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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How green is your sex life?

Got wood?I get the distinct feeling that most people don't like talking about this. You read about greening pretty much everything else on a constant basis - your food choices, heating, transportation, entertainment, clothing, etc., but there is a fairly huge void when it comes to one of those basic human needs - sex.

Now, I generally don't like to pry into your personal lives, okay who am I kidding, it's one of my favorite past times, so let's just jump right on in.

Contraception - Unless you or your partner has been fixed or your eggs are past their pull date, this is most likely an area of concern for you. Most of the non-surgical options have a heavy environmental impact. Not that getting fixed doesn't have any environmental cost, but it's a fixed cost. Get it? Fixed cost? Moving on...

Birth control pills or, really, any estrogen or progestin interrupter-based contraception has environmental consequences outside of the manufacturing, packaging and transportation. These chemicals get excreted by the users and end up in places we don't want them. Scientists are finding increasing amounts of these hormones in our waterways, harming the fish populations and eventually finding their way back into our drinking water. Hormonal IUDs have the same potential consequence so copper IUDs may be a better bet if that's your chosen contraception.

Barrier methods such as condoms, diaphragms and the cervical cap vary in their impact. While a condom provides additional protection in the way of disease control, they are single use items and aren't exactly sustainable. Diaphragms and the cap are at least reusable so you are looking at the one-time manufacturing, packaging and distribution issue.

Disease Protection - I'm calling this out separate from the contraception because, while condoms are generally used for contraception as well as disease protection there are a number of other pieces of, um, equipment that get employed for this use as well, namely dental dams and the like. Again, you are looking at the impact of manufacturing, etc. but the benefits far outweigh the cost when you consider the potential for avoiding disease.

Of course, no method of birth control available today offers perfect protection against sexually transmitted infections except abstinence. So, what's a sexually active person to do? One thing is to get yourself into a stable relationship and get tested for STDs and use a reusable method of contraception that doesn't have the hormone issues going on with it. Of course, this may not necessarily be practical for everyone, but that's pretty much the lowest impact as I see it.

Fun and games - I'm not about to suggest that you switch over your favorite sex toys to a wood version, but do be mindful of the materials with which they are made. Far too many toys are made with plastics, poly vinyl chloride (PVC) and the like. I'm sure there are natural latex and rubber based items out there that will satisfy. If you have an allergy to latex then look into more natural items like fruits and vegetables where the impact is definitely lower.

For those wanting something with a little more oomph, you can find glass or metal toys. If you are truly concerned that your dildo is causing global warming, you can even spring for a solar powered vibrator. And don't forget the organic, natural-based lube. Just stay away from the used products - not that there are any consignment sex shops around.

Finally, instead of renting porn, opt for it on-demand through your cable or satellite or download it online. You'll save yourself from the car trip, the consumption of plastic and the leers of the guy working the counter.

For your consideration - Do you think about the environmental impact when making choices related to your sex life or are these concerns so far apart in your mind that you don't even consider it?

Related posts:
Sex is greeny!
Vegansexuality
Planning a green Valentine's
The feminization of the American male

52 comments:

Rebekka said...

"While a condom provides additional protection in the way of disease control, they are single use items and aren't exactly sustainable."

They're a hell of a lot more sustainable than either more people or more diseases!

koolchicken said...

I'm allergic to rubber myself, and I don't know of a single doctor who would suggest using produce as a sex toy. If you really need a toy so badly you'd consider using something that could cause an infection just buy something glass.

As for birth control I do take the pill, but it's medically nessacary. I know it's not eco-friendly but I'll still needto take it until menopause or I have a hysterectomy.

Joanna said...

Here here Rebekka. Please let's not ever ever suggest condoms should be traded in for any non-barrier method of contraception where people have casual sex. Beside unwanted pregnancy there is HIV, Hep B (which some professionals believe may which reach pandemic in this half century), genital warts, herpes, gonorrhea, and syphilis. Many of these diseases are passed on vertically so that women of child bearing age may pass on disease or disability to the next generation. Long live the condom.

SJSFalter+ said...

Im going to throw myself under the bus for a minute or some such phrase like that. One of the very first places I thought of going green is the bedroom. Yes, seriously. Switching to glass and metal (I havent heard of wood besides the Amsterdam Sex Museum) was not only good for the environment but health. Plastics and whatever else they use is not wise. Treehugger has a link in there green tips about "How to Green Your Sex Life", great article full of useful information.

knutty knitter said...

