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A Guide to Sex Toys That Don't Totally Ruin the Planet

I put the best eco-friendly sex toys to the test, from solar-powered vibrators and low-airmile wands to, erm, a giant wooden dildo.

by Helen Meriel Thomas
15 August 2019, 8:30am

The author (left) and a collection of eco-friendly sex toys. All photos by Chelsea White. 

There is nothing like ecological breakdown to kill a boner. Famine, flooding, wildfire and drought are just a selection of the delights that await us if global warming is not kept below 1.5 degrees Celsius. As I’m sure David Attenborough would agree, fucking will also become a challenge once we’re fleeing drowned and scorched cities, without a single honey bee to save us. Not to mention that, in cases where said shagging leads to a newborn, you're automatically responsible for almost 60 extra tonnes of CO2 emissions a year. So, the best thing might be … fucking yourself.

Unfortunately, by 2016, the world was producing 44.7 million metric tonnes of electronic waste, only 20 percent of which was recycled through appropriate channels. In addition, toys made with plastic are produced from petroleum and have a recycling path thwarted with difficulty. Sex toys made out of jelly rubber, meanwhile, often contain phthalates, which have been found to have a toxic impact on aquatic environments, causing long-term adverse affects on the ecosystem.

Then there are the batteries. Using packet after packet of disposable AAAs so you can rock your socks off thinking about that Fleabag “kneel” scene might not be the wisest decision for the planet. In July, a life-sized elephant made of 30,000 used batteries popped up in a London zoo to represent the number of tonnes that end up in landfill each year, due to the UK’s poor battery recycling efforts.

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And the top reason why sex toys aren’t great for the environment? You can’t exactly get them second hand. They all have to be created, packaged and transported from scratch.

Needless to say, the most ethical sex toys are attached to us, and are commonly referred to as ‘hands.’ But they do not suit everyone. Developing a strong hand masturbation technique can take years, and overusing vibrators (I’d definitely never do that lol) can make it hard to go back to the most trusted sex aide of all: ourselves. And those about to slide into my DMs saying, “Go to the vegetable aisle,” yes, I did look into this. But apparently you have to put a condom over a courgette before you stick it up your fanny, which seems like a waste of a single-use condom, and a perfectly good vegetable.

So, drenched in climate anxiety but also a little horny, I dove deep into sustainable masturbation, finding some of the best eco-friendly sex toys out there. After stringent testing, I awarded each toy a green eggplant emoji rating out of five, taking into account both eco-friendliness and orgasm efficiency.

THE ECO-FRIENDLY VIBRATOR

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The Vitality vibrator, made by eco-friendly sex toy company Leaf+.

My journey began with Leaf+, who won the 2015 ‘Best Eco-Friendly Sex Toy’ title at the Sex Expo awards in Los Angeles. The company offers a range of rechargeable, silicone, handheld vibrators inspired by nature’s own shapes, which is how I ended up spending my Sunday masturbating with a toy that looked like an Oddish Pokemon.

The Leaf+ Vitality vibrator was pretty powerful for a little thing, and featured a motor in both ‘leaves’ for internal and external buzz. It was also fun to be using something that didn’t look like a dick for a change.

But beyond the nature-inspired mould, the recycled paper packaging (the outside of which, and everything inside it, was wrapped in plastic), and a slightly longer run time, I could see little difference between the Vitality+ vibrator and the toy I usually keep under my pillow – the super-powerful FemmeFun Diamond wand, which is also rechargeable and made of silicone. Lelo, WeVibe and countless other sex toy brands also produce silicone, rechargeable sex toys. Unfortunately, though the Leaf+ Vitality was a good vibrator, it did seem to be cashing in by ‘greenwashing’, that is, claiming to be an eco-friendly alternative while doing nothing particularly out of the ordinary against their competitors. So: good, but probably not too different to something you’ve already got, if you take your masturbation practice seriously.

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THE SUSTAINABLE WOODEN DILDO

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The NobEssence Intrigue dildo, made from hand-sculpted wood.

The wooden sex toys I tried came from a company called, rather unfortunately, NobEssence, who use non-endangered hardwoods to make their products. They’re hand-sculpted, biodegradable, compostable, organic, renewable, and coated in a biocompatible (?), hypoallergenic vegan seal to prevent splinters or roughness, and make them totally safe to wash with warm water and toy cleaner. I’m exhausted.

I tried two models, the ‘Romp’ butt plug, and the ‘Intrigue’ dildo. To be completely honest with you, reader, I’ve not put many things in my bum over the years. But I’m so delighted that the Romp – something that looks like it came from a primary school percussion cupboard – was one of the first. Like a real A* dick, the wood was smooth and beautifully sculpted. Unlike a real A* dick, it was much easier to insert and remove.

The Intrigue was another pleasant surprise. I’m generally quite sceptical of toys and dildos with no vibration or electronic element. I mean, that’s a lot of multitasking if you’re going to fuck yourself with a fake knob and rub your clit at the same time. But the beauty of the Intrigue is that its curved shape includes the perfect little bump to roll against all the important parts, while still having a fun insertable. It would take a while, but you could definitely make yourself cum from this. Unfortunately, I still had plenty of masturbating to do and little time to get it done, so on to the next.

