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SSIS Advice Column

Welcome back to the Student Sexuality Information Service (SSIS) column, where we answer any and all of Brandeis students’ questions about sex, sexuality, identity and relationships. If you have a question you’d like answered in our next column, email ssis@brandeis.edu or leave a question in our Google Form. Any and all questions are welcome: there are no bad, stupid or weird questions! 

(Note: These answers are good-faith attempts by SSIS to be helpful to the Brandeis community and are by no means exhaustive or to be taken as universal. If these answers don’t resonate with you, either pay them no mind or reach out to us with suggestions for improvement!)

What are the most sustainable methods of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention?

Thank you for this fantastic question! When it comes to looking to be sustainable in your prevention methods, there are a number of choices you can make to reduce the amount of waste that comes as a byproduct of your sexual encounters. 

In terms of the 100 percent most sustainable and most effective method of preventing pregnancy and STIs, the answer would be to abstain from engaging in sexual activity altogether—but for some people this might not be the right option. If you are in a long-term relationship in which all partners have been tested for STIs, you could potentially forgo the use of barrier methods and reduce your waste that way. 

One option outside of barrier methods is natural methods of birth control like tracking one’s hormonal and ovulation cycle. This is the only 100 percent no-waste contraceptive method, however, it should be noted that this method must be used diligently, comes with higher risk (and that natural birth control methods do not prevent STIs), and can take some time to learn how to use effectively.

You could also choose to use non-barrier method birth control, such as the implant, the patch or the pill to prevent pregnancy without the use of condoms (again these do not protect from STIs). Within non-barrier method birth control options, intrauterine devices (IUDs) are the most eco-friendly, as they can be effective for five to 12 years depending on the type and do not produce any waste in that time. Additionally, some uterus-owners experience loss of periods with an IUD which would contribute to saving waste from menstrual products. 

If having a barrier method such as condoms is ideal for you for STI and pregnancy prevention, you still have some options for making sustainable choices. When it comes to sustainability, what barrier methods are made out of can have certain effects on their level of biodegradability (latex is biodegradable, but polyurethane is not). This said, when condoms are disposed of, most will end up in the landfill anyways (flushing condoms can lead to them ending up in the ocean and cause issues for marine life!), so if you’re looking to reduce your environmental impact, it is important to look for condoms that are sustainably produced. SSIS recommends two particular brands that create sustainably produced condoms: Sustain and GLYDE (we sell GLYDE in our office).

At the end of the day, it is up to you how you want to balance your sustainability, comfort and protection when it comes to safe(r) sex!

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