The one where I write about Eco Sex for the Guardian


April 16, 2014 by Tess Riley

In my fresh-faced youth, I wrote a weekly column for my university newspaper, Varsity, called Ethics Girl. Amongst the many topics covered, one of my first was eco-friendly sex [pdf].

Who’d have thought that eight years later, I’d be at it again – so to speak – this time writing on said topic for the Guardian. What’s more, I didn’t even use the word ‘hunk’ this time – resulty, as my friend Dixe would say.

So here it is (original here), an older and wiser (?!) take on my hot tips for eco-friendly sex…

Fairtrade condoms to vegan lubricants: the ins and outs of eco sex

You’re a recycling zealot, love cycling and grow veg. You’ve nailed the greening, but have you greened the, ahem, nailing?

It’s not the most obvious place to look, but the UK alone spends £315m on sex-related products (not including pornography) per year, the manufacture, distribution and disposal of which leaves a lot to be desired.

The good news is that there are plenty of opportunities to green up your sex life and get you into the environmental rhythm. From solar powered vibrators to vegan lubricant, making eco whoopee has never been easier. So what are you waiting for?

fish kiss

1. Organic orgasmic

Little did Nelly Furtado realise back in 2009 when dancing around a swamp with scantily clad men singing “turn off the light” that she was actually epitomising the perfect green approach to life: lights … out, clothes … few, mud … abundant.

I jest. Furtado is more than correct in encouraging lights off in the boudoir – 10 green points for Nelly – but don’t assume that eco-sex necessitates some sort of organic orgasm that can only be achieved by getting down and dirty in the back garden under the petunias while wearing hemp underpants. Feel free to try it though.

Alternatively, check out Who Made Your Pants, an ethical lingerie brand that buys end-of-season fabrics sold on by big underwear companies and turns them into underwear, reducing waste and providing employment to primarily refugee women. Other lingerie companies doing cool sustainable things worth checking out include Stella McCartney LingeriePants to Poverty, and Buttress and Snatch.

2. Don’t condemn the condom

The majority of condoms are made using latex, which is extracted from tropical forest trees, processed and turned into a product that’s non-biodegradable in water. Despite these hard truths, condoms play a vital role in preventing the transmission of STDs and reducing high numbers of unintended pregnancies. Shunning condoms on environmental grounds would clearly be a mistake.

There are, however, a few ways to up the eco ante. If you’re using latex condoms, sexperts advise us to send them to landfill, where there’s at least a chance they can break down – unlike non-biodegradable options, such as polyurethane – rather than clogging up water pipes and polluting rivers by flushing them away. And you can now enjoy FairPlay in the bedroom too, with French Letter condoms: manufactured from latex harvested under sustainable and Fair Trade conditions, with producers paid a premium for their rubber.

bananas fair trade

3. Fifty shades of Green 

“Be naughty to each other, but nice to the environment!” demands Earth Erotics, whose recycled rubber whip should help fulfil a few eco-erotic fantasies. Accessories made from natural substances like rubber and leather are far preferable to PVC, the production of which releases carcinogenic dioxins, which accumulate in the fatty tissues of living organisms.

If you’re looking to hit the G (that’s “green”)-spot, planet-friendly vibrators are worth every penny. Babeland sells a solar vibrator, for example, that only requires eight hours of sunlight to provide “one hour of blissful two-speed vibration”, while Leaf Vibes’ phthalate-free “fresh+”comes with a rechargeable battery and is shipped in recycled packaging. Since high doses of phthalates have been shown to alter hormone levels and cause birth defects in tests, avoiding them is recommended. If that’s not green enough, go minimal with the Callisto Clear Glass Dildo: fracture-resistant, it retains heat and cold for increased stimulation, and you can even recycle it. Talking of which, don’t forget to check out Sex Toy Recycling or Lovehoney’s sex toy recycling scheme, Rabbit Amnesty.

4. Rations before passions 

To keep energy levels up, you may well be scheduling some food into your wooing agenda. Support the oceans by ditching the oysters and shellfish, and instead opt for more sustainable aphrodisiacs, such as asparagus and bananas. Hats off to animal rights organisation Peta for these unique – to say the least – vegan aphrodisiac gifs. If that doesn’t send you straight to the greengrocer, I don’t know what will … Add in a shared shower after your veg fest, and you’re well on your way to sustainable sex superstar status.

So there you have it – a mission to get missionary, eco-style. Experiment with the above, find your own sustainable alternatives, and tree-hugging won’t be the only green activity in which you excel.




If you enjoyed this post, why not send it onto a friend or three? You might just change their love lives forever…



One thought on “The one where I write about Eco Sex for the Guardian

  1. Tess Riley says:

    PS Thanks to everyone who’s emailed me about this one – overwhelmed by all the lovely comments (and interest in eco sex you all seem to have developed!)

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