Zero Waste Sex

Let’s talk about sex.

I have never written about sex before on Trash is for Tossers because it is one of those subjects that people get all weird about which is funny because one of the first questions people ask me is “how do you have sex if you live a Zero Waste life?” A question that I have shamefully, but successfully, ignored for a while now because I didn’t want to divulge my entire sex life on the internet, but whatever, I talk about everything else, why not sex?

The truth is I am a single and ready to mingle 23 year old girl living in Brooklyn. Long story short, I have sex. But…. I do not have Zero Waste sex. When I sleep with someone, it produces waste. Why? Because I use protection.

(((#^!^^#@ BOOM!!!!*@%#^&*))) That was the world exploding.

So, there. I have been leaving out a critical component of my waste for almost two years now. I use contraception and I throw it all in the trash when I am done because, let’s be real, I definitely don’t save condoms in my mason jar of trash. Weird memento, anyone?

I use condoms. Sex makes trash. But I DEFINITELY want to protect myself. Yet with so many options: birth control, IUD, condoms, dental dams and a slew of other thangs, it seems really hard to choose the best option. The fact of the matter is I don’t want an IUD, no thank you to a copper sculpture of ovaries in my ovaries, and I don’t want a pill playing battleship with my hormones, so no birth control. I want my contraception to have as little physical impact on me as possible- and so that leaves me with condoms. On top of that it’s really difficult to know where sustainability comes into play because it’s not really a selling point when you are trying to avoid getting pregnant or contracting STD’s. Girl says to guy at pharmacy “Excuse me, is it possible to save the rainforest while also staving off chlamydia?”

But here’s where it gets interesting. Until recently, I had never purchased a condom myself. I had always expected the guy I was with to have one, and if he didn’t… we didn’t. And i’m not alone. Only 40% of all condoms in the US are purchased by women. Then I started seeing these brands thrown around, Sir Richards, L Condoms, Sustain, and something clicked and I realized that not all contraception is created equal and I became really curious. Is it even possible to be conscious consumers when it comes to our sex lives? The answer is yes. We can. The choices that we make, or don’t make, when it comes to sex have real impacts on both our bodies and the planet.

To learn more about sustainability in mah sex life, I interviewed Meika Hollender, the super cool Co-Founder and Marketing Director of what I see to be the most sustainable option out there, Sustain Condoms.

Tell me a little about sustain – how did it start, what was the idea?

Our family has a deep history in natural products with Seventh Generation, and I was always involved in different ways with that business, but never worked there full time. Jeffrey Hollender, my dad and boss, had an idea for a sustainable condom about ten years ago and never pursued it because he was running Seventh Generation.

A little over two years ago I was in business school and knew I didn’t want to work in traditional marketing anymore. At the same time, Jeff was starting to write the business plan for what became Sustain and was sort of consulting me on the business plan, and I became more interested in Sustain. Then we started talking more about what it would be like if I started the company with him, what that would look like… and as he began deciding that he was going to market to women and I started reading more about the statistics around reproductive health, how low condom usage rates are among my peers, and just the general need and lack of access that so many women in the US have to reproductive health services, I became more and more passionate about having a larger role in sustain.

Once I knew that I really wanted to start the business with him, the only sort of thing that we had to figure out was from a family business management standpoint: how it was going to affect our relationship. So that was a much harder thing to figure out, to decide, but ultimately, it just felt right.

How is it working with your father?

Its been amazing. It has been inspiring, it has been trying, it has been been a lot of growth for both of us. For me, he is my dad, also my boss, also my business partner. There are a lot of different relationships and dynamics but the amazing thing about working together is that we are coming at the business from two different perspectives. I’m our target market, I have grown up in the digital era, and I know how brands communicate today. He has this wealth of knowledge around sustainability, supply chain, operations, corporate responsibility, and is just a really successful business man. He knows what he’s doing and I think our combined insights and outlooks have really benefited us so far.

Sex was never really something I talked openly about with my dad. Why do you think “the talk” is so difficult for kids and parents?

I think a lot of it is on the parents. I read a really interesting article a couple of weeks ago about sex positive parenting and I think that it starts with the parents, and especially for me, my parents always made themselves totally open to talking to us about boys, and girls, and relationships. Not getting into extreme detail, but they were always like, “how’s it going?”, “are you going on a date?” They were just always open to the situation. Also, my mom and dad were very much like, “whenever you are thinking about having sex, if you are comfortable, please come to us, we want to help you, protect yourself, and be safe about it”. So my dad was the one I went to when I was thinking about having sex, and I just told him. It wasn’t a long conversation because we had covered a lot of the bases before, about the options and making sure it was the right person.

