Cover Opting for a sustainable and eco-friendly product is one of the many approaches for sustainable sexual wellness Photo: Courtesy of Womanizer

For World Environment Day on June 5, we speak to sustainability advocate and certified intimacy and relationship expert Andrea Tan on sustainable sexual wellness

When it comes to sustainability, it’s not often that sexual wellness will be one of the topics that you would think of. In truth, the relationship between both spheres is blossoming.

Leading a sustainable lifestyle requires you to be self-aware and cognizant of your conscious decisions, in the same manner where understanding your sexual wellness requires you to be aware and acquainted with your body and psyche. 

“With the two realms, there is quite a common thread,” says Andrea Tan, a certified sexual wellness and relationship coach who’s also a sustainability advocate. “Both require you to be super conscious with your choices. You need to be really aware of how your lifestyle is currently, what is the lifestyle you’re aiming for, what choices you are making, and you also need to be really conscious of your body and its needs.”

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It may not seem like it, but there are many ways to lead an eco-friendly and sustainable sex life. It can begin within the setting of the bedroom by opting for ethically made organic sheets. There are sustainable lingerie options on the market, as well as eco-friendly sex products. While organic lubricants and biodegradable condoms have been gaining ground, a truly sustainable sex toy has never quite been on the market—that is, until Womanizer’s Premium Eco made its debut. 

The world’s first fully recyclable and biodegradable sex toy, Womanizer’s Premium Eco aims to prove that sustainable pleasure is the future of the industry. Crafted from biolene, a corn-starched bio-based material, the device eliminates the use of plastic.

Featuring the company’s patented and much-loved Pleasure Air technology, the eco-friendly alternative can be fully disassembled into individual parts and recycled at the end of its life. Even the charging cable has been shortened in order to minimise the fossil-fuel plastic content.

“The sexual wellness industry has grown extremely in recent years and the products are gaining more and more social acceptance,” says Johanna Rief, head of sexual empowerment at Womanizer. “But as in many other industries, issues like plastic and environmental awareness are omnipresent and long-term solutions and approaches need to be found for this—for our and all future generations.”

At the press launch of the Premium Eco device, we spoke to Tan on the correlation between sustainability and sexual wellness, the benefits of self-pleasure when it comes to self-care, as well as the importance of normalising conversations on sexual awareness. 

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How does sustainability factor into sexual wellness?

Andrea Tan (AT) Understanding sexual wellness requires time and self-awareness; as does sustainability and making conscious choices. Once you get in touch with your body, it makes choices from your health to your lifestyle. That’s when these things come into play. 

Interestingly, both sustainability and sexual wellness are gaining more awareness from people but they’re not fully integrated yet. They are partly from the same thread, which might explain why both are starting to rise at the same time. It’s a thread that I link in this manner because I’ve noticed the underlying connections, however it’s not something that results in each other.

In a sense, they’re still in a relationship to get to know each other better, so that they can live in the same family.

Have you seen a demand when it comes to sustainable sexual wellness? 

AT Interestingly, people are not overtly asking for it, but I suspect that it would grow. I think it hasn’t quite become a trend yet in Singapore as right now the focus is on being super aware and comfortable with their bodies.

It is, however, one of those things that you keep at the back of your mind. When you start to take interest and discover sustainable options and at the same time explore your sexual lifestyle, you’ll notice that there’s this awkward side-by-side correlation that you don’t quite know how to put them together. So, I think that they are not overtly asked about right now because the relationship is currently at this point. Plus, people don’t quite know what the options are unless they go for steel or glass (toys). However, typically when people go for steel and glass it’s more because they offer different types of pleasure and play. 

Related: Why the Co-Founder of Smile Makers Wants Sexual Wellness Products to be More Accessible

Once you get in touch with your body, it makes choices from your health to your lifestyle. That’s when sustainability and sexual wellness come into play.

—Andrea Tan, certified relationship and sexual intimacy coach and sustainability advocate

Why is it important for people to start becoming more eco-friendly in their sex lives, aside from the most essential factor, which is saving the Earth?

AT If you look at the vagina as an intimate area, it’s one of the most absorbent tissues in your body. We have to think about the effects of using products such as toys, lubricants, and menstrual products so closely on our body and skin. You want to make sure that you’re not dealing with toxins and harmful materials that can lead to your system.

