Meet the students pushing for ‘Sustainable Sex’

Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition/Unsplash

In response to the worldwide demand to reduce carbon emissions and plastic waste, a group of University of Exeter students has begun to campaign for greater sustainability in an area of life that some may not have considered to be a threat to the environment: sex.

“The whole of the UK is looking to be greener about transport and food, and the sex industry is too, but it’s a bit of a taboo subject so no-one really wants to talk about it”, said Matilda Money-Kyrle, one of the five team members of Sustainable Sex, an Instagram page dedicated to promoting eco-friendly sex products. 

The team’s mission statement elaborates on aims to promote sex products, “from vegan lube, to recyclable wrappers on condoms, and even sustainable sex toys”, in order to reduce the plastic waste and carbon emissions generated by the sex industry.

By communicating through their Instagram page, and campaigning for Exeter and Falmouth to swap the brand of condoms that they give away to students, the group aims to change the way we think about the impact of intimacy on the planet’s health.

The majority of condoms are made with latex, which, according to Sustainable Sex, can last for 1,000 years in landfill or equally as long in the ocean if they are flushed down the toilet. Meanwhile, lubricant used for sex is made with petroleum or silicone, which does not break down when disposed of. Even the packaging for sex products such as condoms contains unneccessary amounts of single-use plastics. 

Emissions caused by transport are another issue with many sex products. Jack Morris, another member of the team, said: “When you look at the network of different countries that produce and then make and then sell these different items, like lube for example, it goes from somewhere like Thailand to then somewhere like India to somewhere like Spain and then to somewhere like the UK. That’s a hell of a lot of flying.”

But what are the alternatives? Brands such as Hanx, Glyde, and Sustain offer more eco-friendly sex products that are biodegradable, vegan, and better for the planet. However, these products are frequently more expensive. On Amazon, a 12-pack of Durex condoms is only £6.49, compared to £12.28 for 10 of Glyde’s vegan condoms. Meanwhile, Hanx’s water-based lube is £14.99 from Holland and Barrett, while Durex lube from Amazon costs £8.99.

This has not deterred the Sustainable Sex team to continue their campaign for biodegradable condoms to be provided on campus. “[Exeter and Falmouth] spends all this money to be extra sustainable in other areas—this is such a small one that the budget really wouldn’t be much more”, argues Matilda.

Furthermore, despite the potential financial barrier, she suggests that if more people who can afford the extra cost buy sustainable sex items, this could encourage larger brands to change the way in which they produce their products and drive down prices: “If more people start buying Glyde, Sustain, Hanx condoms, then Durex is going clock onto that.”

The Sustainable Sex page has amassed over 200 followers and can be found here.