Are You Eco-Sexy?

Saskia Vogel
For something to be comprehensibly green, there’s a near endless checklist of things to do and sometimes you’re left with a choice between a rock and a hard place. What happens when you find a material that is totally ethically sourced, processed in a compliance with the highest ecostandards, but it means the end product will be ridiculously expensive? XBIZ spoke to a number of toy manufacturers about the greening of novelties, and found out what in which ways they are eco-sexy.

A recent article in New Statesman noted that consumers were growing weary of shopping for disposable trend items. Mainstream consumers want something that will last. Consumers want their purchases to be ethically manufactured and green. The jury is still out on what “green” means.

For adult retailers and manufacturers, “eco-sexy” has become one way to sell the benefits of a given toy. California Exotic Novelties, for example, relaunched its Solar Toy line and is refocusing on rechargeable items. Over four years ago, in spite of dedicated marketing efforts from print to web, the line just wasn’t viable. Now, Al Bloom says, “When the blog and press chatter grew, so did our interest to take the leap once more, hoping that five-year’s time was enough for the general population to not only educate themselves about ecological problems, but were now ready to put their money where their mouth is ... so we started to work on a new solar-powered item, as well as more rechargeable items. The rechargeables are selling great.”

CalExotics’ best-selling green products are the solar-powered Solar Bullets, packaged in FSC (Forest Stewardship Approved) packaging.

Larry Gayne at Calston, who has “always made green products,” but only recently labeled its packaging with “Nature Friendly ROHS Compliant” feels “it shouldn’t require a world movement to act ethically,” but as far as consumer awareness goes, it seems it did take an international media push for green awareness to get consumers on board. The consumer response to Calston’s USB-powered Ybullet has been “incredible,” Gayne said.

Distributor IVD/ECN, who ran an Earth Day promotion showcasing 40 green products, is also feeling the green love from consumers. The success of the promotion was reflected in sales, but company reps were quick to add that they have had green products in stock for years. Products include Sliquid’s glycerine and paraben-free lubes, Intimate Organics’ aromatherapy line (from Secretly Pink), Oceanus Naturals lubricants, Rocks Off (which makes hypo-allergenic vibes with IntraMed material), and Earthly Body’s edible candles and all-natural oils. The company has also taken green in-house with reps driving to meetings in hybrid vehicles, staff carpools and participation in major recycling programs for office refuse.

Similarly, Honey’s Place has stocked green products for years. Laura Sweet notes that the consumer preference seems to lay with durable silicone toys and rechargeables, rather than wood or glass toys. “Glass is still out there but the texture of it, and wood too I imagine, is more of a niche market. Not everyone wants a toy that hard even if it is eco-friendly.”

The green movement has always been strong in Germany, which accounts for FunFactory’s focus on bodysafe, medical grade silicone toys, a focus on keeping manufacturing local and using green energy, not to mention stringent E.U. environmental regulations. Rudy Kottbauer, Fun Factory USA’s director of marketing, sales, and customer relations, adds, “We only manufacture what we believe in and what we would buy ourselves.”

Smaller, newer companies like Je Joue and Standard Innovations that have built their businesses with an ecoethos.

Standard Innovation’s Sarah Bobas says, “We-Vibe has been green since the original launch. The environmental impact and the consumer safety concerns have been a high priority since the product was designed. The fact that we are lead-free and phthalate-free as well as a carbon neutral manufacturer has definitely been something our customers have noticed and appreciate.”

Je Joue’s head of marketing Dan Gasper adds that green comes into play when you want to make a product that lasts. Batteries will not last the life of the toy, so Je Joue’s current offerings, the SaSi and G-Ki, are both rechargeable toys. Designer Duncan Turner is on-site at the manufacturing facility in China much of the year, and has a hand in every decision about how the product is made and making sure that factory workers have a high quality working life. Being so hands-on gives JeJoue the opportunity to make greener, more ethical decisions.

If you green it, they will come, so to speak…but companies need to make sure retailers and end-consumers know about this increasingly vital selling point.