How Green Is Your 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.”

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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  • invalid-0

    I must admit I have not given it much thought over the years but rubber users were probably ahead of their time giving rubber back to the earth. However from what I have heard in the past, many a million found their way into the waste water system and were retrieved that way, ie Hudson River salmon.

  • http://www.p invalid-0

    This looks interesting but the links don’t seem to be working.

  • heather-corinna

    Telling people to avoid polyurethane condoms strikes me as…meh. 


    A few million people in the states alone are latex-allergic or
    latex-sensitive, and while I’m not an environmental scientist, it seems
    to me you have to weigh the environmental impact (not to mention the personal impact) further spread of STIs
    among that population would have vs. the impact of use of those condoms, not to mention extra children if that was a person’s sole form of contraception.


    It also strikes me as starnge to say an animal product is the best environmental choice.  Does that take into account the environmental impact of sheep farming and the production process of those condoms? 

  • invalid-0

    Not to sound like a jerk but…I don’t really care how green my birth control is as long as it works. As a married mother of 2, I need birth control and the last issue that I’m thinking about is whether or not it is green. Thanks for bringing awareness to the issue but more people need to be on birth control regardless of being “green”.

    • invalid-0

      I agree. Deep concerns about ‘green’ birth control sound like a shallow attempt to deter what Glen Beck or Ralph Reed or fr Frank Pavlone thinks of as “those stupid liberal women” towards what is now called NFP and used to be called the rhythm method or some other method with an unacceptably high failure rate.