prch Guide: Eco-Friendly & Ethical Sunglasses
Look good, do good, feel good…
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There are two main ways sunglasses are becoming sustainable. 1. By being socially conscious 2. By being environmentally conscious.
Eco-friendly sunglasses decrease your environmental impact and are pretty cool… but if you’re looking to do the most good with your purchase, choosing a highly ethical brand will have a bigger impact. The environmental impact of producing sunglasses is pretty low compared to industries like textiles, but some social contributions from companies are changing lives.
How To Do The Most Good (when shopping for sunglasses):
This guide ranks sunglass companies from the most beneficial to society and environment to the least. Companies that are both environmentally and ethically responsible are the highest, but there is a higher emphasis placed on ethical contributions. Here is a quick breakdown of how you can do the most good when shopping for sunglasses:
Best – Shop from ethical and eco-friendly sunglass brands.
Almost as Good – Shop from ethical brands. Ethical brands are rated pretty high in this guide because they have a considerable impact on the areas they work in, like providing glasses or sight restoring surgery for those in need.
Still Good – Shop from eco-friendly sunglass brands.
Just Don’t – Shop from brands that are neither socially or environmentally responsible… or are under the Luxottica monopoly umbrella. (Yikes)
About Eco-Friendly Sunglasses
Eco-friendly sunglasses are made with recycled or eco-friendly materials. This is almost exclusively limited to the arms of the sunglass but some companies are using more eco-friendly materials for the lenses. The most popular materials for eco-friendly sunglasses are:
- Recycled or repurposed materials like plastic, metal, and wood
- Bio-based materials
- FSC Certified wood
About Ethical Sunglasses
Ethical sunglasses come from companies that do good with their profits. The most common method of charity for sunglass companies is a 1 for 1 model where they provide a service to others in need for every pair of sunglasses purchased. Some common 1 for 1 ethical business models include:
- One pair of glasses – for every pair of glasses you purchase, the company will provide a pair of eye glasses for a child in need.
- Eye Surgery – for every pair of glasses purchased the company will provide a needed eye procedure for a child in need.
- Plant A Tree – a tree is planted for every pair of sunglasses purchased.
There are also ethical companies who openly provide charitable donations. Donations and recipients vary, so this should be judged on a case by case basis.
Guide To The Best Ethical & Eco-Friendly Sunglass Brands
If you’re looking to maximize your good and minimize your impact the best thing to do is buy from a company that is both environmentally and ethically responsible. The most ethical and eco-friendly sunglasses are:
Solo Eyewear – San Diego, California
Ethical: Each pair of SOLOs purchased funds eye care for people in need through prescription eyeglasses and sight saving eye surgeries. Solo Eyewear states that they have restored vision to 10,000 people in 32 countries.
Eco-Friendly: Solo has a recycled plastic line (they don’t state what % is recycled) and a repurposed bamboo line.
Proof – Boise, Idaho
Ethical: Proof has donated over 12% of its profits to its Do Good Program which intends to give back on a project by project basis. They have worked with:
- The Nature Conservancy
- Boarding for Breast Cancer
- HELP International
Eco-Friendly: Proof uses sustainably sourced woods and repurposed/recycled materials for their frames.
- zebra wood
- walnut bamboo and stained bamboo
- old skateboard decks
- cotton-based acetate
- recycled aluminum
Ethical: Panda is another brand that has adopted the one for one model of charity.
- Gift of Vision – At the end of each month they tally the number of sunglasses sold and donate enough to their nonprofit partner to cover the cost of that same amount of prescription glasses and medical eye exams for those in need.
- Gift of Education – Panda also sells watches… and they work with the international non-profit Pencils of Promise to provide educational opportunities for children in need. Pencils of Promise builds schools, provides teacher support, student scholarships, and water and health programs in underprivileged areas.
Eco-Friendly: Panda sunglasses are handcrafted from sustainably sourced bamboo.
The Best Ethical Sunglass Brands
Ethical sunglass brands are almost as responsible as eco-friendly and ethical brands. These sunglass brands are highly ethical and also a little eco-friendly.
Toms – Los Angeles, California
Ethical: We all know about their shoes, but Toms has also launched an ethical line of eyewear.
- One for One – For every pair of sunglasses purchased, Toms provides sight-saving surgery, prescription glasses, or medical treatment for someone in need.
- Impact – Toms has helped restore sight to over 400,000 people in 13 different countries.
Eco-Friendly: Toms is known to be an environmentally conscious company, but they do not offer specific information about the environmental impact of their sunglass line.
Modo – New York, New York
- Buy A Frame – Give A Frame: for every Modo frame purchased, they donate a frame to someone in need (working to help those in need in Nepal).
Eco-Friendly (honorable mention): Their eco-collection utilizes environmentally friendly materials (Note – this is specifically on their ECO line, not all of their sunglasses)
- Bio-based materials (63%)
- Recycled materials (95%)
- One Frame – One Tree: Their wording is a bit unclear on their site, but it can be interpreted that a tree is planted for each purchased from from their ECO line.
Westward Leaning – San Francisco, California
Ethical: For every pair sold, Westward Leaning donates $10 to select charities.
The Best Eco-Friendly Sunglass Brands
These sunglass brands are eco-friendly but not as ethical as some of the other brands covered in this guide. You’ll drive more change by shopping from more ethically minded brands, but you can still feel good about supporting these companies because they do work to be more eco-friendly and some of them also make ethical contributions.
Zeal Optics – Boulder, Colorado
Eco-Friendly: Zeal Optics uses plant-based materials in all its sunglass frames and lenses.
- M49 Biodegradable Acetate – M49 is a natural material produced from cotton and wood pulp fibers. It is free of toxic substances used in most plastics and will begin to biodegrade if left under water or in soil after 18 months.
- Ellume – Used in Zeal’s lenses, ellume is constructed of plant-based materials rather than petroleum-based materials.
- Z Resin – Z-Resin is a plant-based alternative to plastic, derived from the castor bean.
Ethical (honorable mention): Zeal donates a portion of it’s profits to charity via partnerships and projects that aim to “bring inspirational adventures to those who might never have felt the thrill of a running river or the calm of a mountain top”.
Woodwear – Hermosa Beach, California
Eco-Friendly: Woodwear makes handmade frames from bamboo, which regenerates 8 times faster than hardwood, it matures rapidly, and isn’t killed during harvest.
Ethical (honorable mention): Woodwear donates “a percentage of each sale to organizations that are helping others”.
Shwood Portland, Oregon
Eco-Friendly: Frames are made by hand from natural materials:
- Wood – Swhood’s woods are all sustainably-harvested from authorized and supervised plantations
- cellulite acetate – a biodegradable material made from cotton and wood pulp