Look out, petroleum jelly. Getting it on is getting greener
adult shops, and the new-car smell is undeniable. Salespeople tout motor speed
and durability. And then there are emissions to consider.
That’s carbon emissions, of course. As the green movement makes its way into the
bedroom, low lighting is a must–to conserve electricity–but so are vegan
condoms, organic lubricants and hand-cranked vibrators.
Another big enviro-sex trend: birth control that’s au naturel. Like all good
Catholics, my husband and I had to attend church-run marriage prep before we
tied the knot last year. I was surprised, however, during the hard sell on
natural family-planning (NFP), that this updated version of the rhythm method
was being advertised not only as morally correct but also as “organic” and
“green.” I was even more surprised when I found out that some of the most
popular instructors of NFP–known in secular circles as the Fertility Awareness
Method–are non-Catholics who praise it as a means of avoiding both ingesting
chemicals and excreting them into rivers and streams.
Nikki Walker, 35, an actress in New York City, stopped taking the Pill because
of concerns about the effects of excess estrogen on her body and the
environment. “I do yoga every day and eat vegetarian,” she says. “Why wouldn’t I
go green in this area of my life?”
Walker recently attended her first Tupperware-style pleasure party, thrown by
Oregon-based Earth Erotics, where the goods for sale included organic massage
oils and whips made of recycled inner tubes. At a time when Americans are just
getting used to prime-time ads for Trojan and K-Y, eco-consumers are learning
that most of the personal lubricants in the U.S.–drugstores sold $82 million
worth of them last year–contain chemicals found in oven cleaner and antifreeze.
“Our taboos prevent us from having the same consumer-safety conversations that
are commonplace when you’re making a toothbrush, sneaker or baby bottle,” says
Ethan Imboden, founder of Jimmyjane, a luxury adult-toy maker based in San
Francisco. This bashfulness is not helped by the fact that the adult-novelty
industry is largely unregulated. “Manufacturers can use whatever they want,”
says Imboden. “And they do.”
Case in point: that new-car smell. It may connote nice and clean, but the odor
comes from phthalates, which are used to soften plastics in many products,
including some sex toys. Like bisphenol A, these compounds are endocrine
inhibitors that some studies have linked to premature puberty in girls and low
sperm production in boys. Europe and California have already banned certain
The search for phthalate-free alternatives helps explain the increase in sales
of sex toys made of such materials as stainless steel, mahogany–yes, you read
that correctly–and glass. Babeland, a sex shop with locations in Seattle and
New York City, saw sales of a stainless-steel toy triple from 2007 to 2008.
Sales of glass models rose 85% in the same period. Says Babeland co-founder
Claire Cavanah: “People want high-quality, renewable materials that they know
will last.” (And in the case of Pyrex toys, that they know can be safely warmed
in the microwave.)
Babeland sells four times as much of its Naked organic lubricant as it does of a
national synthetic brand. “It just goes to show that if they have choices,
customers pick more eco-friendly and natural options,” Cavanah says.
The Roman Catholic Church is catching on to the organic trend. “People pay $32
for eye cream because they’re told it is good for them and the planet,” says
Jessica Marie Smith, who repackaged the NFP program at the diocese of Madison,
Wis. “We figured we could do the same with NFP.”
NFP detects ovulation by monitoring a woman’s temperature and the amount of
cervical mucus. But this process is not 100% accurate. And several studies on
climate change note that the best way to protect the planet is to have fewer
children. “Around the world, more than 40% of pregnancies are unintended, and
full access to birth control is still unmet,” says Jim Daniels, Trojan’s vice
president for marketing. “Meeting that unmet need would translate into billions
of tons of carbon dioxide saved.”
To that end, Trojan makes latex condoms as well as ones made of biodegradable
lambskin. Other brands offer a vegan variety that replaces the dairy protein in
latex condoms with cocoa powder. And no, they don’t all taste like chocolate.
See the effects of climate change.