Can you be green and enjoy your sex toys, too?

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So you want to be more green. You want to lessen your impact on our planet and choose products that contribute to this goal. You've heard all about how to "go green" with your car, your home, your food choices...but now you're wondering, what about pleasure toys? How can you reduce your carbon footprint while pursuing pleasure? How do you find products that are fun for you AND good for the earth?

The question is simple enough, but the answer can be a bit complicated. The only truly green sex toy would be an organically grown zucchini plucked from your own garden, or perhaps Cleopatra’s famed box of buzzing bees. For those who don’t want to limit themselves to produce, there are many factors to consider when determining how green a particular product is. Not only that, but it’s also important to choose something that you’ll enjoy using, and that item won’t necessarily be green. The factors that make an item green and those that make it pleasurable do not always go hand in hand, so making the best decision for both yourself and our planet can be a challenge. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible—it just means that you’ll need to make an informed, conscious decision based on your priorities.

Imagine that there’s a continuum of what’s “most green” to “least green”, and a second continuum of what’s “most pleasurable” to “least pleasurable.” Figure out where on each continuum you’d like your choices to be, and then which products overlap both.

If you want more help choosing toys based on your pleasure needs and desires, we have lots of information on our website. That aside, let’s talk about the environmental impact of the different options. These guidelines are not meant to be definitive, but rather to get you thinking about the choices you can make. Here are some questions you’ll want to consider:

  • What is it made of? Are the materials toxic or non-toxic? Do they come from a renewable resource?
  • How much energy does it take to produce it? How much energy does it take to get it to the consumer?
  • How much energy does it take to use it? How much waste does it produce (for example, batteries)?
  • How long will it last? How will it be disposed of—can it be recycled?
  • Are there any similar, alternative products that would use less energy, or is this the only option?

Based on those questions, here are some general guidelines about different toy materials:

  • Wood is a renewable and biodegradable resource, and takes the least amount of energy to produce (although cutting down trees can cause environmental problems). It will generally last a very long time. Wood dildos and paddles can even be made from scrap wood by local artists, which doesn’t require any trees to be cut down and uses less energy to transport it to you.
  • Glass and ceramic materials require the mining of elemental materials, some of which are renewable and some of which are not. The main ingredient, silica, is very abundant in the Earth’s crust. Both glass and ceramic will last a long time, and both are inert (they will not leach chemicals into the ground). Glass and ceramic dildos could be make by a local artist, thereby cutting down on transportation energy. Glass toys can be repaired by a local artist, as well. Most glass toys are not recyclable because they are made from borosilicate glass. However, they can be repaired by some glass artists.
  • Steel and aluminum also involve the mining of elemental materials and a fair amount of energy to produce, but are usually recyclable. Both of these metals are inert, and so won’t leach chemicals if they end up in a landfill.
  • Silicone is made in a chemical process from the plentiful element silicon (the same element that, in slightly different form, makes glass and ceramic). Higher quality silicone toys, when taken care of properly, will last almost as long as glass and steel. Although not recyclable, silicone is inert, and will not leach chemicals into the ground.
  • Plastic takes a lot of energy to produce, and only some types are recyclable. Plastic toys are generally inexpensive, but usually not built to last, and so may end up in a landfill sooner than other products. Plastic is not inert and can leach chemicals into the ground. Although some companies claim to recycle plastic toys like the famed Rabbit Pearl, there is scant evidence to back up this claim, making it more of a green-washing gimmick than anything useful.
  • Latex is a renewable resource and is even biodegradable. Latex rubber takes some energy to produce, and since rubber trees are concentrated in the tropics, it take energy to get it to consumers living outside of these areas.

Is Vegan also "green"?

If you’re vegan, you’ll prioritize choosing animal-free products as much as possible. Although vegan products are not always green (and vice-versa), these priorities do dovetail nicely. Most vegans make their choices based both on an argument about animal rights as well as an argument about the vast inefficiency and waste of resources that goes into raising animals for consumer products. If you want to choose completely animal-free products that are also the most green, you may have to work a little harder than if you were just looking to choose one or the other—but this can be worthwhile if these are your goals.

Here are some general guidelines about how toys use energy:

  • Non-motorized toys require no energy to use.
    Solar-powered or crank-powered toys, though rare, use green (non-fossil fuel) energy.
  • Rechargeable toys require electricity to charge them for use. Plug-in toys require electricity to use. Generally speaking, these toys are longer lasting than battery-operated toys, so not only are you producing less waste, you have a product that will last longer before needing to be disposed of.
  • There are even some new toys that can be charged by USB on your computer, like the Crave Duet. If your computer will be on and running anyway, using some of that energy to charge your toy is greener than charging it on the wall.
  • Battery-operated toys require you to go through new batteries pretty frequently, and so are the least green option in terms of energy use. Plus, most battery-operated toys are not as well-made as other toys described above, so you’re more likely to have a product that will end up in a landfill sooner. Rechargeable batteries are an option, but they're more likely to wear down your toy (unless you're vigilant about changing out batteries), meaning you'll probably have to replace the toy sooner, anyway.

Hopefully these guidelines can help you figure out how to balance the desire for something pleasurable with the need for something green. Just as there is no completely “safe” sex (besides sex with yourself), there is no completely “green” sex toy (besides that organic zucchini you grew). There is, however, a continuum of “green-ness” and things you can do to minimize your impact on our planet through your choices. Overall, those of us living in America tend to have a pretty high impact on our planet, and there are lots of choices we can make to lessen that impact. Compared to how often you drive a car, your decision about, say, which vibrator to buy will not have nearly the same amount of impact. We recommend keeping your pleasure decisions in perspective with the other choices you make, and stay as informed as you’d like to be about what is available. Plus, pleasure is a worthwhile goal in itself, and by giving yourself more pleasure, you may become inspired to go out and make the world a better place!