Sustainability is an issue that concerns both consumers and businesses, especially in the realm of fashion. Our post “Sustainable Fashion 101” visits how the fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world, largely due to the fast fashion syndrome. Fast fashion brands employ the “use and throw” mindset and prioritize profit through cheap fabrics and labor, all the while draining our local resources and polluting the ecosystem.
Rather than let these harmful practices keep happening, consumers have the power to be conscious of their fashion choices and encourage brands to adopt the same eco-friendly mindset. Aside from the clothes and shoes we wear, this movement can extend to sunglasses, which are primarily made out of plastic. If you’re interested in making better choices for the environment, here are four tips for choosing sustainable sunglasses:
Learn the brand’s values on sustainability
One of the best ways to choose sustainable sunglasses is to find a brand that values sustainability and ethical labor. Transparency is key to knowing whether a brand is implementing sustainability, so it’s worth looking for products with clear labeling and traceability. While there is no specific accreditation for eyewear brands, it’s worth looking into related certifications, like Living Wage, and partnerships with eco-groups like Greenpeace or World Wildlife Foundation. Be careful of businesses that don’t prioritize true sustainability and only practice greenwashing for marketing.
Research the production processes
One of the biggest concerns of producing eyewear is the waste generated. To reduce its impact, plenty of eyewear manufacturers are considering processes that ensure materials are used, such as closed-loop production systems. One such example is eyewear manufacturer Maui Jim who has improved sustainable operations. They cut down on non-environmentally friendly byproducts minimizing waste using machines, process scrap, and partnering with recycling companies to ensure they can collect all damaged frames or scratched lenses for material reuse.
Given these efforts, it’s not surprising that the brand also incorporates more natural and recyclable materials into its collection. Maui Jim women’s sunglasses feature unique lenses made of three rare earth elements that ensure maximum transmission. To minimize the need to purchase additional pairs of sunglasses, the brand also creates models like Hookipa sunglasses made of nylon, staying durable while keeping them BPA-free. Through circular production processes, brands can maximize their resources and ensure their production process is sustainable.
Consider the materials used
Today, many sunglasses are made with petroleum-based plastics, from their frames to lenses. While many people choose these for their convenience, there are plenty of other eco-friendlier materials that have similar properties, such as durability and scratch resistance. Some popular options to opt for include:
- Recycled plastic – To reduce overall plastic use, many manufacturers have turned to recycled plastic. This helps cut common waste in oceans and landfills, such as water bottles. Recently, a Pune-based startup has claimed to make the first recycled sunglasses made from discarded packets of chips.
- Bio-acetate – One of the most popular alternatives to regular thermoplastics. First invented by the Italian company Mazzucchelli 1849, it substitutes petroleum for a more bio-based plasticizer — making it more biodegradable than pure plastic sunglasses. Eyewear brand MONC sells glasses made of bio-acetate but also packages them using recycled leather cases and compostable cornstarch foam.
- Wood or bamboo – Some brands are minimizing plastic by swapping sunglasses frames completely with known biodegradable materials like wood or bamboo.
Look for timeless designsCompared to prescription glasses that you may have to change each year, sunglasses mainly serve the purpose of protecting your eyes from the sun all year round. Given this, it’s worth looking for a timeless design that can fit multiple outfits over the years, with some examples including oversized and aviator-style sunglasses. Not only do you minimize your environmental impact by buying less, but you can also save a significant amount of money.
As a consumer, you can decide what kind of sunglasses you want and whether they align with your values and fashion appeal. By choosing brands that work towards sustainability, you can play a part in encouraging businesses to adopt environmentally friendly practices.