“The talk” has been something for us, in our father-daughter condom business duo, that we are really passionate about: making parents create an environment so that kids want to have those conversations with them and so that they feel comfortable. I think the idea of trying to shield your kids from sex and sexuality is impossible today because of the Internet, but also it is sending the wrong message. It’s making something that is natural, that is part of life, part of your health, part of your happiness, feel dangerous and taboo.

I think that is where a lot of the issues around women not using condoms, and not talking about condoms, comes from and it really fuels that taboo around sex and contraception in general. Especially our generation is putting themselves at risk because we’re not using condoms consistently. Only 19% of single women use condoms regularly and that’s terrible. STD’s are on the rise, AIDS is on the rise in certain communities, but I think it is really the parent’s responsibility to create that safe environment.

Sex is never something that I wrote about on Trash is for Tossers before, but something that I have been asked about a lot. “How do you have Zero Waste sex?” Truthfully there is no Zero Waste way to have sex without foregoing a condom or protection altogether. All methods of contraception produce waste of some sort, so what options do people have when it comes to safe but sustainable sex?

What a lot of people don’t really know is that latex condoms are a natural resource. It is a sustainable resource. Latex is the sap of rubber trees. So you are starting with a pretty sustainable product because, unlike a lot of other products that come from trees, you are not harming the tree in any way when you are tapping the sap (no pun intended), which is the latex.

Our condoms are sustainable for many reasons but first is they are latex, they are a natural resource. They come from the only fair trade certified plantation in the world that makes latex for condoms, which is in southern India.

There is actually a pretty terrible and sort of dirty history about the rubber industry that a lot of people don’t know about, and it still exists today. There is a ton of child labor, really bad working conditions, and we, Jeffrey especially because this is what he is so passionate about, had read so much around and about the history of the rubber industry that it was his mission to find a fair trade certified plantation. Our plantation is also FSC certified. It is a really amazing place and 100% of the workers children are in school, everyone has free health care. It’s really a nice place and different from what you will find in most of the rubber industry.

Then, other than where our product is coming from, there is our manufacturer, which is also in southern India. The workers are unionized, it’s light, it’s cool. I spent 10 days there in June. It’s a really nice place and not what you would expect from a traditional Indian manufacturing facility. On top of that, we also discovered, and there is a German study on this and hopefully a US study published soon, that shows that condoms contain high levels of nitrosamines, which are carcinogens. So we were extremely adamant about having no detectable levels of nitrosamines in our condoms.

Nitrosamines are not something that you add to rubber. They occur naturally in the manufacturing process when the latex is being heated and molded. But you can add something to the process to prevent the nitrosamines from occurring in the latex.

The FSC actually does regulate nitrosamines in pacifiers. The way they are exposed to the body are through heat and moisture, so for instance during sex. So we added, and it’s extremely inexpensive to do this, a safe chemical during the manufacturing process to prevent the nitrosamines from occurring.  To the best of our knowledge, we are the only nitrosamine-free condom on the market. We also don’t add spermicide or anything else toxic. No dyes, no fragrances. There is also an odor masker that a lot of condoms use, because the smell of latex isn’t amazing, so a lot of products use an odor masker chemical that is somewhat toxic, but we don’t. Then there are the other aspects of our business that we feel make us sustainable from a responsibility standpoint such as our 10%4Women fund. We are giving 10% of our profits to women’s reproductive health in the US because 20 million women lack access to those services.

What modes of contraception are more sustainable than others?

At the end of the day the #1 cause of climate change is overpopulation and 50% of pregnancies are unintended in the US (in the age 15-44 age category, significantly higher than in most other developed countries). That being said, using contraception, whether it is an IUD or condom or pill, is sustainable. I think holistically you can’t make the argument that one form of birth control is not sustainable because unplanned pregnancy is unsustainable. Having children that we can’t feed, that we can’t take care of, having overpopulation, from a meta and systems thinking standpoint, is completely unsustainable.

I think using our condoms is the most sustainable from a supply chain standpoint and my philosophy on non-toxic living and doing what’s natural, but I don’t like to put other forms of contraception down because I think it is important for women to be using contraception. The thing that sort of gets lost among our generation for some reason is that using just the pill or using an IUD and having casual sex is okay and safe. The conversation needs to be around the reality that no matter who you are, no matter what demographic you are in, when you are having unprotected sex you are exposing yourself to STD’s.

What makes Sustain condoms different from others?

Our goal and Jeffrey’s goal always is not to point our finger and criticize our competitors- we want to provide an example of how you can do business better. You can make a more sustainable, healthier, safer product and still make money. That is our goal. We want to inspire and be an example for the rest of the condom manufacturers.

