Make Love, Not Waste Bringing Environmentalism into the Bedroom

People are now evaluating all aspects of their lives through a green lens, including their most intimate encounters. Lest no area of one’s ecological overhaul go unexamined, here are some thoughts on greening one’s sex life.

Some would argue that if one is serious about reducing their planetary impact, they should rethink reproduction. Population Connection advocates “progressive action to stabilize world population at a level that can be sustained by Earth’s resources.” Brian Dixon, the group’s director of media and government relations, says, “If we can meet the U.N.’s low projections [for world population] versus high projections—7.5 billion versus 12 billion by 2050—that would make a huge difference.”

The Contraception Question

While condoms are a great contraceptive choice both to prevent baby-making and STD transmission, they are not completely biodegradable, particularly when they contain spermicide and lubricants. Still, latex condoms are probably better for the planet than their polyurethane counterparts. One can opt for a vegan version, such as the brand Glyde, which doesn’t contain the animal protein casein. Lambskin condoms are biodegradable but do not prevent against STDs.

The most ecologically responsible way to dispose of a condom is summed up on the Trojan brand website: “Wrap the condom in a tissue and throw it in the trash. Don’t flush it down the toilet.” Condoms certainly aren’t biodegradable in water, whether in a septic system or the lake, river or ocean where they’ll eventually end up.

Other barrier methods—diaphragms and cervical caps—are made from latex or silicone, and are reusable as opposed to disposable. Vasectomy and tubal liga-tion are attractive from an environmental perspective but are obviously a long-term (as in, considered permanent) commitment. Fertility Awareness is a natural method for preventing or achieving pregnancy based on a woman’s daily charting of her waking temperature, cervical fluid and cervix changes. When practiced diligently, it is considered 75 to 90% effective in preventing pregnancy.

Hormonal contraception scores high for convenience but has been the focus of some limited, yet worrisome, environmental-impact studies. A 2004 study in Boulder, Colorado, looked at the effect of estrogenic chemicals on fish. One of the principal researchers, Dr. David O. Norris of the laboratory of environmental endocrinology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, says that birth control pills add to the level of estrogen in wastewater and can contribute to feminization of fish. “However, considering that these pollution problems are a direct consequence of human population growth coupled with the concentrations of people into small areas, we should not think that suppressing any form of birth control will improve conditions,” he cautions.”Although there are a variety of methods for controlling conception, the “pill” has proven to be the most effective and least expensive, albeit with some risks of its own.”

Jennifer Rogers, the programs and policy director for the Reproductive Health Technologies Project (RHTP), says that considering the impact of contraception on the environment is a new concept for both the scientific community and reproductive rights advocates. “This should be a question we ask of all new reproductive technologies: What is their environmental impact?” she says. “We do know that as population increases there is a huge unmet need for contraception. Pro-viding access for women is the most green thing we can do.”

Green Grown-up Toys

Not new to E readers is the concern over PVC and the substances used to soften it, phthalates. The stuff abounds in the adult toy market; however, sex toy sellers have been greening their shelves as of late. The Internet’s awash with virtual stores for eco-friendly intimate accoutrements, from The Sensual Vegan (safer sex products for herbivores) to Earth Erotics (organic cotton linens to recycled rubber whips). San Francisco-based Good Vibrations holds “green sex” events—a tour of the store’s more environmentally sustainable offerings and discounts on purchases—facilitated by Coyote Day, the corporation’s senior buyer.

Day says, “We are working on reduction by offering products in larger quantities—lubricant in a 16-ounce bottle, for instance. Dildos that are glass or wood…will eventually go back to the earth, and if used as they’re meant to be used, will last a very long time.” The store no longer carries products containing phthalates. “We offer a huge selection of rechargeable vibrators,” she says, but acknowledges, “At the end of the day, it is still a manufactured product that will eventually end up in the dump. That’s the grim reality.”

Day notes that the adult product industry hasn’t yet figured out how to address this waste. “It’s only a matter of time before that person comes forward who figures out how to recycle sex toys. Trust me, every company [in the adult industry] will use that service!” she says.

Tiny Carbon Footprints