“Let’s talk about sex, baby; Let’s talk about you and me…” If you’re a product of the 90s, you’ve got Salt-n-Pepa’s hit song stuck in your head now. You’re welcome. Let’s talk about all the good and bad things: sex is part of everyday life. It has the potential to help or hinder the planet as much as anything else we spend our time doing. While it might not be the primary thought on your mind while enjoying the act, sex may have unintended effects on climate change, so it’s worth considering the products and procedures you’re using.
Billions of male latex condoms end up in the landfill each year. At least that’s where they should go after use, rather than flushing them down the toilet. The problem is, most condoms are petroleum-based, which means it’s unfriendly to the environment and can’t be recycled. While it hasn’t been widely studied, we know that petroleum can take years, if not centuries, to degrade. Not only are they made of latex, but they also include chemicals and other ingredients no one should be eager to put on or inside their body.
The original condoms were, and still are, made out of lambskin. They’ve been used since the days of the Roman Empire to minimize risk of pregnancy. The good news is they are completely natural and biodegradable. The bad news is they are made from an animal product (the lining of sheep intestines) and they do not protect against STIs. If you’re not vegan and are in a monogamous relationship with a partner who’s been tested, it might be an option for you.
There are several natural condom brands you can feel good about using while you feel good using them.
- Sustain Natural Ultra Thin Latex Condoms are made out of materials that come from a Fair Trade Certified rubber plantation.
- Hanx is another brand with Fair-Trade Certified rubber. They’ve also earned a vegan label since they don’t use a common animal protein found in many condoms called casein.
- Glyde condoms are free of glycerin, parabens, talc and other harmful chemicals. They’re certified vegan and use Fair Trade materials.
- Lovability condoms are another option. They are made from natural vegan latex and are free of dyes, fragrances, irritating chemicals and spermicide.
- If you have a latex allergy or prefer to go latex free for any reason, Unique condoms are thin, strong and come in ultra-thin packaging for less waste.
While shopping online or in stores, flip the bottle around and check out the ingredients of your favorite lube. You likely do the same thing with shampoo, deodorant and lotion, so consider what you’re applying to your body during sex too. You may be surprised to find out that many lubes are petroleum-based. The good news is water-based options are on the rise. There are organic brands you can rely on to feel good about in more than one way. A search of the internet can even give you recipes for homemade lubes that rely on ingredients like cornstarch. Packaged brands also use natural ingredients like aloe vera, agar agar, a natural thickener or coconut oil.
Now that we’ve discussed condoms and lubes, it’s important to talk about condoms with lubes. Since some ingredients, oil for instance, can degrade the effectiveness of condoms, take special caution when making your selections. Using the wrong combination can result in condom breakage.
When considering your sex toys, there might be some obvious products that clearly don’t put the environment first. Avoid plastic and other petroleum-based products. Instead, look into bioplastics, polished wood, glass, ceramic and steel alternatives. Use scarves as hand ties, use a wooden spoon as a paddle and engage a bandana for a blindfold.
For battery-powered toys, swap out your existing batteries with rechargeable ones. Better yet, buy a rechargeable toy equipped to handle the pleasure play. There are even solar-powered sex toys on the market. Enjoy them at home or when you go off grid.
If you already own some toys that are ready for the trash, or if you decide to upgrade, make sure to think of the environment before you toss it. Check out LoveHoney and other companies that offer recycling services for those items you can’t, or choose not to, recycle at home.
The product itself can make or break your eco-friendly goals. But the packaging can really set you back in your mission. Look for plain boxes that can be recycled, bio-based tubes and containers that skip the bubble wrap and molded-plastic protection ubiquitous in the retail world. Also consider what you can do to reduce packaging waste from condoms and birth control pills.
The hidden factors
Even if you don’t need contraception and have the sex toys figured out, there are a host of products you may not be thinking about that also contribute to pollution. For example, buy or make soy candles, not only to ensure they’re made from natural ingredients, but also to limit the amount of energy you use lighting the space. Check ingredients in your sheets and lingerie. Also skip costumes with plastic parts and get creative with what you have on hand instead.
Global impact of pregnancy
Finally, remember that a few condom wrappers or one package of birth control pill waste a month creates a much smaller impact on the environment than an unplanned pregnancy. When weighing your options, do your best in your product selections, but put protection for yourself and your partner first. And remember: consent is sexy!
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