SO there. We did it, we talked about sex. We made it. Take aways? Protect yourself. Have fun. Be mindful. Use protection. Remember everything that you buy, even condoms, has an impact and you as a consumer can be powerful and make a choice to 1) be informed and 2) buy better.


Cleaning the Toilet Without Waste

Cleaning the toilet is definitely not the most glamorous thing in the world, but at least it isn’t hard. Some people use bleach and other nasty chemicals to get their bathroom clean, not me! My method is completely non-toxic!

I use four things to clean my toilet:
1) Organic liquid castile soap
2) Distilled white vinegar
3) Washcloth
4) Plastic free toilet brush

Here’s how I do it.

Step 1: Spray the entire toilet with white vinegar. This includes the top, cover, seat, under the seat, and around the base. Let sit.

Step 2: Put liquid castile soap in bowl and brush clean with toilet brush, let sit.
Step 3: I use one washcloth to clean the entire toilet. To I do this I first fold the towel in half and wipe the top and the seat clean. Then I fold that in half again to do the seat and then under the seat. I then repeat the process to clean the rim and the base of the toilet. That way I use a clean section for each part of the process and only dirty one towel. I then just throw that in the laundry. Easy!

Step 3: Flush toilet, close lid. Easy pee-z. Ha.


Zero Waste Period

So obviously no one really likes getting their period. Let’s face it, except for when you jump for joy when you get it because you realize you aren’t pregnant when you don’t want to be, they suck.

I especially don’t like them because I turn into the absolute worst person in the world when I get my period, my ex can attest to that, and on top of that they are SO insanely wasteful…or were, I should say. I used to go through a box of Organic cotton tampons per month. Organic tamps and pads are still better than non-organic ones, don’t get me wrong, I don’t want pesticides in my hoo-ha, but thanks to a gift from Alden, author of the blog Ecocult, I now know there is a better, less wasteful option: a menstrual cup.

A menstrual cup is a medical-grade silicone cup that you insert into your vajay-jay, where it collects blood throughout the day. You only have to empty it once or twice per day into the toilet, rinse it with some castile soap, and re-insert. I cleaned it and inserted it right before work, once when I got home, and then again before bed. There was even a night when I kept it in all day until bed time and it was absolutely fine, no leakage whatsoever! Oh, and another great part? Unlike tampons, you don’t have to remove it every time you go to the bathroom, it just stays put!! To remove you just tug on the little silicone “string” at the end and it comes right out.

(Disclaimer: there is a weird suction cup sound that happens when you do this which was pretty funny and weird the first time, but you get used to it.)

Best of all? It is a one-time $40 investment that yields a waste-free period for about ten years.

Let’s look at the economics of a menstrual cup …

Menstrual Cup:

39.99 x 1 purchase for ten years = $39.99

Organic cotton tampons:

$7.00/box x 2 boxes/month = $14.00/month x 10 years = $1,680

For a net savings of: $1,640

Using a menstrual cup pays for itself after THREE MONTHS. I don’t know about you, but I can think of a lot of things I could use $1,640 on.

So let me make this short and sweet: Menstrual cup good. Buy it. Use it. Your life will be easier, periods less gross, and life a lot less wasteful.


Bamboo Toothbrushes

Think about your toothbrush for a second.

Yes, i’m serious.

It’s made of plastic, most likely, and comes packaged in plastic and you will probably use it for a month or whatever until it gets all gnarled up and then throw it in the trash because what else are you supposed to do with it, right?


My friend Ro Kumar has the solution to eliminating plastic toothbrushes that will stick around much, much longer than you will, and I must say, it’s pretty awesome.

Ro is founder of Brush with Bamboo, a brand that sells gorgeous, biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes that will rid you of your toxic toothbrush troubles once and for all. I have used them for years now and they are my fave!

PS – Guess what, if you want to grab a toothbrush from Brush with Bamboo, enter code ‘TrashIsforTossers‘ for a 10% discount and free US shipping!

Okay, back to Ro. Ro is really cool. Not only is he an expert on plastic pollution, he is a grad of both Berkeley and Stanford and has been featured in the Huffington Post, at the Plastics 360 Conference, and the Zero Waste Youth Summit! Also – his parent’s house in Cali produces 5000 lbs of Organic produce every year. If that was not enough, he is helping to produce a doc called Generation Food, with filmmaker Steve James and best-selling author Raj Patel. I know. I wanted to be friends with him too.

So I decided to ask Ro a few questions to learn a bit more about him:

What is Brush With Bamboo and how was it created?

