elephant xxxclusive. Sir Richard’s: 1st hip, woman + gay-friendly, socially-responsible, One-for-One condoms on planet earth.

Via on Mar 9, 2010

sir richard's elephantjournal.com elephant journal condom eco green socially

Mathew Gerson, longtime friend of elephant, debuts Sir Richard’s: a condom on a mission.

“Doing Good Has Never Felt Better.”

Mathew Gerson, the visionary founder, says: “Yes, we are doing everything we can to make Sir Richard’s the very first Fair Trade product of its kind in the ol’ US of A…..unfortunately, at the moment there is only one certified Fair Trade latex plantation on the planet, and they’re already pretty well…well, tapped.”

mathew gerson "sir richard's" condom condoms

Update: sat down this morning at Laughing Goat, one of my fave cafés in Boulder, Colorado, with Mathew Gerson and Mark Kreloff, the gents behind Sir Richard’s. We talked about changing the world for the better, one condom at a time, over loudly-blaring hip hop as the early bright Colorado sun (and amazing coffee) lifted us out of our morning funks.

Since I just tapped out notes, I’ll paraphrase:

Waylon Lewis, for elephant: Why is the lack of available condoms even an issue in developing nations considering HIV and the amount of aid being sent to fight it?

Mathew Gerson(and occasionally his partner, Mark Kreloff): Actually, in the Bush years, most funding went to abstinence. A lot of prevention funding was cut. Condom funding from the US diminished.

So there’s not enough free condoms?

The Global demand for free condoms is huge and only 10% of that need is met each year.

And how’s education? Don’t they know that if they have sex without a condom, they’re fucked?

Well, there’s cultural factors. There’s organizational factors. Systemic issues that lead to a high prevalence of HIV…issues like human rights, women’s rights and education.

So you’re literally giving one condom for every condom we buy?

Yes.

Are you giving the same condom?

Yes. Different name, different design.

Would it be in the plaid package?

Well, if we’re giving away condoms in India, we might call it Shiva’s..! There’s cultural factors that help drive acceptance.

Like with Toms Shoes, they give a simpler version, a one-size-fits-most version I think. The shoes they actually give away are simpler than the hipster ones we might be buying.

How do you help ensure that free condoms get used?

That is the responsibility of the organizations we’ll distribute them to. It’s a complex, challenging issue.  Acceptance is a huge challenge.

Check out condomcondom.net. In India there was little acceptance of use. It was considered embarrassing. So this organization made a ringtone where people sang condomcondomcondom and, 20 million downloads, later, they did a tour, and suddenly there was a double digit increase in acceptance and use.

So that’s a big part of what you’re doing that other companies don’t do: elegant, cool branding makes you want to buy more publicly.

We’re different from mainstream brands in that we’re not marketing in a sleazy, greasy, slick, industrial way. Sex is about sacredness; intimacy doesn’t have to be creepy. The packaging is meant to appeal more to a younger and more conscientious consumer. The gay population, and women. Women are more responsible about buying condoms earlier. And hipsters like you, Waylon..!

We also want to change how people feel when they purchase condoms. Part of that is offering them for sale in retail venues, like say Anthropologie, American Apparel, untapped markets—not just drug stores and supermarkets. You shouldn’t be ashamed when you buy condoms.

Love that. I don’t know why, but when I buy condoms, even in Whole Foods, I’m vaguely embarrassed.

Helping people feel comfortable about buying condoms is vital. Think about it: it’s your bodhisattva vow, to be responsible for how your actions are effecting others.

Do the trees keep living? Is it sustainably harvested everywhere?

Yes. It’s like maple syrup farming, essentially. But as for Fair-trade certified, there’s only two places we know about: Sri Lanka and India. We’re not sure, but that seems like it. You have to pay a 20% premium, additionally, to be FSC certified, which we want to do.

There is one fair trade latex condom, called French Letter, but it’s not available in the US.

So how are you better than Trojan or Durex or Lifestyles?

Well, on some level, all condoms are created equal. Sir Richard’s are FDA certified, which is a rigorous process. The kind we’re using consistently ranks in the top tier in terms of safety and user satisfaction.

All latex is 100% biodegradable. But where we’re really different is in our mission and our message.

sir richard's elephantjournal.com elephant journal condom eco green socially sir richard's elephantjournal.com elephant journal condom eco green socially

Why aren’t you doing anything eco with the packaging [the wrappers or the cardboard display boxes]?

Well, first of all, the packaging foil—what the condom is actually in—is regulated by FDA. You can’t do anything green there, really.

