How to Have Sustainable Sex, By Yourself

Warning: This piece is totally NSFW.

There are a lot of sustainable practices you can jump head first into, like recycling or vintage shopping, but I wouldn’t lump sex into that group. Put plainly, please, don’t buy a wooden butt plug for your very first sex toy. Don’t be a hero. Instead, I’m here to walk you through the ins and outs of eco-friendly pleasure, for the beginner and beyond.

First, let’s talk about what (mostly) makes sex toys problematic: material and hardware. Standard dildos are made from flexible polyvinyl chloride, thermoplastic rubber, jelly, and more. This is a go-to choice for manufacturers because of cost, but also, because these materials produce a more realistic toy. And while your silicone dildo might be soft and easy to clean, understand that they can’t be traditionally recycled. I know because I called my local recycling plant one morning and had a short conversation with a sweet attendant who asked me to please not chuck my dildo in the recycling. Noted.

While cheap, modern vibrators last longer than any of their predecessors, if you’ve ever carelessly added a $10 bullet vibe at checkout, you know where this argument is going already. Even the most expensive vibrators bite the dust at some point, and that cheaply made hardware — manufactured by whom and where, who knows — will likely haunt a landfill, leaching chemicals along with its chrome brothers and sisters.

Though there are a few recycling programs that exist — which I’ll get into later — as is the case in the recycling of anything, sex toys are definitely something you should try to “get right” from the start, because nothing is guaranteed — even if you put something in a recycling bin, it might never be recycled and turned into something new.

IF YOU’RE A BEGINNER…

It’s cliched, but the most sustainable toy you have at your disposal is your hands. Invest in toy-free exploration first because once you advance beyond soft jellies and silicones, the learning curve can be uncomfortable. Just remember that the point of sex toys isn’t to mimic real-life sex with a partner. Once you get rid of that notion and accept that these tools are meant for you to explore the depths of your own personal pleasure, then you can venture into a world beyond floppy flesh-toned dildos. In the interim, I suggest you pick up a vibe.

 Crocodile Clamps, $20

Crocodile Clamps, $20

There’s a solar powered bullet, that will give you a whole hour of pleasure until it needs to be placed in direct sunlight. Or, if you’re camping or your bed is next to your window, you might never need to recharge. If you’re looking for a penetrative toy, the Gaia Eco is affordable and made from biodegradable bioplastic. It’s also a really un-intimidating toy, measuring in at 5.75” insertable and only 1” in diameter. If you want  something to spice up digital solo-play, try these stainless steel cock rings or adjustable nipple clamps. Word to the wise, the more sustainable option of the two (Japanese Steel Clover Clamps) is not adjustable and definitely not for beginners. Use your own discretion, and take care of them — they’re both pretty durable!

Last but not least, invest in some palm oil- and cruelty-free lubricant. It’s an absolute myth that being turned on should be enough, especially when you’re venturing into play that supersedes the natural world, like a bioplastic wand.

IF YOU’RE NOT…

 Rose Quartz Plug, $145

Rose Quartz Plug, $145

Ok, so you’re a pro and you know exactly what you want / need in the bedroom. For penetrative play, you could go the boujee route with either a rose quartz or moonstone dildo, both of which I recommend for longer play sessions. Less friction and a cooling sensation means no chafing. And honestly, who can resist a product as aptly named as the Chakrub. Though it is important to question the providence of your stone, these toys do win out for their incredible longevity. If you’re looking for the same sensation but with a little more allure, invest in a well-made glass dildo or plug. These toys come in a myriad of designs, all of which seem to harken Sailor Moon wands, which is a plus in my book. A warning, though: remember that they are easier to break than stone.

In the same vein, wooden dildos are a good option, as they can be made from completely salvaged material. Some benefits include a lightweight feel, woodgrain texture, and better design choices. But they’re not for everyone and you really have to know your stuff to use one, in my humble opinion. For example, not all finishes are created equal. Avoid “natural” finishes, mineral oiled toys, and be sure to purchase a toy that is well-sealed to maintain hygiene. How do you know if you got a good toy or not? Submerge it in water for a few minutes— if the coating changes texture or budges at all, you have a dud. But don’t be too intimidated, when well-cared for (like most toys, really) they can last decades.

 The Womanizer Deluxe, $219

The Womanizer Deluxe, $219

Last, but not least, there are pricey rechargeable vibes. Why are these in the experienced section? Primarily because of their cost and also because of their exclusionary construction. For example, the USB rechargeable Eva is meant to be tucked under the labia, and I find that a lot of these expensive toys (like the Womanizer — points lost for name) have a similar gist, meaning you might have to be well-versed in toys to use them against design without frustration. Unfortunately, even in the two and three hundred dollar tier, these vibes just aren’t very sustainable and only prolong the inevitable: all hardware breaks eventually. So, definitely choose this as a final option if you can’t resist.

RECYCLING?

Still holding onto a busted vibe or lackluster dildo? The options are dismal, unfortunately, but if you live in North America, you can send your silicone toys and vibrators to Canada’s Come As You Are. Unfortunately, Portland’s Scarlet Girl discontinued their recycling program two years ago. If you live in the UK, you can send your toys to Lovehoney but note that dildos are not accepted.

Stay tuned for other installments of this series, where we’ll talk about sustainable LGBTQ focused items and couple-centric toys, too. Got a request or a question? Say hi here or here.