It all started almost 3 years ago. I watched a documentary movie called Plastic Planet with some friends and family. The film opened my eyes to how plastic is destroying the environment and human health. That night, I remember looking at my plastic toothbrush and it just didn’t make sense to me anymore. Originally, I just wanted to find an eco-friendly toothbrush for myself. But when I couldn’t find a good one on the market, I decided to create my own – and that was the birth of Brush with Bamboo.

Today, Brush with Bamboo manufactures what is currently the most environmentally-conscious toothbrush on the market (aside from using a neem stick or miswak stick, this is the best available bristled toothbrush!). We use a bamboo handle, a commercially compostable wrapper, a box made from paper that folds together using no glues, and nylon bristles.

Why is bamboo more sustainable than plastic?

Simply put, plastic never biodegrades because it is not part of nature’s food chain. There is a common misconception that plastic takes a really long time to biodegrade, but the reality is that as far as we can project, plastic never goes away because there is no other corresponding thing in nature that can break plastic down.

Bamboo, on the other hand, is one of the most versatile and sustainable materials on earth. Bamboo can grow up to 4 inches per day with minimal water, it is naturally vigorous and does not need pesticides or fertilizers to grow, and it has the tensile strength of steel. It’s truly a gift from nature, and as we begin to replace plastic with other materials, I think we’re going to see bamboo becoming an essential part of the new green economy.

What does the future of BWB look like? 

I am extremely passionate about bringing our production as close as possible to true long-term sustainability. It’s my promise that as we grow, we will change our model to become more truly ecological. I think this is why we have received public endorsements from many leading environmentalists like Ed Begley Jr., 5 Gyres, and Beth Terry.

We’re working on plant-based alternatives to the plastic nylon bristles that we currently use. Currently, the only alternative to nylon bristles is pig hair. Most of all though, our main work is to expand awareness about plastic pollution. The more people become aware, the more our business will grow. This is why we put our full weight behind change makers like filmmaker Angela Sun, who just came out with a new major documentary movie called Plastic Paradise that will be hitting theaters soon.

If you could make a suggestion to someone about something they could do to create a more sustainable world, what would you tell them? 

I would say: start by eliminating single use plastics. We mostly see these in the form of bags, bottles, cups, and utensils. I really feel like plastic is the biggest symbol of everything that is wrong. Start by refusing single use plastic. It’s hard, and even I slip sometimes, but after a while anything done consistently becomes a stronger and stronger habit.

Do you have any sustainability tips/secrets?

Visualization. I try to visualize things like plastic forks, batteries, or plastic toothbrushes being picked up by some kid 2000 years in the future. I think about how in the future they will wonder why we were so complacent, and why we tolerated living in filth. I don’t want to be someone that just stood around and watched it happen. I want to be one of those people that stood up for something better.

When i’m done with these biodegradable toothbrushes, I remove the bristles and use them as garden markets or coffee stirrers for my french press, but the possibilities for reuse are endless!

Again, if ya want to order some toothbrushes, head over to Brush with Bamboo, enter code ‘TrashIsforTossers‘ and you’ll get a 10% discount and free US shipping! Sweet, doood.

ANNNDDDD to make life even more Zero Waste and plastic-free – here is my Zero Waste Toothpaste recipe that you can use with your new Brush With Bamboo toothbrush! 
Zero Waste Toothpaste Recipe:3 tablespoons coconut oil2 1/2 tablespoons baking soda25-30 drops Organic food grade peppermint essential oil (or cinnamon oil, it’s delicious, but try 10 drops and then add more as desired) Mix all three ingredients in a glass dish (I use a mason jar).To use, scoop out a little bit with a spoon and put it onto your toothbrush. Add more or less peppermint or coconut oil depending on your textural preference.I suggest using it for a few days. Give yourself some time to adjust, I had to. It’s pretty different, but that’s OK.


Zero Waste Toilet Brush

…a toilet brush?

Sometimes i’m not sure how I have friends.

But anyway, this is not just ANY toilet brush. It is special. I ordered this gorgeous thing from my favorite online shop, Life Without Plastic. It is made of sustainably harvested, untreated beechwood with soft pig bristles. It also has an edge cleaner so I can get up under the rim. You can order the brush alone, but I ordered mine with the beechwood stand and terra cotta ceramic dish. Plus, the brush and stand are 100% compostable and the dish can be reused for a planter, or for your next brush. It’s as sexy as a toilet brush can be, and I love it.

As always, the packaging for my toilet brush was 100% plastic free and recyclable. They used paper tape to seal the box and on the inside, the unpackaged brush, stand, and bowl were protected by kraft paper which I keep to reuse.

How do I clean my toilet, naturally?

