By Jennifer Latkiewicz
You may reuse and recycle but is your birth control just as eco-friendly? Reduce your contraceptive carbon footprint with these green prophylactics that show you care for both your partner and the planet.
Getting it on is going greener. As the eco movement makes its way between our bedsheets, many of us have begun to examine the environmental impact of our birth control. The fear of landfills overflowing with used condoms and waterways polluted with synthetic hormones — it’s an ecological quandary that sparked a search for the greenest forms of contraception.
Of course, consult your physician first, but here are a few birth control alternatives for the sexually active and environmentally inclined that may be worth exploring:
Imagine the 437 million condoms that were sold in 2008 clogging up landfills all across the country. Not a pretty picture. Though most latex condoms should eventually biodegrade in landfills (not in waterways), chemical additives such as stabilizers, preservatives, and hardening agents that are found in some brands may inhibit the process. Natural condoms such as those made from lambskin are a greener option and equally as effective at preventing pregnancy, however, they do not protect against STDs.
And though they may not necessarily be more green, there are a few specialty brands of condoms are 100% vegan or Fair Trade. Glyde condoms are made with thistle extract instead of the animal-derived casein traditionally used in latex processing, and Sir Richard’s Condom Company uses only latex rubber that is harvested under Fair Trade conditions.
But whatever you choose, never flush a condom — not only can it wreck havoc on your plumbing, but it increases the chances of us finding it in our waterways. Seriously gross. (Instead, wrap it in tissue paper and throw in the garbage. )
2. The Pill
Hands down the least green option, the pill is also the most popular, with over 100 million women worldwide relying on it as their main birth control method. But the iconic contraceptive has recently come under scrutiny for its crimes against nature. Aside from the surplus of blister packs and other packaging waste, the pill has been blamed for contaminating wildlife and suburban water supplies after harmful synthetic hormones were inadvertently released into sewers through the urine of those taking birth control. (The jury’s still out.)
If you’re concerned about estrogen runoff, try progestin-only products. While estrogen-free, the effects of progestin on our wildlife have yet to be studied at length, but if administered as a one-time shot or three year implant, you’ll at least be cutting down on packaging waste.
3. Fertility Awareness Method (FAM)
The Fertility Awareness Method uses a variety of factors to track ovulation, and limits sex to naturally infertile periods when pregnancy is most unlikely. Latex and chemical-free, FAM is totally green and completely natural. You’ll have to chart your cycle carefully but according to Planned Parenthood, FAMs are just as effective as condoms, sponges and cervical caps in preventing pregnancy.
4. The Copper IUD
Less than 2 percent of women in the United States who use contraception rely on copper Intrauterine Devices (IUDs), but this small, T-shaped device is one of the greenest methods available. Inserted into the uterus by a physician, the hormone-free IUD are 99 percent effective and prevent pregnancy by thinning the uterine lining, lasting for up to 12 years.
Any form of birth control is inherently greener than using nothing at all. Even the most environmentally unsound method will have less of an ecological impact than bringing another (unintended) pair of carbon footprints into the world. According to a Oregon State University study, going childless is actually 20 times more effective in helping the environment than recycling, driving an energy-efficient car, or using compact fluorescent bulbs.
Going child-free for the sake of the environment isn’t for everyone but considering that 41% of pregnancies globally are unintended and that Earth’s population is expected to exceed nine billion by 2050, a condom and oral contraceptive may be the cost effective tools that will help curb global warming.
For more information about the different forms of birth control, visit PlannedParenthood.org.
Jennifer Latkiewicz is a Love/Sex blogger for LovingYou.com. Follow her on Twitter at @jenniferlat.