Columns / Discourse / September 22, 2008

Sexiled: Sustainable sex

I have to admit it — I originally Googled “sustainable sex” as a joke. I had never heard of solar powered vibrators, eco-friendly lube, or porn sites that donate part of their profits to help save the rainforest. I didn’t think there was much more you could do for the environment besides turn out the lights and swallow. Turns out, there’s a growing subculture surrounding the idea of “sustainable sex” — in fact, they even have a name, “ecosexuals”.

But you don’t have to be that much of a hippy to get into some of the new, cool, and healthier products out there on the market — in fact, many of these products and ideas will save you money and keep you healthier in the long run.

For example, buying vibrators and dildos without phthalates (a substance that gives them a “jelly-like” feel) can not only help the environment, but can protect you from risks such as hormonal disruption and testes damage. Phthalates have been banned from children’s toys, but it’s still a popular component of many sex toys — often paired with the plastic PVC, another material that is bad for the environment.

Look instead for sex toys made out of silicone, hard plastics, elastomers, or best yet, glass. Glass dildos are indefinably reusable and washable, and produce few toxins during production. However, they also can’t vibrate.

If you gotta have the vibe, buy vibrators that are rechargeable (such as the Aphrodite Wand or the Lily) to eliminate battery waste. For those who’d rather be off the grid, there’s the “Solar Vibrator” which comes complete with a fold out solar panel to fuel your passions, for the surprisingly reasonable price of $33.95. Try to buy toys that will last as long as possible — although many sex toys technically could be recycled, the idea hasn’t really caught on in most places.

As far as lubes go, anything water-based (Astroglide, KY liquid) and scent free is pretty eco-friendly (they’re also less likely to give women yeast infections). However, many of these still contain preservatives and antiseptics which aren’t great for the environment and can cause you irritation. The Australian brand of lube, “Sylk,” has come up with an answer to this by creating a 100 percent natural lube made from “the extract of kiwifruit vine.” Unfortunately, at $21.95 for a small bottle, the stuff runs on the pricey side. But their site does offer free samples.

When it comes to birth control, some might point to the withdrawal method (pulling out before a man comes) or the rhythm method (not having sex when you’re most fertile), since they don’t require any form of product. However, considering the withdrawal method has a 27 percent failure rate (per year) and the rhythm method is only slightly better, I’d rather fill a few inches of a landfill with condoms each year. Plus, having a kid is a lot worse for the environment than a few handfuls of latex condoms!

The most reusable form of birth control is the diaphragm, although you do have to use spermicide with it (diaphragms can also double as a way to catch menstrual blood). The pill can also cut down on waste, but it also means you’re peeing out chemicals into the environment. Surprisingly, the latex condom really isn’t too bad. Latex comes from trees, and it does eventually degrade (although it takes several years). However, its cousin the polyurethane condom is a no-no, as they are non-biodegradable. Of course, if you’re allergic to latex, you don’t have much choice!

Christy Reuter

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