We made a deal -if I had to have another c section I'd get fixed at the same time. If not, he'd get fixed. I lost that one big time but at least we have no worries.

viv in nz

Burbanmom said...

Well I think that once again the environmental mantra of "everything in moderation" can be employed here to limit the impact.

Of course, my husband might disagree! ;-)

Stam House said...

Well I thing we are very green we do not use any contraception (at all !!!!) and for the rest we are all about us! so no addition added if you know what a mean!

ruchi aka arduous said...

I agree with Rebekka and Joanna. My feeling is most married couples tend to move away from condoms anyway. For people in non-monogamous relationships or in monogamous relationships that haven't lasted terribly long, condoms are really the best possible answer.

The Purloined Letter said...

For long-term committed couples with the time to learn and practice it correctly, natural birth control might be the greenest way to go. I highly recommend Toni Weschler's Taking Charge of Your Fertility.

Mimi said...

I'm with Rebekka, Joanna and Ruchi on this... Condoms work if you use them properly. My husband and I use them all the time. We are manogamous and still use them. It is just habit (and a good one). We don't want babies and hormones and I don't get along.

Bellesouth said...

I really can't add anything to what rebekka said.

I absolutely cannot give up my condoms. However, the idea of wooden and glass toys/etc is great.

And also, of course, any old clothing can be recycled for tying up, etc. :D

jlygrnmigt said...

I swore off hormonal BC right before my current partner and I started dating, about 3 years ago. We use condoms (and joke about re-using them) because we aren't ready for babies yet and a diaphragm just doesn't give the same level of protection.

I do use rechargeable batteries in my silicone vibe though :)

Anonymous said...

My husband and I track my cycles very diligently, when ovulating we...um *cough* employ other methods of affection towards each other. He's happy and so far it has worked well for us.

Singletons and teenagers, I agree with everyone on condoms. It's not very green but it is the safest.

Lube, lube, and lots more lube. We switched to coconut oil after reading the comments in the hair challenge (works fabulous on the hair too! btw) It is much wetter feeling than the glycerin based lubes and doesn't dry like K-Y.

Ashley said...

Like The Purloined Letter, I use sympto-thermal natural family planning (or fertility awareness) since I'm married.

It's super easy, free, and NO waste or chemicals. Yippee! For those who are in monogamous relationships - this is a real option for preventing pregnancy!

Greenpa said...

I'm struggling to comprehend that object in your photograph. Um. What the h are the doing with it??

Inquiring minds want to know.

One reason you don't hear all that much about wood for entertainment purposes... think.. splinters.

Wheehaa. Carefully done by a true expert, splinters should not be a problem- but most wood, when wet, then dried, then wet, etc... will develop splinters where there were none last week.

What a fun surprise! :-)

Amber said...

The Herbwife's Kitchen has a great idea and recipe for flax lube!

(Finally commenting after months of lurking. Love your blog!)

curiousalexa said...

I had my tubes tied years ago, when I decided parenting would be a bad idea for me. In new relationships, it's condoms. In established relationships, nothing but lust! [g] limiting new relationships ends up being the green way to go...

Green is exactly why I started using hankies for post-sex cleanup. Washcloths were too rough, and I was disgusted with using so many disposable tissues. Added bonus - they don't stick and shred!

Crunchy Chicken said...

Rebekka - yes, of course!

Greenpa - Must I explain everything to you? Round end goes into orifice of choice. These things are purportedly sanded smooth and then covered with four layers of "varnish" - the same kind used for wood salad bowls so it is food grade quality.

I'm not so sure about longevity and the risk of splinters is a little off-putting, but I'm sure there are some stalwart folks out there willing to test (and retest and retest) it out for the rest of us.

The villager: said...

Sex can surely be at least one area where we don't have to think about environmental impact (just concentrate on the job in hand - or not in hand).

Sarah said...

Some sustainable lube options here:
http://posniesd.livejournal.com/16109.html

And theoretically condoms can be composted.

Rosa said...

Our friendly local sex shop educates against PVC in toys and in lube packaging. (smittenkittenonline.com)

I think overall condoms are the best choice - the environmental impact of lifelong condom use is surely less than of another baby.

But my partner is snipped, and so is his brother, and so are almost all of our male friends who aren't planning on making babies in the future. It's cheap, green, safe, and a good excuse to have a party.