You could work with Terracycle to collect condom foil wrappers. Foil is valuable resource, totally recyclable or reusable, terracycle could make backpacks out of condoms. Don’t tell me with your awesome design some teenage punks wouldn’t love toting a condom backpack to school, pissing off the teachers. Plus, it’s free marketing.

Put us in touch with Terracycle, done.

As for the condoms, the greenest thing you can do on the consumer end is: don’t flush your condoms down the toilet. It’s horrible for the environment, bad for lifeforms in our waters, the chemicals are horrible, and latex never biodegradess if it’s in the ocean. If it’s in a landfill, it biodegrades. We’re trying to connect with WWF and the Ocean Conservancy to learn more.

The lubricant is silicone based, not petroleum or oil based. So that’s good, too. Eventually we want the packaging to have seeds in it, like Pangea’s packaging. For now the cardboard is recycled, but the inks and all aren’t eco at all. We’d love to connect with IDEO and really create some awesome green packaging. But for now it’s an issue of solvency, not making perfect the enemy of the good. Pricing vs. green is always a delicate balance. You want the product to be widely available, not just to rich folks. We’re comparably priced with our competitors, despite fact that we’re giving a condom away for every condom you buy, and trying to source fair-trade rubber, and trying to use natural lubricant. And remember: preventing unintentional pregnancies is one of the greenest things you can do. Down the line, we’d love to do a true LCA analysis.

Our condoms are made in Malaysia, by the largest condom manufacturer in the world. We may not be very green yet, but remember that social and eco issues have to get on the same bus. Socially, we’re way ahead of the curve. The packaging is designed by TDA, who also designed Mix1, Newton Running Shoes…

I recommend everyone read Wisdom of Whores. HIV is concentrated among prostitutes, drug users, gay community—groups that are often marginalized, ignored politically.

You should work with Seane Corne, support her work with prostitutes?

You know she’s creating a birthing center in Thailand for women who are HIV positive to give birth in a way that minimizes the risk of passing the virus on to their child. Seane is a great example. Again, it’s our “bodhisattva vow”: we all need to do all we can to diminish suffering, both your own and that of others.

Finally, Sir Richard’s is a bit of a play on words… But really it’s all about chivalry. Protection. Night-hood.

You should get a video going, that would go viral. Use our friend Alex King.

Let’s meet with him next week in LA [we're out there for Natural Products Expo West].

