How Green is your Sex?
Eco-Friendly Choices for Pleasure
Sex is one of the most natural activities that we can enjoy. Like other natural activities such as eating, cleaning and transportation, the byproducts of our activities can have a greater or lesser effect on the environment. We can always be more conscious about the choices we make in how we do what we do. We may choose to reduce the carbon foot print by eating locally grown food, riding our bicycles or walking instead of taking the car, and using eco-friendly cleaning products. Similarly we can make eco-friendly choices when it comes to sex. These choices can make a difference in our physical health and in the impact on the world we live in.
Many of us enjoy or even need some added slipperiness when our body does not produce enough natural lubrication, or when we want some slip and slide on areas outside the body such as the vulva and the penis where there is no natural lubrication. Some folks can use natural oils such as coconut oil or walnut oil. These oils however are not compatible with most sex toys and of course will break down latex condoms. As well, oil traps bacteria so for many women it can cause a urinary tract infection or vaginal infection. For most people a water-based or silicone-based lubricant is the best choice.
Water-based lubricants are the most common type of sexual lubricant. Many contain glycerin, similar to a sugar. Some women find that the glycerin can trigger a yeast infection. Many women avoid lubricants that contain glycerin for this reason, and for the fact that these lubes tend to get sticky as they dry out. This stickiness is similar to what happens when pop or juice spills on the floor and dries- the sugar left behind after evaporation leaves a sticky feel. Flavoured lubes in particular tend to contain a large amount of glycerin. These can be fun to add a little flavour to oral sex, but not great for extended friction from intercourse for example, as it needs to be reapplied more often and becomes extremely tacky.
Another ingredient in some water-based lubricants is the family of parabens. These are common preservatives used in many body products and cosmetics. There have been potential links to cancer in enough studies that several nations in the EU have banned their use in consumer products. If you prefer to err on the side of caution, then you may want to avoid lubes that have parabens in them, which still leaves many options and brands to choose from.
Finally, beware of green-washing in packaging. A product name can include the word “organic” without many of its ingredients actually being organic. Read the ingredient list to be sure whether a product indeed meets your standard of green. There are a few products like Good Clean Love that are vegan and organic for those who value those priorities.
Latex toys (sometimes called “jelly”) often contain phthalates, which have been linked to infertility and liver problems in lab experiments. Again, the studies are not entirely conclusive, but why take a chance? Silicone, metal, glass and wood are the preferred materials for eco-friendly sex toys because they are safe and easy to clean. Metal, glass and wood are hard materials and good for those who like a firm pressure. For a softer sensation, silicone is the best option. Many people prefer silicone toys for this reason. These toys can be either hard with a soft silicone coating or soft to the core, depending on one’s preference.
In addition to material, another consideration for vibrators is the quality of the toys. Sex toys traditionally have been made of dollar-store quality and are often not designed to last. Buying these toys means that they often quickly end up in the landfill. Buying a good quality toy (Lelo, JimmyJane, We-Vibe, Fun Factory) with a good warranty means that you will have a toy that lasts for years. Most vibrators are either rechargeable, plug-in or battery-operated. Batteries are toxic in landfills and thus battery-operated toys are a less eco-friendly option than the rechargeable or plug-in ones. Generally the better quality toys tend to also be rechargeable so it is easy to make two great choices with one purchase.
Remember that we cannot completely eliminate our consumption, as we need to eat, travel, clothe ourselves and even have sex. What we can do however is to notice and reflect on the choices that are available to reduce our footprint on the earth and to keep our bodies healthy. Sexual pleasure is natural and we can all do our part to make the world, our pleasure and our bodies greener, happier places.
Carlyle Jansen is the founder of Good For Her, a sexuality s hop and workshop centre in Toronto. If you hae questions or comments she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or go online to goodforher.com