From condoms and lube to plastic sex toys and novelty lingerie—your sex life could be creating more environmental waste than you think.
It’s doubtful that climate change is the first thing on your mind when you’re getting in the mood, but if, like us, you are already using a KeepCup for your coffee and carrying your own bags to the supermarket, it’s time to apply the same dedication to reducing plastic waste in your sex life. Here are seven ways to move towards a zero-waste sex life.
Condoms are the most disposable product used during sex. With this in mind, sexual wellness brand Hanx is built on the philosophy that our personal health and the health of the planet are more closely intertwined than you might think. As well as sharing resources on everything from the pill to polyamory, Hanx sells biodegradable vegan condoms made from fair rubber and paraben-free lubricants.
Hanx co-founder Dr Sarah Welsh believes it is stigma surrounding sex that acts as a barrier to being more sustainable between the sheets. “We can all be a bit shy and embarrassed about [sex],” she tells Vogue, “but when we started the company, we found that our audience were really keen to see more sustainable and vegan options.”
Berlin-based ethical condom company Einhorn is also cruelty-free and vegan, and it reinvests 50 per cent of its profits into sustainability projects as well as maintaining a fair-wage system across its manufacturing process. It is also planning to reduce chemicals in its products to zero per cent soon.
While you can dispose of used Hanx condoms in your compost bin and they will biodegrade in around three months, different countries have different laws about where you can and can’t dispose of used condoms, so make sure you check before throwing them out with your food waste.
Vibrators can be sustainable, too
It’s not only condoms that can biodegrade. Online manufacturer of adult sex toys, Blush Novelties, has developed a biodegradable vibrator called the Gaia. Made from bioplastic, it will degrade within a few days in the right conditions—but don’t worry, it won’t biodegrade in your drawer or while you’re using it. Ducky DooLittle, a spokesperson for Blush Novelties, explains that while the Gaia vibrator has been popular, it will be a while before we see a more diverse range of sustainable sex toys on the market. “If we can get away from plastic, we will, but as a sex toy company, that’s difficult.”
The Gaia vibrator is made of a material that “is not easy to work with. It’s really good for disposable things such as forks, plates and cups, but making it round, smooth and body-friendly is tricky. We’re slowly finding ways to work with it and putting them out into the market, as beyond the trouble of creating it, it’s very affordable.” Watch this space.
Solar power is not just for buildings
An innovative and sustainable alternative to your standard battery-powered sex toy is the CalExotics solar bullet. As the world’s first totally renewable sun-powered stimulator, it features a solar cell that enables it to convert sunlight and artificial light into energy.
“Buying a solar-powered sex toy is a great way to bring sustainability into your sex life,” CalExotics’ Nichole Grossman tells Vogue. “Another way to do so is with rechargeable products. These offer less waste than traditional, battery-operated sex toys. Choosing lubricants that are made of body-safe ingredients and are cruelty-free can also bring more sustainability into your sex life.”
Choose sex toys made from natural materials
Plastic-free sex toys have existed for thousands of years, long before we started mass producing plastic. Archeological digs have uncovered primitive dildos made from stone and glass for millennia, with the oldest discovered dating back 30,000 years. Body-safe glass, crystal, stone and wooden sex toys continue to be available on the market today and some of the designs are beautiful.
Italian designer Silvia Picari brings sex and art together with her stunningly handcrafted erotic toys made from wood. She believes “wood is a ‘warm’ and familiar material which, for its characteristics, is perfect for a slow and explorative approach to pleasure.”
Recycle your old sex toys
When it’s time to bid goodbye to your old sex toys, it’s worth exploring whether the manufacturer offers discounts on your next purchase if you return it to be recycled. Thus helping the planet as well as saving you the embarrassment of turning up at your local recycling centre with a bag of vibrators.
UK-based company LoveHoney introduced its ‘Rabbit Amnesty’ back in 2013, encouraging customers to return old sex toys in exchange for a discount on their next purchase. A £1 donation to the World Land Trust is made for every toy returned and recycled.
Buy sustainable lingerie
While the majority of lingerie and fetish products are still made from leather, PVC and artificial fibres, there are a growing number of sustainable alternatives worth exploring. Italian-based Cosabella sells sensual hand-crafted lingerie using natural dyes. It works with recycled lace to create bodysuits, teddies, bras and more.
Barcelona-based sexual wellness and lingerie brand Bijoux Indiscrets offers BDSM gear that is 100 per cent vegan and made from recycled, recyclable materials. “BDSM fashion is normally always made with leather,” explains founder Elsa Viegas. “The chain of production in the leather industry is quite horrific and you get so many toxic products from the colouring of the leather, I wanted to find an alternative.” The result is the Maze collection of harnesses, chokers and handcuffs that are PETA approved vegan, and in Viegas’ words “100 per cent wild and zero per cent animal”.
Do your research and start small
As with most efforts to be kinder to the Earth, research is important. There’s an increasing pressure to make all aspects of our lives more sustainable and that often takes time and money that we don’t always have. Being aware of your options and making small changes where you can is a step in the right direction.
Sustainable sex expert and author of Eco Sex Stefanie Weiss agrees: “I understand that when a random consumer buys condoms, it is because they are going out with a hot partner and they want to get laid. They don’t want to think about all this [sustainability] stuff. We all love sex, but in a couple of decades from now [we might be] too busy running away from floods and fires to have sex, so let’s deal with this right now. It’s an all-hands-on-deck situation.”