This post is intended for mature audiences only. Reader discretion is advised.
Given the amount of energy I’ve put into removing plastic from the minutiae of my life, I suppose it was only a matter of time until I turned my focus to this subject.
A bit of history: I had a campus job in college at the student-run store, where I was honored to be the safe sex buyer. I kept our little store well stocked with condoms, dams, and other basic supplies so that my fellow students could find what they needed to protect themselves, whatever their desired gender combination(s) and activities. Everything I ordered was either made from plastic or wrapped in plastic or both.
And I am still perfectly OK with that. There are some places where plastic is life-saving, and I’d put these items in that category. In other words, I’m not going to suggest here that you skip condoms or other plastic goods when it comes to protecting yourself from STDs or taking control of your reproduction.
But I have learned a few things I didn’t know way back in college, things that will allow you to reduce the amount of plastic and landfill waste there is in your sex life. This is not meant to be a heteronormative list; there should be something for everyone here, along with birth control tips for those of us who need to think about:
- Lambskin condoms can be composted, and latex condoms and dams should also break down eventually (spermicides and other extra ingredients may slow the process). If you choose to use polyurethane condoms, or don’t feel like composting your lambskin or latex ones, please do not flush them; that’s how most of those on our beaches get there. For now, the best disposal option for polyurethane condoms is to send them out with your landfill trash.
- Copper IUDs offer low-plastic birth control to those who favor IUDs. See the comments below for more details courtesy of a Rock Farmer reader (thank you!).
- If you’re a fan of the Standard Days Method of birth control, you can make your own set of Cycle Beads using glass, wood, or other plastic-free beads. For a virtual option, check out their their internet version and app for your phone.
- Diaphragms are made from latex and should be compostable when they reach the end of their useful life.
- If you use birth control pills that come with a hard plastic case, How Can I Recycle This? has a list of great reuse options for you.
- Make your own personal lubricant using the water and flaxseed recipe from Umbra at Grist, and store it in a glass jar in your fridge. Since it’s water based, this one is safe to use with condoms.
- Use organic virgin coconut oil or olive oil as a personal lubricant. This is only an options for those who are not relying on latex condoms, diaphragms, or dams; there is evidence that oils such as these break latex down quickly, negating effectiveness. My vote is for coconut oil as it melts at body temperature, has a lovely, light taste and fragrance that doesn’t overwhelm anything else, and makes a perfect skin lotion that soaks in without feeling greasy. Both coconut and olive oil are available in glass jars, and can be used for all sorts of other things; the more your groceries multitask around your home, the less waste you’ll make.
- If you’re looking to spice things up, you can find toys made from natural materials such as glass, metal, stone, and leather that are biodegradable or closed-loop recyclable at the end of their functional lives. Babeland has a good selection and ships in packaging that is widely recyclable.
- If and when you have non-compostable toys to dispose of, send them to Scarlet Girl for recycling and you’ll get a $10 credit towards the purchase of something new – Keep their motto “Love yourself and the earth” in mind and choose your next toy wisely. All the details are here.
- Don’t forget naturally plastic-free and fun additions such as ice cubes, honey, fruits, and vegetables (all locally-grown and in season, of course). I’m not going to tell you what to do with these things, you’re on your own there. I take that back – If you truly want some guidance, put Juzo Itami’s film Tampopo in your home viewing queue.
In my book, one of the best things about pursuing a life less plastic is that it frees your mind from the corporate shackles of advertising and all of the products we’ve been told we need to buy and use and throw out so we can buy and use more. Surely sex deserves to be freed from this model of consumption. Become a person first, not a consumer, and put your creativity to the test.
What did I miss? Do you have a favorite plastic-free tip for good lovin’? Please do share!