you’re trying to reduce your plastic waste this could be a nuisance.
If you’re willing to try out some DIY lubes; there are three main ones; coconut oil, aloe vera, and cornstarch/water. Coconut oil has been researched as a clinically proven and effective moisturiser and thus makes the product an effective lube. It is also fun to use in the bedroom as a messy massage oil, and it smells delicious. Many coconut oils are in glass jars that can be easily repurposed, and a little goes a long way. However, it is very important to note that this lube does not fit all. Coconut oil as a lube, or in the bedroom at all, is NOT compatible with condoms since it is of course oil-based – and will make the condoms considerably less or not at all effective.
In this instance, if you want to try your hand at some handmade lubes which ARE condom safe; aloe vera is a fantastic lube- it is gooey and long-lasting, and you could even get an aloe vera plant to go the extra mile (and prove to your tinder date that in your household, lube does grow on trees). If you have a favourite lube and you don’t want to let go of it: buy a big container! This reduces individual packaging, and you can repurpose the bottle or tube.
Sex toys and bedroom props:
Now that we’ve covered the mechanics of sex; many of us enjoy integrating more than just our bodies into our sex lives; like dildos, vibrators, and even kinkier stuff like paddles, rope, and crops.
Many sex toys available cheaply on the market are poorly made; either containing toxins highlighting poor environmental considerations or unfair labour conditions. The two main considerations to be made in questioning the sustainability or footprint of your toys is to think about what it’s made from and who’s making it.
In terms of the material; choosing longer-lasting materials and toys make your box of naughtiness greener. For example, glass toys or even wooden toys are fantastic, long-lasting materials that are less resource-intensive than plastic or silicone dildos/toys. They are also exciting to play with (for example temperature play with the glass toys) and super pretty. Past this; opting for rechargeable vibrators or toys means that they will last longer, and you don’t have to waste batteries which are hard to recycle and difficult to produce. It does hold that rechargeable sex toys are more expensive; so consider saving up for one that you know you will like, and consider buying from an independent vendor or a smaller business such as Noxshop or creators on etsy! This way you are being more eco-friendly and supporting smaller enterprises.
On another note; don’t throw away that cheap bullet vibrator that you bought when you were 16; it will only end up in landfills! Instead, use services like Love Honey’s Rabbit Amnesty recycling project, which recycles vibrators and prevents these toys from completely going to waste.
Overarchingly though, there’s no need to spend lots of money on new and exciting sex toys; buy what you need (/want), opt for slightly better quality so that it’s more long-lasting, and pay attention to what company you’re buying from! You don’t need to start making your own wooden dildo or buy one made from solid gold; small steps and considerations are enough to set you off on a sustainable shagging journey.
Past sex toys, many of us enjoy integrating kinkier toys into our bedrooms; and this is by far the easiest part of our lives to DIY. Although it is fun to buy paddles that will imprint the word “slut” on your partner’s ass, it isn’t necessary to splash the green on these less than green products. Most of us have our very own kinky starter kits right at home.
Instead of buying novelty fluffy handcuffs (as fun as they are) opt for a belt tie (tutorial on my Instagram @dubiouseuphoria), use a scarf instead of a blindfold, a belt as a paddle or a wooden spoon for spanking. Although these might not be as aesthetically pleasing; they are both cheaper and greener ways to spice up your bedroom life.
Last but not least, lingerie. Although not essential to sex; lingerie is a fun and enjoyable part for many parties involved. It can boost your self-confidence and make you feel sexy and makes for some banging Instagram content. Although it is possible to shop for lingerie second hand (especially bras or basques), some people may feel uncomfortable with this prospect- and surely we won’t be buying second-hand stockings?!
In this scenario, there are sustainable brands (such as “thought”) who do offer nice, good quality, well made, and ecologically concerned lingerie. However, buying lingerie like this is a luxury- it is expensive to get environmentally friendly materials, and pay everyone what they deserve throughout the design chain. Despite this knowledge, many of us simply can not afford to part with large amounts of cash for lingerie. A more sustainable way to shop “fast fashion” with a smaller environmental impact is with brands like TK Maxx who take up stock when a designer overproduces or other stores overbuy. Since TK Maxx is buying up dead-stock, purchasing from them does not contribute to direct demand for clothes, and does prevent these clothes from going to landfill or being burdened on less economically developed countries to deal with. With affordable prices, this is an inexpensive way to “buy new” but with a reduced impact.
Overall, thinking about making your sex more sustainable should not feel like a burden or a chore. There are small steps we can all do to adjust our consumption with regards to sex and make our fun more green! From home-made lube to recycling your vibrators to belt ties, we can all do our small bit to bring sustainability to sex; saving the world, one shag at a time.
Sources I’ve mentioned:
Women and Lube:
Clinical Benefits of Coconut Oil:
Green Condom Club:
Rabbit Amnesty Recycling:
Thought Sustainable Clothing:
All the artwork in this article is by © @pink_bits accessed via instagram.