I recently went vegan for lent.
I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 19 but I’ve always shied away from veganism because, while I’m ethically sold, I also love cheese.
I also write the occasional advice column for the first women’s sex shop in the U.K. so when I got a question on sex and sustainability it got me thinking.
It honestly hadn’t even occurred to me that many latex condoms contain casein —so that’s veganism gone. I always used lubes that are paraben-free and gentle on the body as well as toys that are body safe and made ethically. Or at least not imported from a sweatshop in China. But was that enough?
What I was mostly looking out for was my own safety, which, whilst important, probably shouldn’t be our only consideration—in our sex lives and elsewhere. Sex is an area of my life where ethics become hugely important. I am a feminist. I care deeply about consent, communication and safety—but shouldn’t I care as deeply about the possible environmental impacts of my sex life?
So here are some of my thoughts on how we can pick toys and products that are gentle on the world as well as gentle on on our bodies.
Organic lubes are starting to be pretty common. The best ones are also paraben- and glycerin-free as well as vegan.
Lube can be made with all kinds of crazy chemicals that may or may not be best for our bodies and the environment. Parabens are a contested issue, because there have been claims they can cause cancer and have an estrogenic effect. We girls can also get yeast infections from glycerin in lube because it contains sugar.
I like Sliquid or Yes—both of these are organic and totally body-safe, and they have a good rage of options for every lubrication need. Looking at something even more natural, coconut oil is also becoming increasingly popular as a lubricant (I, nearly literally, use coconut oil for everything). Some sex bloggers love this but like all oil based lubricants definitely one to avoid using with latex condoms because it can increase the chance of breakages. We are all about safety.
Is it Vegan?
As I mentioned, latex condoms often contain casein. Glyde is probably the biggest producer of vegan condoms but there are other brands such as Sir Richard’s or RFSU in Europe. If those are tricky to find, Unique latex-free condoms are also vegan.
Sliquid is a great vegan lube and, obviously, if we’re looking at vegan it’s good to steer clear of leather bondage wear. Harnesses and safe, wide, ankle and wrist cuffs are also available in rubber so there’s no reason not to stay vegan and explore a little light bondage action. Bijoux Indiscrets also does really gorgeous chains, and handcuffs that are more like jewellery. They also do a whole range of vegan edibles, massage oils and enhancers. I am a bit dubious about a lot of enhancers but maybe lip gloss could be fun.
Where is it From?
A lot of cheap sex toys come from China and the Far East. As well as adding air miles to their carbon footprint these toys may be made in unsafe working conditions and contain phthalates, which have been shown to be toxic to humans, and they don’t easily biodegrade.
Greenpeace has been calling out phthalates for years and it’s shocking that they are still being used in intimate toys. We should really, definitely steer clear of jelly toys and go for high quality body-safe silicone or another safe, non-porous material, such as glass or metal. When we’re using something so intimately it’s super important to use safe, non-porous materials. Really, body-safe for the win!
Brits can try Sh! Womenstore, who make their own range of dildos in their London workshop, which means a low carbon footprint, safe working conditions and reasonable wages. All the packaging is also recyclable. We-Vibe also ensures that many of their high quality vibrators are made with a carbon neutral manufacturing process—they call themselves eco-sexy.
What’s it Made From?
I already touched on safe materials but we obviously also want to think about the environmental impact of those toys. Glass is a sustainable resource and can be easily recycled. Silicone can also be recycled but for some reason people can get a bit odd about melting down someone else’s sex toy to make a brand new one.
One thing we can all do is keep using our toys. Okay, I know, but it is totally safe if you have good quality non-porous toys, although maybe not so much with vibrators. Silicone and glass can both be sterilized as long as we’re careful with our cleaning. So we don’t actually need to ditch our old toys when we get a new partner. Even if it might feel a bit weird.
Obviously if a glass toy chips of something it’s time to say goodbye, but with gentle treatment a decent quality toy should last a while.
It’s not always obvious how the products we use impact on the environment and it can feel really challenging to take that on board in every part of our lives, but it’s worth the effort.
Author: Cassie Gibson
Image: Helga Weber/ Flickr
Editors: Khara-Jade Warren; Emily Bartran