Ecofriendly Sex: Your Guide to Green Foreplay

Ecofriendly sex keeps your carbon footprint low, without bringing unhealthy chemicals into your body.

June 9, 2009
couple bed hearts

You’ve considered a plug-in hybrid, but what about a plug-in vibrator? Across the country, more and more people are paying attention to their environmental footprint and questioning the use of chemicals that can wreak havoc on our bodies. That interest in personal meets environmental health is starting to sneak into the bedroom, too. And with good reason. After all, sex is about as natural as you can get…why taint it with toxins?

If your grocery list is green, but you’re not quite sure how to introduce healthier/eco-options to your quest for pleasure, let our guide to greener foreplay bring a whole new meaning to safer sex. We talked to sex researcher-educator-columnist extraordinaire Debby Herbenick, PhD, MPH, research scientist and associate director of The Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana State University, to find the best ways to spice up your sex life while keeping the health of your body and planet in mind.


Share a shower (or better yet, a bath). You just got back from a 4-mile run at the park, and your smelly body isn’t exactly a turn on. Hitting the tub together can change all of that. “Some people like to shower before sex, especially if they’ve just been exercising,” says Herbenick. “Showering or taking a bath together saves water, and it’s really fun. It feels different to have someone else wash your body, and it’s a great time for kissing and making out.” Just don’t make it a marathon, or you’ll defeat the water-saving advantage of a two-for-one washing. Clean and caress each other with unscented castile soap, or ones scented with 100 percent organic essential oils (like Dr. Bronner's Magic Pure Castile Soap in tingle-inducing Hemp-Peppermint), and then turn off the faucet and take it to the bedroom. Or the living room. Or the kitchen counter.

Mix it up. Instead of buying packaged, processed body paint or edible underwear that tastes like cardboard, not cherries, whip up a yummy potion and let your hungry partner eat it from your body. (Just remember, ladies should keep it away from their genitals—that can lead to yeast infections and other problems.) Herbenick suggests mixing confectionars’ sugar and water into a paste and adding a little finely ground lavender, often found in the bulk food section in natural food stores. If lavender’s not your thing, mix in a little vanilla for tasty body candy.

Don’t rush. The most natural lubricant is the kind a woman’s body makes on its own. If a typical 30-second commercial outlasts the time you spend on foreplay, you may not really need store-bought lubricant. A few more minutes of kissing/licking/touching could do the trick. That said, it’s not a bad idea to stash some lubricant in your nightstand in case you need it. There are organic versions on the market, and Herbenick suggests products by Good Clean Love Almost Naked Lubricant. As a general rule of thumb, stay away from anything with “fragrance” or artificial flavors on the label. Environmental Working Group rates K-Y Intrigue Premium Personal Lubricant among the safest types on the market.

Go for natural candlelight. “People like to see each other a little bit. When you’re having sex in total darkness and can’t see each other, it doesn’t allow sex to be as pleasurable,” Herbenick explains. Enter candlelight: naked bodies tend to look much better in its soft, warm glow. This little bit of light can heighten arousal because you can actually see what your partner likes. The problem is, most candles on the market are petroleum-based and scented with fake fragrances that often contain chemicals linked to allergies, asthma, hormone disruption, and even cancer. Don’t pollute your sex life or indoor air with toxic candlesticks. Instead, turn to natural beeswax candles or ones made with soy and scented with 100 percent pure essential oils.


Choose organic food for foreplay. While Herbenick says there’s not much scientific data on the concept that certain foods increase sex drive, some foods can still make you feel sexy or seductive, and that could be linked to smells and tastes that have turned you on the past. Whether it’s chocolate, strawberries, figs, or wine that gets you going, always try to pick the organic version. About 180 chemicals used in pesticides in chemical farming can send our hormones into a tizzy and lead to all sorts of health problems. Researchers have connected these chemicals to diabetes, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and developmental problems.

Find better vibrations. Sometimes having each other just isn’t enough. If you’re looking to boost foreplay with a vibrating friend, don’t just pick any old vibrator off the shelf. Studies have found high levels of phthalates, chemicals that make plastic flexible, in certain sex toys. Herbenick says the sex toy industry has really responded in the last few years, coming out with much safer products made of silicone, not PVC plastic. Look for ones made in North American or Europe because it’s generally easier to find out what they’re made of. When you find one your like, make sure it’s made of not just silicone, but medical or high-grade silicone, like the We Vibe. If you’d like to take your sex-toy purchase to the ultimate eco-level, Herbenick suggests the SaSi rechargeable vibrator. Dead batteries will never put your passion on hold again (and you won’t add them to the landfills)!


If you’d rather not goose your G-spot with an electronic device, a glass dildo might be right up your alley. “They’re more like Pyrex, and people love them,” says Herbenick. “They’re easy to clean, which is nice.” You may want to try a glass vibrator, too. (Yes, there is such a thing!)

Don’t discount a good old-fashioned kiss. Sex toys are a staple for some, but they’re not a necessity. If you’d rather not stimulate with a foreign object, look to your lover’s lips for a dose of oxytocin, known as the love hormone. Kissing can melt away tension, which paves the road for better sex. While locking lips can turn on both men and women, it especially turns women on. To prime your mouth for making out, pick safer toothpaste. Tom's of Maine Fluoride-free Natural Toothpaste with Propolis and Myrrh rates pretty high (that is, low in hazardous ingredients) on the Environmental Working Group safety database.

And for the uber-ecoconscious toothbrusher, use a Radius toothbrush made of recycled materials, including dollar bills! And ladies, skip the lipstick—many popular brands contain lead and other harmful chemicals.