Greenpa said...

Crunchy Tasty- lol. yes, I comprehend the bulbous end. It's the other end, with the strange perforation that still puzzles me... assuming two partners, for example... hm...

and "food grade" - oh, the mind reels with interesting concepts...

EJ said...

The "strange perforation" of the wooden dildo would be for pulling it out.

I'm home free on this one - fixed and in monogamous relationship.

burs said...

you didn't mention the truly all natural birth control method of ingesting the dried seeds of queen anne's lace. these 'weeds' grow prolifically everywhere and are easy to identify. there have been favorable studies on them as well. research for yourself...

Michelle said...

I'm in a monogamous relationship, and I take oral contraception with no placebo week. Not having a period gives me half of my life back, and it saves on menstrual supplies. I wish there was a better option, but for now this is the best for me.

Billie said...

I have often worried about the hormones in birth control but apparently not enough to get 'fixed' so to speak. I am on an estrogen free b/c so that my period is not forced by the birth control cycle. I am back to my 'regular' period which is about every two months. Reason being is because I have tissue (maybe breast?) in my underarm that would swell and cause me great pain while having my period. So obviously my goal is to have my period as little as possible. So far its working!

Otherwise... I have not thought much about 'green' and 'sex' in the same sentence.

Anonymous said...

Don't really care on this one! Not a big enough issue in my life for the brain damage. We did use natural fertility method when we were not yet ready for a baby, but getting close enough.

Elaine said...

Add me to the fertility awareness camp. We either abstain or use a condom during the "possibly fertile" week or so.

Kelsie said...

I'm a long-time condom user, and, really, I figure there are far worse things I could be doing to trash the environment than throwing out a condom once a week or so. :) I'm in a very monogamous relationship, but I hate the idea of hormonal birth control (I'd rather bleed profusely, suffer through the cramps, have pms, and deal with the hormone fluctuations than I would introduce artificial hormones into my body..because, let's face it...it IS more natural, and I prefer to use natural ways of helping myself). We've used condoms happily for four years now with no accidents. I also chart my fertility, so that we can be careful not to get it on when I'm ovulating. :) The one thing I want to green-up in my sex life is the lube. I'm getting to the point where it gives me the heebie-jeebies to put that stuff in my body (not to mention what it takes to manufacture it). Any suggestions for a non-petroleum based lube that is condom friendly?

jewishfarmer said...

Before husband's fixing, we used condoms, the minipill and a diaphragm, plus extended breastfeeding and extra spermicide? Environmentally unsound? Only compared to the alternative. I've gotten pregnant using *FOUR* *SIMULATNEOUS* forms of birth control, after surgical sterilization and in a host of circumstances that seem unlikely. We are now praying that the second sterilization works. Honestly, I don't give a damn how green my sex life is - it is green enough if I don't get knocked up.

Sharon

Erika said...

This is certainly a hot topic! As The Purloined Letter and Ashley both mentioned, NFP/fertility awareness/sympto-thermal method seems to be a very sustainable option for preventing pregnancy, except for the thermometer. I've yet to have the battery in mine die, but it is 99% plastic, and doesn't appear to be built for longevity. :-(

As for disease protection, I relied on abstinence, but I will certainly agree with others here that condoms are the way to go - purchased in bulk to save the little plastic covered paper containers they're packaged in :-P.

I'm not sure if I want to go this far, but, since I'm already here, there's a free, packaging-free, fun lube available to nearly everyone... quality foreplay and saliva as needed... just have a clean mouth first... :-P

Lastly, as far as foreign objects go... whatever you use, however you use it, just make sure you can get it out... it's no fun being at work and hearing, "I have a problem... there's... um... something... uh.... stuck. In there... you know... my [boy/girl]friend and I were... and... then... now... well... can I just see the doctor please?!" (basically, the chief complaint of a patient I triaged in urgent care one day... and, if you're concerned, the patient had a very bruised ego, but was otherwise just fine).

--Erika

Robj98168 said...

Isn't it good Norwegian wood?

Danielle said...

My husband had a vasectomy when the little guy was 6 weeks old and my other guy was 22 months. We knew we only wanted 2 so this decision was a no brainer for us. Now we don't use anything.

Didn't like the pill although I used it when we were first together and weren't ready for the kiddos.

I am a labor and delivery nurse and I see lots of diseases that could have been prevented with a condom, along with the teen pregnancy this girl comes in with as well. Anyway, I highly recommend condoms for preventing disease and pregnancy.