Another reason is that when you’re in a heightened state of arousal, you’d want the materials you use in your sexual toys to be with choices that align to you. If not, it’s very misaligned with the whole idea of sexual pleasure; as you explore, you have to let go and feel safe and comfortable, but there you are at the back of your mind wondering if you’re making the wrong decision with your product choices. You don’t want that kind of misalignment. It feels very subtle but these are the things that over time accumulate.

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What are some things to look out for, in terms of materials, when it comes to purchasing a sustainable sex toy? 

AT In terms of materials, check to see if they can be recycled, and understand what it means. In fact, this is still an issue for a lot of plastic manufacturing companies. Not every plastic is recyclable. And as you recycle it, there are considerations at each stage of the recycling process. 

Womanizer did a huge step with the Premium Eco. They thought of everything in all aspects and I was really pleasantly surprised. The idea that you have to break it up into different parts to recycle accordingly? That’s super important when it comes to recycling. The whole design, such as the magnetic charging, is also very exquisite and made with careful thought. An open port is another point for rust and toxins that degrade the contact points. 

For now at least, there are some compromises to make for sexual toys. The Premium Eco uses silicone for the stimulator head, and some people might be concerned that silicone can’t break down. At the end of the day though, you can’t use a hard piece on your intimate areas for self-pleasure. However, make sure to still choose a good-quality medical-grade silicone next to you. The mediocre ones start to get sticky like rubber, and that’s not the stuff you want to put into your body. 

What are some other ways, beyond sex toys, that people can start introducing into their sex life for sustainable intimate pleasure? 

AT Play is defined as play because you use your imagination. A lot of play involves senses. It sounds very cliche, but candles are a good item to set the mood. It then boils down to the sustainable choices you make when selecting candles. It could even be the choices of oils that you’re using for a massage.

The other thing is obviously lubricants. Everyone is moving towards organic lubricants now as a lot of people are getting reactions from silicone lubricants. Organic lubricants, like most organic materials, don't last long. Don’t buy five bottles and stock up just to have them go past their shelf life. (laughs) Some of the organic ones are slightly more expensive, but they’re still within a reasonable range. There are also latex-free condoms to consider. 

Related: How Jingjin Liu, Co-Founder of ZaZaZu, is Changing the Way We Talk About Sex in Asia

In Asia and Singapore, there’s a lot of aversion and sexual stigmas around the topic of self-pleasure. How important is it to normalise such conversations?

AT I often say that sex is literally life. The whole thing with shame and judgement is that as long as it’s present, you don’t quite fully heal from that space. There’ll always be one thing that you hold hidden. As long as we skirt around the topic, shame and stigma will remain. No matter if it’s about sexuality, relationships, or even marginalised conversations regarding single parents or LGBTQ+ topics. 

As long as we skirt around the topic, shame and stigma will remain.

—Andrea Tan, certified relationship and sexual intimacy coach and sustainability advocate

How would you recommend for those who are slightly more shy to start these conversations?

AT To slowly work with people that they can trust, such as friends. Increasingly, there are starting to be more platforms and coaches and that’s a good thing. Obviously, you have to carefully discern the right coach to approach. That’s why we also have a lot of panels and talks so that people can dip their toes and see what interests them and do so in their most private capacity.

How does self-pleasure help with self-care in terms of both physical and mental wellness?

AT When we talk about benefits, it’s always about all aspects, from physical to mental wellness. Whenever people talk about pleasure as a luxury, that’s where we try to flip the switch and show that it’s actually really a necessity. 

If you’re really stressed, it allows you to clear your mind and find clarity. It’s not magic. It’s science. On top of that, it changes your mindset and relaxes your body. When you’re in a better mindset, you make better choices. Sure, there is exercising and taking baths, but I think understanding sexual pleasure is quite key because it’s by far the most intimate portion of our bodies.

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Do you have any advice for beginners who are starting to venture into toys for self-pleasure? 

AT For anyone who wants a toy and has never had a toy, I always recommend something external first, like the Premium Eco. It’s less invasive. Plus, because they’re so external, you can play along with sensations in other parts of your body. 

I’m also very particular about materials and brands. You have to go with a good quality brand, because you don’t want something to blow up whilst it's charging, or worse, blow up while it's in you.