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Sustainable Sex Sells

Illustrated by Massi Marzucco

Lingerie and sex-focused fashion can be the final hurdle girdle for conscious consumers but
UK brands are engaged in stiff competition to make eco intimates more focused on us screwing each other rather than the planet!

Covid-19, despite not being the sexiest of subjects, has ironically led to a swelling (sorry) in the sales of sex toys, garments and parephenalia. Whilst this is fantastic in helping us stay in and get some, recent studies show that bedroom tools and unmentionables are responsible for over 223 million tonnes of waste each year in the UK alone. So for many, the landfill impact from dildos, fast-fashion lacies and condoms is enough to turn anyone celibate.

Thank the universe then, that we’re living through a boom in conscious crotchless clothing. As millennials and Gen Z increase the pressure on traditional retailers to step up to the sustainable plate, the UK is seeing a rise in stimulating start-ups offering everything from ethically-sourced lingerie, cruelty-free paddles and more. Combining its history as a progressive, sexually accepting & uninhibited society with an eye on a greener, less wasteful future, Brighton is quick becoming the capital of sustainable sex. Local companies such as Luna Huva, Ayten Gasson, Inner Secret and many more are bucking fast fashion trends and the wasteful side of shagging. Brighton Lace is one such brand, creating stunning handmade underwear using re-used, vintage lace and ethically-sourced, OEKO-TEX certified lace crafted by its three women team. Commenting on why so many like-minded businesses originate from the city, company founder Louisa Crosby said: “Brighton is a liberal, fun and free city which celebrates creativity and pushes people to think outside the box on a huge number of issues.”

Ethical fashion shopping usually means reducing plastic or checking the bamboo or hemp is biodegradable and well-sourced, but with sustainable lingerie and sex gear it’s not as simple as just getting wood. For starters, the best things in life aren’t actually free, you have to pay for the quality you want and sex isn’t a time for scrimping. Make the right choice and you can quite literally get more bang for your buck! Brighton Lace has noticed a trend in Gen Z and Millennials leading the way in sustainable underwear, in part due to the price tag.
“Sustainable undies are a bit more expensive at the moment so do require some disposable income,” explained Crosby.
“However, I think these generations are passionate about using their purchasing power to support brands that are trying to change the industry for the better.” 

Living a sustainable sex life takes a bit more research, effort and time than a traditional trip to M&S or Debenhams lingerie aisle but as with the best sex, putting the work in and focusing on over convenience always leads to the best O. Just think of sustainable sex as the edging of retail, it might take longer but the satisfaction is so much sweeter! Convenience is the enemy of sustainability or as Mae West so eloquently quipped, ‘I never said it would be easy, I said it would be worth it!’ Outside of the mainstream lace lingerie and green garters, the kinkier side of the industry is also taking the animals out of animal attraction. Brighton’s Inner Secret creates handmade, vegan sex toys and BDSM gear ranging from a Steampunk Strapon Harness to Vegan Upcycled Bike Tube Flogger. Sustainable sex is an inclusive boudoir it seems.

For some, it’s not just a case of making sustainable choices and supporting local businesses; the very idea of environmental activism is an erogenous zone in itself – an ‘eco-genous’ zone if you will. Ecosexuals are people who see the earth as a “lover, not a mother”, and it’s a growing sexual orientation thanks to a manifesto created by founders Elizabeth Stephens and Annie Sprinkle. In addition to being aroused by nature itself the sexecology mantra also includes being aroused by acts of eco-living such as being attracted to a person’s carbon footprint or getting off to someone’s plastic free pantry.

The Brighton institution, She Said Erotic Boutique, is well-versed in keeping up with the times ensuring their stock caters to clientele of all perusasions, including ecosexuals. With a whole smorgasbord of products for the ethically-minded from vegan whips and embossed ball gags to reclaimed rubber handcuffs and, of course, the Gaia Eco Bullet World’s First Biodegradable Vibrator. “We’re not the average shop, we’re quite unique and the service we offer is unique too. Women who’ve gone through cancer and need adapted bras or those looking for bespoke, sustainable garments. All of this is hugely important to us as our USP is being able to provide something you can’t find anywhere else.”

It’s not just Brighton which is bucking the trend in terms of fast frisky fashion as UK brands, such as AmaElla, Dora Larsen Qrucifix and Lara Intimates, are putting more emphasis on conscious chokers and sustainable suspenders. Warwickshire- based Qrucifix specialise in transparent, clean fashion that is ethical to humans and nature equally with the company proudly stating its belief that ‘sustainability is badass!’

Alongside an increased focus on ethical living, there is also less stigma around promoting lingerie in general thanks to Instagram, Pinterest and other platforms putting the power in the hands of women according to Brighton Lace’s Lou Crosby. “I am passionate about Brighton Lace empowering women and that is reflected in my business paying the living wage,” she said. “I think that the campaigns around de-sexualising the female body and allowing us to just be, unless we actively choose to be sexy, has helped reduce stigma. Social media has empowered a lot more women, with all different shaped bodies, to be in their underwear in a public sphere, on their own terms. We’re loving how inclusive the lingerie industry is becoming and this is really something lots of ethical and sustainable lingerie brands are pioneering.

In the inimitable words of Marilyn Monroe: “Sex is a part of nature, I go along with nature.” Preach!