Thanks for the eco-friendly sex toy info. I'll keep that in mind.

Abbie said...

I use birth control pills. I understand the environmental issues associated with contamination of the water supply. That said, I do not want to have children right now.
However, I have fought consistently with the pharmacist about the little pink plastic pill pack. I do NOT need a new one each month. They're such a waste. I finally got them to give me only one for three sets of pills, which cuts down on the waste. However, I'd like to get rid of them altogether, but my pharmacist won't stop giving them to me, even when I beg! Should I just go somewhere else, or is this something that you all have experienced, too?

LimeSarah said...

Definitely condoms for me. All of the reusable barrier methods require backup spermicide (as far as I know, anyway), to which I am allergic. I keep thinking of trying the fertility awareness thing, since you could set a clock to my reproductive system, but my schedule is hectic enough that I wouldn't trust myself to do everything reliably enough. I suppose I might as well start at some point, just for practice.

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone mentioned a copper IUD. There are no hormones, no waste and you don't have to think about it for ten year. I highly recommend.

sophstar's mama said...

You're right, I hadn't thought about this! I am pretty much stuck when it comes to contraception, I am on the pill and I know that it's not good; but I am also taking a medicine that would cause birth defects, so I'm not willing to take any chances. I would consider a copper IUD, but I'm hoping to be able to have another baby in the next year or two.

Anonymous said...

no, I don;t think about it

and I think sex is complicated enough without complicating it with sustainability issues

also - condoms prevent disease and over population, so I believe their impact to be minimal when that is taken into consideration

Mary said...

Since so many people seem to use condoms as a preferred method of contraception, maybe an article about the "greenest" condoms is in order:
* Latex, polyurethane, sheepskin
* With spermicide or without
* Styles/colors/whatever
I imagine it would be a lot of work to hunt down this information, but I'd love to read it...

Mary said...

Oh yeah, and there's these:
http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/04/natex-amazon-condoms.php

Just trying to be green said...

For contraception, how about an IUD?

Non-permanent, although they last for 5 years, and there's basically no maintenance. Very little waste. I think they are a pretty good option, really.

As for the Queen Ann's lace, most things I've read about it say it's pretty unreliable, so I wouldn't use it alone for contraception.

Of course, there is the argument that basically all forms of contraception are better than the life long impact of yet another human. (Not my opinion, but there is a movement for voluntary extinction of the human race. I don't think it's gonna happen.)

curiousalexa said...

My roommate has an IUD. Her boyfriend is a doctor, so she gets to hear all the hospital horror stories and for some reason doesn't want to undergo elective surgery! [wry grin]

She initially had problems with the Diva cup and her IUD, but after a year or so of avoiding it, has gone back to the diva cup I believe.

btw, you can have sex with a diva cup in. your body accommodates both it and him, plus it keeps it from being such a bloody mess!

Anonymous said...

Abbie--it might be your pharmacist-mine have always asked, and this is at various geological locations.

Now I get generic mail-order bcp and it comes with so much packaging. I don't like the idea of hormones in the water, and I don't like the waste, but bcps have been doing their job for 10+ years, and I don't want to mess with it. I also don't want to risk natural methods.

Greenpa said...

Crunchy, and EJ - "The "strange perforation" of the wooden dildo would be for pulling it out."

How disappointing! Jeez, am I the only one with an imagination? :-)

yeah, the "put fingers here" idea occurred to me, but seemed so boring, in view of the otherwise brilliant and fascinating and stimulating (mentally!) aspects of that thing.

I was hoping something ELSE was meant to go there- I dunno- y'know - noses, or tongues, or ears, or something...

sigh. doomed to disappointment; and no home movies from Yummy, either...

Crunchy Chicken said...

