To find out how to go green when it comes to sex, Cosmopolitan.com talked to Lauren Singer, CEO of The Simply Co. and the woman behind the zero-waste blog Trash Is For Tossers. Singer used to work for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection as a sustainability manager and she can fit all the trash she’s created in the past four years into a single mason jar. Below, find 11 ways to have sustainable, environmentally friendly sex and start saving the world while you get it on:
When manufacturing condoms, liquid latex is heated up to a point at which it becomes solid, a process that naturally produces a class of carcinogenic chemicals called nitrosamines. However, not all condom companies actively remove nitrosamines from their latex. And while there are no immediate health risks to using a normal condom, it's not a bad idea to decrease your exposure to these chemicals. Plus, according to a 2014 report by the Reproductive Health Technologies Project, the concern really goes beyond condom users. "Condom factory workers may also be exposed and at much higher levels," RHTP reports. "Condom factory workers, especially those in developing nations, are often paid low wages and are less likely to have access to health care to address any work-related health issues. Thus, protecting workers from unnecessary exposure to nitrosamines is yet another reason for condom producers to change their manufacturing processes."
But again, don't take this as a sign to skip the condom next time you want have some fun. As Singer says, “This shouldn’t deter people from using condoms. It should just help them make more educated choices.”
2. Buy sustainable condoms.
One company that actively removes nitrosamines is Sustain Condoms, owned by Singer’s friend Meika Hollender. According to its website, Sustain Condoms are free of "chemicals of concern" and are made from fair trade rubber at a manufacturing plant where child labor is banned and workers are paid reasonable wages.
Another brand to look out for is GLYDE, a company that creates ethical, vegan and fair trade condoms. Plus, GLYDE's consumer packaging is made with recycled materials, soy and vegetable inks.
3. Dispose of your condoms in a responsible way. "Condoms produce waste, but I think that form of waste is more responsible than having an unwanted child or an unwanted STD," Singer says. But if it bothers you to be creating more trash, remember latex condoms are made of rubber, a natural material. This means that technically they’re biodegradable and can be composted. However, it can take quite a while to compost condoms and according to Singer, it needs be done yourself, not through commercial composting.
So if you're not completely sold on the idea of composting your own rubbers (TBH, I don't blame you), just wrap up your condom in a bit of toilet paper, paper towel, or any other biodegradable material and place it in the garbage. And never ever flush your condom down the toilet. Ever.
4. Use non-petroleum based lubricant.
Lube! Great for sex! Not always great for the environment. When looking for a personal lubricant, it's important to steer clear of anything petroleum-based since petroleum extraction can lead to oil spills, water waste and the release of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, according to Singer.
Some eco-friendly lubricants include Sustain's organic lubricant, which is free of petroleum, silicon, parabens and glycerin; GLYDE's Good Clean Love lubricant, which is made with aloe vera, xanthan gum and agar; and BabeLube Natural, which is vegan, cruelty-free, paraben-free and glycerin-free.
5. Avoid plastic when buying lubricant. Unfortunately, Singer says, most lubricants are packaged in plastic that's typically not recyclable. But there are other options, namely aloe vera and coconut oil. While you can buy 100 percent pure aloe vera in a store (it should be a clear jelly, not the green kind you’d use for sunburns), you can skip the packaging entirely by using an aloe vera plant. Yes, I realize it sounds slightly ridiculous to cut up a plant in order to get your lube, but if you're really passionate about sustainability, it's a perfectly green option.
However, aloe vera tastes pretty bitter, so if you want something that’s multi-use, it's not your best bet. Coconut oil, on the other hand, smells great, tastes good, and it's probably sitting in your kitchen right now. Plus, you can buy it in a recyclable glass jar. But be aware, oil-based lubricants can break down latex condoms, so avoid mixing the two.
6. Make your lubricant multi-purpose. Grab that same aloe vera or coconut oil, and use it for everything. Hand stuff. Penetrative stuff. Massage oil. The list goes on. FYI, this is the "reuse" part of reduce, reuse, recycle.
7. Skip shower sex. If you live on the East Coast you get a bit of a pass, but if you’re in California or anywhere with a drought, stop with the shower sex! It’s wasteful and it’s probably not super fun anyway.
8. Swap in some eco-friendly sex toys. The next time you’re looking for sex toys, opt for ones that are made of recyclable materials, come with rechargeable batteries, or are even solar-powered. If you don't know where to start, Cosmopolitan.com rounded up 10 eco-friendly sex toys that include a glass dildo and a recycled rubber whip.
9. Clean up with a wash cloth. If you're going to clean up after sex, avoid using any sort of disposable wipe and go for a wash cloth instead. A lot of "flushable" wipes are actually horrible for the environment and often clog water systems. "So clean up using reusable towels and yes, it all washes off when you wash it," says Singer.
10. Get dark-colored sheets for your bed. Being eco-friendly also means reducing how much you're purchasing in your day-to-day life. Since semen can leave white linens with a gross, yellow stain, Singer suggests buying darker sheets and towels to avoid ruining your sheets and having to buy new ones. And if they do end up getting messy, she says to pre-treat the stains by rubbing a little detergent on your sheet, letting it sit in warm water for an hour, and then washing it. Less mess and less waste — it's basically a win-win for everyone.
11. Wear sustainable lingerie. According to PBS, Americans throw away about 85 percent of their clothes each year, which accounts for 9 percent of total non-recycled waste. And since a lot of clothing is made with petroleum-based fibers, it can take decades to decompose, according to the Huffington Post. The next time you're looking for lingerie, consider purchasing from a sustainable company (like Azura Bay or Brook There) that focuses on ethical production and eco-friendly fabrics.
So... what could be better than safe sex and saving the world at the same time? Get to it!