By Erin Yazgan
Gender/Sexuality Reporter

While maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important for many people, one toxic aspect of daily life is continuously overlooked: the sex industry.

Most latex condoms, including Trojan, contain casein, a milk protein, and also may be tested on animals. Many water-based lubes contain paraben, a preservative potentially linked to breast cancer. Sex toys such as dildos and vibrators can contain phthalates, oil-based chemicals used to soften plastics, which get absorbed into users’ bodies and can cause a range of damage to the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive system.

However, there are a number of healthy, environmentally-friendly items on the market. Pure Pleasure on Church Street in downtown Santa Cruz carries a multitude of vegan products including condoms, lubrication and toys.

“All of our products in general are body-friendly,” said Amy Baldwin, co-owner of Pure Pleasure.

Baldwin said that before Pure Pleasure, there were no sex shops that catered to the vegan and body-conscious demographic of Santa Cruz.

“We don’t do anything that has phthalates,” Baldwin said. “It’s very Santa Cruz to go down that path.”

Vegan and eco-friendly sex products are nontoxic and generally made with organic and animal-free ingredients. Glyde is the only condom brand registered with the Vegan Society, and some popular vegan lubricants include Sliquid H2O and Hathor Aphrodisia, all of which are sold at Pure Pleasure.

“In my experience, vegan condoms are about the same as your average latex condom, if not better,” Baldwin said. “It’s a softer, thinner kind of latex feel.”

Among lubricants sold at Pure Pleasure is Hathor Aphrodisia, made by a Vancouver-based company that uses certified organic and plant-based ingredients with no paraben, synthetic fragrances, colors or animal products. It is also sold at Camouflage on Pacific Avenue.

“I think I’m contributing a product that’s good for people,” said Mellta Swift, co-owner of Hathor Aphrodisia. “It doesn’t hurt people, which is really important to me, especially when you’re putting something on delicate tissue and putting it inside your body.”

Sarah Steer, a third-year feminist studies major, is a happy eco-sex customer. She owns a medical-grade silicone vibrator from Fun Factory. The sex toy is nontoxic, hypoallergenic and nonporous.

“I love it,” Steer said. “It feels better than any other vibrator I’ve ever had. The silicone provides just enough friction to give a realistic sensation.”

Although investing in eco-friendly and vegan sex products will leave less of a stamp on Planet Earth, Swift encourages people to think further.

“Let’s not fool ourselves,” Swift said. “We’re still creating a huge footprint just by having to have packing and having to have shipping. … I just don’t like to make out like I’m saving the world because I’m not — I’m just doing the best that I can.”

Baldwin said that Pure Pleasure is going more eco-friendly by phasing out clamshell packaging, which encapsulates the product in plastic.

Steer also acknowledged that her vibrator only minutely contributes to the planet’s well-being.

“I didn’t go into purchasing my vibrator for the intent of ‘What’s better for the planet?’ so much as ‘What’s better for my vagina?’” Steer said. “But whatever’s better for my vagina, by extension, is better for the planet.”