Analysis Contraception

How Green Is Your Birth Control?

Joe Veix

A roundup of the most sustainable methods of birth control.

The Huffington Post has a great roundup of articles on the sustainability of birth control, including an article from Slate that wonders which method of birth control is the greenest, and another from CafeMom that discusses, among other things, the best disposal methods for condoms.

According to Slate’s Nina Shen Rastogi, the hormones within a birth control pill may find their way into our water supply, feminizing male fish. Although women naturally secrete estrogen, and the natural stuff is much more prevalent in our waterways, synthetic estrogen tends to last a lot longer. Overall, though, the effects of birth control on the environment haven’t been studied very much; the best anyone can do is be cautious.

Condoms, on the other hand,

“…represent only about 0.001 percent of the 152 million tons of trash American households produce annually-and that we still need a lot of research into the precise effects that pharmaceuticals are having on our water supply-condoms seem to be the greener choice. This is especially true when you factor in all the packaging that typically comes with American pharmaceuticals-the plastic dispensers, the printed instruction leaflets, and so on.”

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If you prefer to stay with condoms, there are plenty of options (including vegan condoms). According to CafeMom,

  • Lambskin condoms are the best biodegradable condom choice (chemical additives and lubricants may slow it down some), but they do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and HIV-so maybe only a good choice if you’re in a monogamous relationship and you’ve both been tested for STDs.

  • Avoid condoms made of polyurethane, a plastic material that will not break down. And no one is recycling condoms at this point. 
  • Condom boxes can be recycled. Yay!
  • Plastic or foil wrappers cannot be recycled. Boo!
  • For the most friendly condom disposal, DO NOT flush condoms down the toilet. Simply wrapping the condom in a paper (not plastic) bag, tissues, or toilet paper is probably your best bet.”

Of course, getting one’s tubes tied, or getting a vasectomy, are the most sustainable and effective options, followed closely by copper IUDs. But remember that any form of birth control is significantly more sustainable than having a child.

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