Keenpa - I think you need a cold dip in the well.

kimberly said...

my first priority is a method which leaves me feeling comfortable, safe, healthy and protected. i have yet to find that! i've tried 5 different hormonal contraceptives (3 pills, the nuvaring and the evra patch) and condoms. when i went last week to speak to my doctor about contraceptives i asked about the iud and decided against it - she only recommends it for people who are in long term monogamous relationships (i.e. marriage, or having been together for years) because contracting any kind of sti with an iud can create complications and increase side effects. not that i plan on contracting anything, or that i'm not careful, but there's always the risk and i'm not willing to make it worse than it has to be. plus, with the iud there is the risk of ectopic pregnancy or that the iud dislodges and floats around into other areas where it doesn't belong, and it can also cause spotting/abnormal bleeding. i don't think it's worth it...

then there's the diaphrgam, cervical cap and sponges. i have really sensitive skin and the spermicide would be brutal for my body. furthermore, the protection rate just isn't high enough for me to be satisfied/comfortable.

my partner wants to be sterilized, but because he's in his 20's my doctor said that it would be very difficult to find a doctor who would be willing to perform it on such a young patient.

after much deliberation i've decided to try the mini pill (progestin only) which will hopefully reduce the negative side effects which i was experiencing before. the one thing that you have to be really careful with the mini-pill is that you have to take it at exactly the same time every day, otherwise use a backup if you miss the timing. having said all of that, the entire thing has been nothing but a major frustration to say the least. ideally i would be using something greener. i hate that i'm putting hormones into my body, but quite frankly, i'm fighting evolution here and it's not easy being in a battle with your body.

Jena said...

I have given this some thought lately, especially after switching to the Diva Cup for the not-so-fun part of the month.

A friend introduced me to the Nuva Ring and I love it. I was really bummed when I finally got good health insurance and found even that they still won't pay for it. It is about $50 a month.

I could get the pill for free from the health dept. but I've never been able to remember that every day and we really aren't ready for a baby yet. I figure there is not a lot of difference in the two anyway.

I would feel comfortable looking in to the rhythm method or similar ideas when we're more prepared for the chance that it may not work.

MandyPandy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Penny said...

"However, I have fought consistently with the pharmacist about the little pink plastic pill pack. I do NOT need a new one each month. They're such a waste. I finally got them to give me only one for three sets of pills, which cuts down on the waste. However, I'd like to get rid of them altogether, but my pharmacist won't stop giving them to me, even when I beg! Should I just go somewhere else, or is this something that you all have experienced, too?"

I have the BIGGEST problem with this too! I got a free pack a few years ago that is really pretty and looks like a compact and I'd rather have that in my bag than the ugly and obvious pink packs...but every few months when I get my scripts in the mail there are three pink packs.

I've asked numerous times for them to not send it to me and they say that's the way it comes...however when I receive everything all the pink packs are in one baggie and the drugs are in another baggie, all within the mailer. Sooo much packaging and obviously it would be really easy for them just to NOT PUT IT IN in the first place.

"I could get the pill for free from the health dept. but I've never been able to remember that every day and we really aren't ready for a baby yet. I figure there is not a lot of difference in the two anyway."

I am awful with remembering things as well so I have a calendar event programmed into my cell phone that rings every night when I'm supposed to take my pill. It's kept me on track very well and keeps my friends laughing when they see the "no baby" alarm ringing on my phone.

My significant other and I (of 2+ years) are very cautious when some irregularities occur with my pill. IE this summer when I just completely messed it up and when that happens we use condoms.

I think after I'm married and have had children I'll have a hysterectomy, both my mother and my aunt had issues (one somewhat cancerous) and I'd rather reduce my chances of having problems by removing the problematic organs before they can become dangerous to my health.

Kate said...

My wife and I are monogamous and don't worry about contraception (two women = no pregnancy) and we are both fortunate enough to not need the pill for hormonal regulation. We do use glass toys instead of silicon or latex because of sensitivity issues and it is much easier to keep the glass toys germ-free. Some of our glass pieces are really beautiful!
Initially, we had a silicon implement that started to come apart in layers...too much use I guess. The glass is so sturdy we will never go back.

CindieLou said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CindieLou said...

I DO think about the environmental impact...

The other thing I think about is that many people don't realize that soft sex toys often have Phthlatates as well as PVCs - and that's not good for soft tissue (hey wait! soft tissue, where do I find that hmmm... )

Beware of sex toys labeled "Novelty Only" -

I am posting a link to a blog post which I wrote. It has some links to (what I think) are great articles on green sex. (I swear it's not a plug, once upon a time I thought I'd have more to say on a blog, apparently -- I didn't. It's just that it was easier for lazy-me to post a link to the batch of links)

p.s. I've been stalking your blog for ages and keep getting my friends addicted. I think it's great!

p.p.s. - I forgot the link first time 'round:
http://brainwhat.blogspot.com/2007/10/hybrid-cars-hot-men-sex-toys.html

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