I just put some castile soap in the toilet and a little bit of white vinegar, scrub, let it sit for a second, and flush. Voila!


I Cut My Hair Off

I cut 11 inches of my hair off. Okay, maybe this was partially done because I was feeling lazy, a little hormonal, and didn’t want to wash my own hair yesterday… but it was also done because my hair was 30 feet long, crazy thick, and totally donatable.

I am obsessed with Locks of Love and have always wanted to contribute to them. They provide hair to children under 21 who have suffered long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. Most of them have lost their hair due to alopecia areata which doesn’t have a known cause or cure.

Note to everyone out there, and a giant reveal to the world, I have alopecia. After my dog passed away last year, a two inch diameter section of my hair fell out and is just now grown out. It was one of the scariest things ever, and it was just one tiny section. To be able to help children who lose all of their hair, and sometimes permanently, means everything… so I chopped my hair off to go to making prosthetics that hopefully help to restore confidence and comfort to a child with hair loss.

This is huge for me as I have basically had long hair my entire life, but the social, environmental, and monetary benefits that come with cutting my hair are too sweet to say no to.

  1. My hair is going to be made into a wig. HOW COOL IS THAT!?
  2. My short hair can air dry really quickly, no blow dryer which uses a lot of energy
  3. Less water needed when I shower because it takes less time to wash
  4. Less shampoo needed because there is not as much area to cover
  5. Easier to style
  6. Cooler in the summer
  7. I just kinda like it

I totally support anyone who decides to choose the chop and donate to Locks of Love because their mission is awesome, and we will look really cool and be doing good at the same time!

Their minimum length is 10 inches and you must send it to them in a sealed plastic bag (I upcycled mine from the reuse center at work) and put it in a padded envelope with a hair donation form and sent it to:

Locks of Love

234 Southern Blvd.

West Palm Beach, FL 33405


Why I Became a Diva Cup Diva

Guest Post by Katherine Kartis

I am a newly converted Diva cup diva. I refuse to use tampons. Period (pun intended!) It all began a few months ago when I was shopping at Whole Foods in the toiletries aisle with a girlfriend. While I consider myself to be a naturalist, this particular friend takes the all-natural movement to a new level and makes her own lotions, potions and homeopathic medicine. She told me she only uses the diva cup. My initial reaction was, “What about organic tampons?” She explained how tampons absorb the natural fluids and bacterias that the vagina produces to stay clean and healthy. I did some research and found this was true.

For some reason it occurred to me only recently how hypocritical of me it was to abide by an all-natural philosophy in some aspects of my life, like the food I eat and the soap I use, and not others. It seems obvious in hindsight that we women should of course treat our every part of our body with the same all-natural respect that we do our hair, skin, nails and digestive tracts!

For the past decade I’ve swore by Tampax pearl tampons by day and the cheapest drugstore brand-name pads brand by night. My only concerns at the time were convenience and comfort. I never took into consideration the detrimental effects that the toxic chemicals in commercial feminine hygiene products have on my body and the environment.

Organic, chlorine-free tampons are of course better than the chemically bleached ones, but tampons are still not an optimal choice because of the health side effects mentioned above. Commercial pads and tampons may seem harmless, but they’re made from an array of toxic chemicals that are not even listed on the packaging. These toxins include chlorine, polypropylene, polyethylene film, rayon, polyester, and several other ingredients that have no place inside our bodies. Did you know that if you’re wearing non-organic tampons and pads that you’re essentially inserting cotton that has been sprayed by pesticides and herbicides in your body?

My friends who know about my Diva Cup advocacy may think I’m nuts, but I know I’ve made one of the best health decisions by switching to the Diva Cup. Not only am is the biodegradable silicone insert better for the environment and my body, but I’m also saving tens of thousands of dollars over a lifetime by not purchasing tampons. The Diva Cup is a one-time $40 investment that lasts years if cleaned and maintained properly.

I live by the motto “collect, don’t absorb.” The Diva Cup looks daunting, and I will not lie; it took me several periods to familiarize myself proper insertion and removal. However, think of the time you will spend learning how to insert and remove it properly as one of the best investments for your health. Although it’s recommended you remove it after several hours (every body type and flow is different), hypothetically if you left it in for “too long” nothing toxic would happen to your body. Gravity will cause the Diva Cup to come out naturally from the weight of the excess blood it has collected. Another cool perk: if inserted correctly, which is easy to do with patience and by following the instructions, it’s impossible to leak. I’ve worn mine to bed before with no qualms, but if I don’t feel like wearing it I switch to an organic pad.

Switch to the Diva Cup and your body, bank account and the environment will thank you.