Zero waste sex, vegan condoms, natural aphrodisiacs and water-soluble lubricants are some choices available to consumers when it comes to eco-friendly sex products
February marks the celebration of love. This Valentine’s Day, zero waste sex is a trending topic to save the environment. Whether it is a vegan condom brand Bleu, petroleum derivative-free lubricant brand That Sassy Thing, or eco-friendly soy candle Spark, sustainable sex is making the first move in the country.
Zero waste sex, vegan condoms, natural aphrodisiacs and water-soluble lubricants can contribute to achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) like SDG 12 on Responsible Consumption and Production, SDG 13 on Climate Action, and SDG 14 on Life Below Water.
Dr. Tanaya Narendra, who runs Instagram handle Dr. Cuterus, says, “As far as zero waste sex goes, one essential component of waste that comes from sex is condom. One can’t really avoid that unless you are completely monogamous and there is no potential for another partner and you have been tested for STIs.” An Oxford-trained doctor, she is the author of Everything Nobody Tells You About Your Body.
While most condoms are made of latex, which is biodegradable, polyurethane condoms are made up of plastic, which makes them non-biodegradable. Additionally, the core component of polyurethane is petroleum, a contributor to greenhouse gases.
Narendra adds, “There are a couple of problems with the biodegradable condoms or the natural condoms, if these are the lamb skin condoms. First, they are significantly more expensive than regular latex condoms and because they are naturally synthesised they also have pores in them. It can let the bacteria and viruses and fungi pass through. Sperm and STIs are microscopic entities.”
Vegan condoms as a solution to this problem are gaining attention of eco-sex warriors. Experts associate veganism in general with low emissions. Strict vegans themselves may not like the idea of vegan condoms because some of them use casein for processing, which has milk as its component. Bleu, a vegan brand, claims to be free from toxins and parabens. It uses sustainably sourced latex packed in biodegradable paper.
Lubricants, too, are under scanner for their environment unfriendliness. While some lubricants are water based, others are oil-based. Some are laced with chemicals as well and have glycerine, silicone or parabens as their ingredients. Petroleum-based extracts can lead to the release of greenhouse gases.
Indian brand That Sassy Thing offers natural water-based lubricants. The brand claims that they use extracts like aloe vera, flax seed, tea tree leaf extract and purified water. Sachee Malhotra, CEO and founder, That Sassy Thing, says, “Our lubricant is vegan and free of any petroleum derived ingredients – propylene glycol or glycerine. It is India’s first all-natural, plant-based water-based lubricant, which is infused with aloe-vera. It is non-toxic and water-soluble.”
She adds, “Being a water-based lube with only good for you ingredients such as aloe-vera, flax seed extract, tea tree extract and lemon extract, it is water soluble, washes off quickly and is better for the environment, compared to an oil-based or silicone-based lube.”
But sustainability comes at a cost for the brand and the consumer, too, and people don’t find their products easily available. “So that is the battle we are fighting,” explains Malhotra. “While there is some conversation around sustainable sexual wellness but can sustainable sex be a sustainable business model for brands? Not until you are highly funded and doing it at a huge scale.”
Similarly, candles may be mood enhancers, but these can also cause emissions. Experts point out that the wax candle is made from paraffin wax, a derivative of petroleum. A sustainable alternative to it is the soy candle. Mymuse, a company selling eco-friendly soy candles under its range Spark, says that it uses lead-free wicks that take time to burn and creates a chemical free aura. The packing is in a glass jar, which is reusable as well.
Using vegetables as a replacement for climate-unfriendly plastic sex toys is highly discouraged. Narendra says, “The reason why we don’t advise the use of vegetables, utensils and the likes is because they don’t have the correct shape, so you can injure yourself. They harbour bacteria and viruses because we don’t clean vegetables in a way we would clean a sex toy. When we are looking for a sex toy we always suggest looking for materials that are non-porous. So, vegetables and the like are not recommended.”
Eco-friendly sex products are not new to humankind. Eco-friendly alternatives have been in existence since historical times. In olden times before leaving for war, soldiers presented their wives an olisbokollix -- a substitute for a penis, which was made up of bread and sometimes dipped in olive oil for lubrication. Sailors themselves would do with a sex doll called Dame de Voyage made up of old clothes. History also speaks of Queen Cleopatra using a dried gourd filled with bees as a sex toy. The bees buzzing offered vibrations. Famous lover Giacomo Casanova reportedly ate dozens or more oysters to enhance his libido. And Kamasutra written by Vatsyayana speaks elaborately about natural aphrodisiacs like milk, saffron and garlic.
Condoms and SDGs
Conventional condoms contain chemicals, petroleum traces that release greenhouse gases, and chemicals that harm the health and the environment. To deal with these hazards, zero waste sex, vegan condoms, natural aphrodisiacs and water-soluble lubricants promise to contribute towards achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) like SDG 12 on Responsible Consumption and Production, SDG 13 on Climate Action, and SDG 14 on Life Below Water.
Vegan condoms and water based lubricants do not contain harmful chemicals and thereby contribute to the achievement of an indicator under SDG 12 dealing with sound management of chemicals and wastes throughout the life cycle, and significantly reducing their release into air, water and soil in order to minimise their adverse impacts on human health and the environment. Such products also impact positively another SDG 12 indicator requiring companies to ensure people have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature.
Avoidance of petroleum and glycerine in lubricants or condoms helps in realising an indicator under SDG 13 on climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions, climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning. Whether it is a biodegradable condom or packaging, it contributes to realisation of an indicator under SDG 14 dealing with prevention and reduction of marine pollution of all kinds.