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THE RECYCLABLE GLASS DILDO

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The Bondara Cupid's Arrow Dildo.

Glass is a wonderful sex toy material because it’s fully recyclable and simple to process, which is what drew me to the ‘Cupid’s Arrow Dildo’ from Bondara. A lot of people are understandably squeamish about sticking glass where the sun don’t shine. But in reality, reputable glass dildos are solid, virtually unbreakable and ridiculously easy to clean. They will not shatter up there. They’re also quite lush to look at, and there’s nothing like a pale pink heart poking out the end of your pussy to make you feel like a fairy princess.

Unfortunately, simple penetration in either end isn’t a huge turn-on for me, and a glass dildo is all about manual labour. Plus, there’s nothing to stimulate your clit, and they’re quite heavy for rapid in-out motion. But if it’s a choice between this and a ‘realistic’ seven-inch veined motherfucker made of PVC, well, it’s not a very difficult decision IMO. However, the Cupid's Arrow Dildo doesn’t work brilliantly in isolation, and is more like a sweet accessory than an “OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD” stimulator.

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THE SOLAR-POWERED BULLET

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The Solar Bullet (bottom right).

Ever been on a camping trip, felt horny in the middle of the wood, and wanted to go at it with yourself right then and there? But, oh no! The batteries in your vibrator are gone and there’s no mains plug in the Forest of Dean! Sounds like you need one of these bad boys: the Solar Bullet, a solar-powered vibrator that only requires eight hours of sunlight to charge.

The bullet, which looks like a silver laser pen and even has an LED light on the end, is attached by a power chord to a black solar panel square, which kind of just has to chill by your side while you go to town with the toy, and has a function to change vibration strength. Amazingly, the bullet can reach a pretty powerful speed with a full battery.

Unfortunately, it is also very loud for its size, and the plastic-y rattle of the machine is not particularly sexy. There’s also a line break on the outside plating that looks like it could trap bacteria pretty easily. The toy can’t be immersed in water either, which could make cleaning a little tricky if you don’t want to use wet wipes (which are terrible for the environment, btw). I don’t even want to talk about how weird it is to have a light on the end of the bullet you’re putting on your clit, as if you’re about to be attacked with a speculum in a doctor’s office.

That said, this is a really fun novelty sex toy, and one I could imagine giving to my eco-warrior friends on a hen do. It’s also important not to downplay the impact of having a product that gets us talking about solar energy and its potential. When you can see the power of one tiny square panel buzzing away in your hand, it’s easy to be convinced that we should be putting them up everywhere.

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THE LOW-AIRMILE WAND

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The Doxy Die Cast vibrator is made in Cornwall.

Occasionally, you meet someone so beautiful that you immediately lose interest in everyone else. You envisage a future all within the first five minutes of meeting them and think, “You will ruin my life.” So I felt upon first meeting the Doxy Die Cast, a magic wand vibrator 30 percent more powerful than the popular Hitachi Magic Wand. For the record, I’m fully in love. I’m ready to drop onto one knee. I’m considering referring to to it as "this one" in an Insta caption. Of course, I may simply be biased because, to quote my housemate who has had to listen to an ungodly level of buzz all weekend, “that thing could give a corpse an orgasm.”

But why is the Doxy Die Cast included in this list of eco-friendly sex toys? With the exception of Bondara’s glass dildo, everything else had to be shipped from the US, carrying a lot of air miles. My new boyfriend, however, comes from the Doxy factory in Cornwall, the only vibrator manufacturer in the UK. Maybe the draining yuppies on Broadway Market are onto something – it’s never been hotter to shop local.

The materials are also in its favour for eco-friendly-ness. The aluminium/titanium alloy body poses a low risk to the environment in terms of toxicity, and will be easy to recycle for parts when it comes to the end of its life. Likewise, the silicone head is body safe, non-porous, easy to clean and safer for the environment than plastic or rubber alternatives. As a mains-operated toy there’s no battery to charge, or dispose of, or run down. Crucially, this product is so powerful, and makes me cum so hard and fast, that I can easily deal with my horniness and move onto the next green living task at hand, whether that be meal-prepping vegan meals in a metal tiffin box or booking trains across Europe now that flying is cancelled.

Like the solar bullet though, this isn’t a toy you can bring into the shower or submerge in a bathtub to clean – you’ll need a soft cloth with toy cleaner or disinfectant spray. It’s also very heavy, so holding it for too long could be a challenge. But given how effective this thing is at making you feel like your entire life of crap sex just flashed before your eyes when you orgasm after about 30 seconds, there’s little danger of a wrist cramp.

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THE VERDICT

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There are a number of ways to make your orgasms less passionate red, and more XR green. The most important things to remember are to go after sustainable and body-safe materials like silicone, wood and glass; opt for rechargeable toys (or solar-powered ones!); and dear god, recycle them properly when you’re done, through schemes like the Lovehoney Rabbit Amnesty or on the Ann Summers website. Or, you know, use your hands.

@iamhelenthomas / @chelzzz__