Okay.

~~~

To visit the new site for Sir Richard’s, click here.  And don’t forget to Fan Sir Richard’s on Facebook.

  • Safe sex should be a human right for anyone who seeks to practice it.
  • One for One: for every condom you purchase, one is donated to a developing country.
  • Coming: Summer 2010

sir richard's elephantjournal.com elephant journal condom eco green socially

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~

About elephant journal

elephant journal is dedicated to "bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society." We're about anything that helps us to live a good life that's also good for others, and our planet. >>> Founded as a print magazine in 2002, we went national in 2005 and then (because mainstream magazine distribution is wildly inefficient from an eco-responsible point of view) transitioned online in 2009. >>> elephant's been named to 30 top new media lists, and was voted #1 in the US on twitter's Shorty Awards for #green content...two years running. >>> Get involved: > Subscribe to our free Best of the Week e-newsletter. > Follow us on Twitter Fan us on Facebook. > Write: send article or query. > Advertise. > Pay for what you read, help indie journalism survive and thrive. Questions? info elephantjournal com

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47 Responses to “elephant xxxclusive. Sir Richard’s: 1st hip, woman + gay-friendly, socially-responsible, One-for-One condoms on planet earth.”

  1. Allie says:

    Awesome! Finally something fashionable and socially conscious. Love it!

  2. Natalie Smyth says:

    This product sounds great! Where do i sign up?

  3. [...] attention (though Crocs, which everyone loves to hate, has given away at least 10x more shoes) and inspired eco entrepreneurs [...]

  4. Robert says:

    Your liberal readers might be interested in knowing that condom usage actually increases the spread of AIDS all around the world.
    The only way to truly protect yourself from getting HIV/AIDS is by not having sex until marriage.

    • robert – i suspect elephant's intelligent readers would appreciate some degree of substantiation to your comments … should they prove to be valid, let's get an article written about it ….

    • Robert, while true that not having sex might prevent AIDs, that approach generally doesn't hold up with teenagers when they hot and bothered–and if it doesn't hold up, you're then looking at ill-prepared or protected sex. This isn't a liberal or conservative issue—there's plenty of mainstream, big, thorough studies that have been done on abstinence, and its unfortunate failings as a prevention technique.

      • Mathew says:

        Thank you to your readers for providing some interesting resources for information. It does appear that the information that I had read was flawed as regards condoms increasing the spread of AIDS.
        It seems that all of the long term studies that have been done are all unanimous in stating that the proper use of a condom significantly lowers the spread of the AIDS virus.
        Of course, my own personal choice is to teach Abstinence as a first line of defense as it is infallible.

        • Abstinence is farrrr from infallible. Study after study shows it's the worst prevention method, as it cracks under pressure!

        • Hypocrisy and the associated guilt, not to mention increased rates of teen pregnancy and STDs are the very predictable results of abstinence-only education.

          • LasaraAllen says:

            TOTALLY agree / ele and Duff here. When kids are taught to "Just say no" they have zero reasoning skills, so it's all or nothing. (Argh!)

            Add in the fact that most abstinence only campaigns don't go into the fact that oral and nala sex ARE ALSO SEX, and you have a bunch of kids with STIs.

            Makes me angry. Really angry.

    • We need to hire you to get conversations going, Robert!

  5. Robert says:

    Well, its basically the same as giving drug users clean needles. You are sending a clear message that you condone their behavior.

    • marshall says:

      Dude…people are going to have sex whether or not they condoms……it is a basic and fundamentally important human need that sadly has severe consequences if precautions aren't taken with risky partners. That said, your "clean needles to drug users" analogy is seriously flawed. Why? because sex is beautiful and

      • LasaraAllen says:

        Drug use is anyone's choice. Seriously. Drugs should be decriminalized, yet legislated, and we'd have fewer drug related deaths, fewer illnesses, and lower crime rates.

    • I don't think drug users care what you or I think about their use. I think we all care about preventing the spread of deadly disease, however.

      • LasaraAllen says:

        I think drug users DO care what we think, and I think that if drug use didn't put you into the "outlaw" category just by fact of use, there'd be less stigma, higher rates of voluntary treatment, and lower risk levels all around.

    • Whether or not sex should be compared to heroin use is highly debatable. What isn't debatable is that both condom-based sex education *and* programs for helping drug users use safely have been proven to work far more than their abstinence and zero tolerance based alternatives…regardless of what we think about the behaviors of the individuals.

    • LasaraAllen says:

      Clean needles=actually, a really good idea. OMG. Duh. Really. Gah! What the eff?

      And, I do condone healthy, safe, informed sexual experience. Sex should be safe!

  6. marshall says:

    Dude…people are going to have sex whether or not they have condoms……it is a basic and fundamentally important human need that sadly has severe consequences if precautions aren't taken with risky partners. That said, your "clean needles to drug users" analogy is seriously flawed. Why? because sex is beautiful and healthy…..drugs are not.

    if you are interested in learning more about the church's position is on contraception, read this link:

    http://www.livescience.com/health/090331-bad-pope

  7. Thanks again Waylon for the great conversation,
    looking forward to continuing to deepen it as we grow.

    Thanks to Gwen Bell for pointing out the correct URL for the CondomCondom campaign is
    http://www.CondomCondom.org

  8. Sydney Gressel says:

    To jump in on this discussion– I did an independent research and HIV/AIDS education project in Calcutta, India where the highest number of new infections are among married monogamous women under the age of 25 who DO wait until marriage to have sex. Robert, your "focus on the family" style logic does not hold up here when you actually examine the HIV/AIDS epidemic abroad, specifically in places like India which has the second highest number of HIV/AIDS infections per capita in the world (second to South Africa).

