CLIMAX CHANGE: How the sex industry is going green amid Covid-19

By Rebecca Cook
May 5 2020, 07.25

While Covid-19 has many businesses on their knees, the sex industry is booming.

Ann Summers reported a 27% bump in sex toy sales in the last week of March with the ‘Whisper Rabbit’, marketed as their quietest vibrator, the fastest to fly off the virtual shelves.

Upmarket Swedish sex toy company Lelo recorded a 40% bump in toy purchases and online pharmacy UK Meds revealed a hike in Viagra sales.

The tedium of lockdown for many who are no longer commuting or working could be credited to the jump in sex toy demand.

However, the implications of this stretch beyond just another lockdown oddity. Condoms, sex toys and lubricants all contribute an estimated 222.9 million tonnes of waste annually in the UK alone.

In pre-pandemic times, climate change was the global fear at the front of many minds with its effects reaching into most aspects of our lives. It seems our sex lives should be no exception and this eco shake-up is storming the sex industry. 

This is spearheaded by a number of conscientious outfits that have embedded sustainability into their business model.

Every year an estimated nine billion condoms are sold globally. They take years to decompose and so most end up in landfill or are flushed down the toilet to become trapped in a turtle’s mouth. Yet, as the only effective protection against STIs, it is impossible to eradicate this single-use plastic.

While many condom customers may focus on the features, fit or flavour of their prophylactic of choice, for the eco-aware the ingredients are most pertinent. 

Glyde has been producing natural rubber and thistle extract condoms for decades. Spokesperson Sophie Fiebig said: “Customers are beginning to think about the purchase of contraceptives and erotic articles as they think about clothes or food: is it safe for my body? What are the impacts on the environment?”

Polyurethane or polyisoprene are non-biodegradable alternatives for those with latex allergies, while options such as lambskin will biodegrade but don’t offer protection against STIs or vegan choices.

Kamini Sharma is co-owner of vegan and body-safe brand Lovability. Lovability boasts products like ‘Hallelubeyah’ personal lubricant or ‘Moregasm Mist’ body spray. The ‘WaterSlyde’ is of particular note – a bath-based faucet attachment that directs the water flow to its desired location, ending the delicate art of bathtub acrobatics.

Ms Sharma said: “Our customers are millenials or generation Z, so they’ve already adopted an eco-conscious lifestyle and are demanding it from their brands, and that extends to their sex life.”

Sex toys are another environmental nightmare. Comprising plastic, silicone, electronic parts and batteries, they don’t biodegrade and cannot be easily recycled. However, nearly half of women in the UK own or have owned one.

The world’s first recyclable and biodegradable vibrator, the Gaia Eco, is available for the modest sum of £14.99.

Sex-toy reviewer and erotic fiction author Elia Winters has amassed a dizzying sustainable sex toy collection, including those made of ceramic, porcelain, steel, glass and wood, as well as a collector’s item stone dildo that is no longer in production.

Asked to compare toys made of sustainable materials to traditional silicone models, Elia said: “It’s a slightly different experience because texturally it doesn’t have that give. It just means you use them differently.”

Sustainable sex can even extend from green bedroom gear to the choice of a like-minded environmentally-conscious partner.

Jill Crosby is the owner of Green Singles, a themed dating site for environmentalists. They have matched thousands of eco-conscious love-seekers over the past two decades.

Ms Crosby noted: “Our women members are often more interested in the size of a man’s carbon footprint than the size of his wallet, and men can be turned on by how she turns off the water while shaving her legs.”

Ms Crosby suggests substituting petroleum-based lubricants with natural alternatives such as raw, organic coconut oil.

Such recommendations touch on the tenants of the fully-fledged sexual identity of ecosexuality. The ecosexual ‘manifesto’, created by activists Elizabeth Stephens and Annie Sprinkle proclaims ‘Earth is our lover’ and ‘we make love with the Earth. We celebrate our E-spots. We are very dirty.’

The increasingly popular movement advocates sex with Mother Nature will save the planet.

Ms Crosby elaborated: “Getting creative with fruit and vegetables is much eco-friendlier than using toys that were unsustainably manufactured overseas and shipped thousands of miles.”

Cucumber dildos and flora fornication is not everyone’s inclination, but eco-aware innovation now means our consumer conscience can be sated just as easily as our sex drive.

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