    To speak more on this issue– HIV/AIDS in India is a predominantly heterosexual epidemic fueled in large part by the sex trade. Approximately 60% of India's male population are migrant workers or truckers who spend weeks at a time on the road away from their rural villages, starting around the age of 15 years old. It is estimated that this population has between 3 to 5 sexual partners each week on the road, and for the most part we are talking about unprotected sex. The argument that people must "wait until marriage" to have sex is not an effective means of preventing the virus here because as I mentioned earlier, the highest number of new HIV infections are in the population of married monogamous women under the age of 25. These women do wait until marriage to have sex, and their only "high risk behavior" is being married. They marry as virgins to men who have multiple partners, or have had multiple partners at some point. Neither the men nor the women in India receive comprehensive sex education, many people do not know about the virus– or there is so much stigma about HIV/AIDS in combination with serious poverty, that people often go without treatment even if they know they are HIV positive.

    In a country where the average income is about $1.15 per day and condoms cost close to $.25 each– the option of wearing a condom seems absurd to most people. Also, the most common form of birth control is a hysterectomy– so there is even less incentive for a husband to use a condom with his own wife especially if there is no chance of her getting pregnant. Right now in India, only about 25% of the condoms in the country are even used for sexual intercourse. The remaining 75% are used by women who weave silk for saris– they wear the lubricated condoms on their fingers to help weave thread smoothly into their looms.

    All in all, as a nursing student and sex educator– I am a HUGE believer in condoms and comprehensive sex education as the MOST effective way to prevent the spread of HIV. Doctors and sex educators have targeted "hot spot areas" such as the Sonagachi Red Light District of Calcutta. When sex education and condoms have been promoted, there has been a dramatic increase in condom usage and a decrease in the spread of the virus. I cannot thank Matthew Gerson for launching the Sir Richard line. Before any other uptight and uninformed asshole wants to get on a self-righteous trip about "morals" and "family values"– do your research and you will learn that promoting abstinence-only education or waiting for sex until marriage is not only ignorant, but particularly detrimental to women's health.

    • gwenbell says:

      Sydney, do you have links to your research you can share with us? Thanks for this thoughtful comment – never would have occurred to me that women might be using condoms as finger-protectors. (And aren't there less expensive/longer lasting options for finger protection?)

    • Hi Sydney and thank you for your thoughtful and passionate post.
      We are looking to individuals like yourself with direct experience to help guide our efforts so that we might be as effective as possible.
      That said, I would very much like to connect with you.
      Please contact me at Mathew(at)SirRichards.com
      This is the joy and benefit of independent social media.
      Thank you Elephant Journal!

    • Your comment was great, until the end when you felt the need to call someone who disagreed with you an "uninformed asshole…". Really, keep it civil.

  9. Sydney Gressel says:

    Excuse me, I meant to say I cannot thank Matthew Gerson enough for his awesome work….

  10. By the way, the name might be a problem with Sir Richard Branson of Virgin, unless you've secretly gotten him on board already. Potential trademark violation.

  11. Adam Lake says:

    Great idea and great Branding! How do I get involved with this project?

  12. Thanks Adam!
    A great place to start right now is on our Facebook page:
    http://www.facebook.com/SirRichardsCondoms
    If you are thinking about getting more actively involved, check out our website and shoot us an email.

    Cheers!

  13. Brit says:

    wow, you mean you actually sat down with the guy and asked questions, like a proper interview.. funny how you will do that when you want to give good press(for a friend), but simply write what you want at other times… eg (green restaurant fail article).. still not impressed with your journalism..at all. All stories should be treated equally.

    • Like I said to Dakota, I didn't mention the name of the restaurant, not having talked with anyone. Apologies if you're offended, but elephant doesn't have staff, we're the first to admit this is a blog, not proper journalism. Give us advertising, pay to read…any source of income…and we'll be able to hire and pay writers. You get what you pay for, Mr. Anonymous—ironic that you're not complaining to my face about accusing me of not talking to other people directly.

    • Oh, and btw, I would love to consider Dakota a friend, but I wasn't invited to stop by and interview the owners. I have no such invitation. I was invited, and hounded (I'm very overwhelmed) by Mathew and Mark, above. And I asked them tough questions–in many ways what they're doing is full of good intentions, but isn't yet eco-responsible.

    • Oh, and btw, thumbs up for bothering to comment and share. I appreciate the criticism,a nd we'll try and get better.

  14. [...] rude, a little funny, a lot true (condoms are about as green as eco-responsible gets) and entirely missing the point (what’s the point, you ask? Overpopulation does seem to be [...]

  15. [...] out a full interview HERE over at Elephant Journal with the man behind the [...]

  16. LasaraAllen says:

    I love this company. And thanks to all the commenters who pissed me off. Good way to get the morning going. :-)

    But really, good work, guys.

  17. [...] the initiative via Sir Richards Condoms Facebook page, or they can get a more detailed scoop via an interview with Sir Richards’ founders over at Elephant [...]

  18. [...] A few months back, I was honored to give the first, tough love interview to the founders of Sir Richard’s Condom Company—today, half an hour ago, their first product was shipped. It’s a big moment for any [...]

  19. [...] look forward to a new generation of vegan and other condom companies that are sensitive not just in product but in mission, and [...]

  20. [...] congrats for getting picked up, with props, in the NY Times. And props to our friends at Sir Richard’s, and TDA (the genius/modern/fun/out-of-envelope Boulder-based [...]

  21. [...] Gerson >Way, latex condoms indeed are 100% Biodegradable! You did the interview with me on it. In order to breakdown properly they need to end up in a landfill to compost and not our [...]

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