When you buy a new pair of sunglasses, it is usually for at least one of the following two reasons: to protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays, or to look stylish.
While those are perfectly valid reasons, there’s a catch: conventional sunglasses also contribute unnecessarily to the pollution of our environment. And that’s probably not a result you wanted to achieve with your purchase.
Because they are made with a combination of materials (plastic, metal, paint,…), most sunglasses are very hard to recycle – and therefore usually end up in landfills.
Eco-friendly sunglasses from companies with a mission
So what if we told you there are companies out there that make sunglasses which protect your eyes perfectly, look awesome and are eco-friendly at the same time?
Of course, as you probably know, we wouldn’t recommend them to you if they were “only” good products.
That’s why each of the companies we’ll show you in this article is committed to doing more – by helping people in need or taking responsibility for our environment.
And the best thing: getting your new pair of great-looking, eco-conscious sunnies and supporting a good cause at the same time doesn’t even have to be expensive, as you will see in a moment.
So without further ado, let’s explore some of the top choices for truly sustainable sunglasses (in alphabetical order).
Blue Planet Eyewear
Based in California, Blue Planet Eyewear’s business model is to combine eco-friendly sunglasses with social responsibility.
All of their products are made with recycled and/or natural materials like bamboo or wood. By reclaiming and repurposing excess plastics and metals from conventional production, the company gives those materials another life and saves them from going to landfills.
With every pair sold, the company donates one pair of corrective eyeglasses to a person in need through their partnerships with organizations such as SEE International, Feed the Children, Direct Relief, and Best Day Foundation.
Through this project, which the company calls Visualize Change Program, more than 750,000 eyeglasses have already been provided to people struggling with vision impairment.
A few years after the start of their Visualize Change Program, Blue Planet Eyewear felt like they wanted to do even more, so they additionally started their project Random Acts of Kindness.
As part of this program, the company’s staff volunteers 1 day each month to help improve and grow their local community. From beach cleanups to animal shelters or gleaning oranges to donate them to welfare groups, the types of volunteer projects are as diverse as their community:
The founders of the Amsterdam-based brand are two Dutch surfers who were appalled by the plastic pollution in our oceans during a surf trip – that’s how the idea to tackle that issue came about.
Since then, the company has grown and is now part of the emerging generation of businesses who want to achieve both, be successful and make the world a better place.
So what exactly is it that makes their sunglasses and their frames for eyeglasses special? If you go for a pair of Dick Moby sunnies, you can rest assured that you get top-notch quality:
There are not many brands out there offering sustainable sunglasses with world-renowned German ZEISS lenses. Well, Dick Moby is one of the few.
All of their sunglasses are fitted with UV400 ZEISS lenses which not only protect your eyes against 100% of all harmful UVA and UVB rays. Furthermore, these lenses come with a hardened anti-scratch and anti-reflection coating, for maximal durability and comfort.
In addition to great lenses, the legs of each frame actually have a thin metal bone inside, making them a lot sturdier than regular ones and thus the risk of breakage far less likely.
Furthermore, extra sturdy, multi-barrel hinges ensure the legs are securely fixed to the frame, while Teflon coated screws are meant to make loose screws a thing of the past.
All of their colored frames are made from bio-acetate, which in turn is made using cellulose from wood pulp, which is a renewable resource. No toxic chemicals like plasticizes are added, which is often the case with conventional acetate products.
The glasses are produced in Italy by the well-established company Mazzucchelli, known for its quality. All Dick Moby glasses are partially handmade. Here’s a short video of the production process (narrated by one of their sunglasses):
All of their black frames are made from 97% recycled acetate and 3% black ink, which is a great idea to further reduce waste and recycle as many resources as possible.
Speaking of recycling: every pair comes with a recycled microfiber cleaning cloth and a recycled leather case. The cleaning cloth is made from 7 used PET plastic bottles. That’s 7 plastic bottles which won’t end up in our oceans or elsewhere, polluting our environment.
The leather cases are made from tanned leather scraps that would otherwise have ended up in landfills. Instead, they are reused and given a new life and purpose – which is to protect your new pair of Dick Moby shades. Check out their full collection here.
Based in Sydney, Australia, Ozeano is a young company with the mission of cleaning up our oceans from plastic and other trash – whilst making you look great with their stylish sunglasses.
With every pair sold, about 12 kg of marine plastic are removed from our oceans and waterways. That amount is equivalent to about 900 plastic bottles.
How exactly does it work, you ask?
Ozeano are partnered with the Australian company Seabin Project, who invented the “Sea bin”, which is a revolutionary ocean cleaning technology that helps create cleaner oceans with healthier marine life.
See the Sea bin in action in this short clip:
With each purchase of Ozeano sunglasses, you fund the operation of a Seabin for at least 3 days, during which time it will remove those 12 kg of plastic and marine litter.
Being made to operate in calm waters like marinas and ports, the Sea Bin works as a great addition to big offshore projects like The Ocean Cleanup (read more about it under the heading named “13. Technology to clean up our oceans” in this article).
Since Sea Bins operate on a smaller scale and in a calmer environment, they are much easier and cheaper to deploy. There are already hundreds of them in operation worldwide.
One single sea bin can capture an impressive 1.4 tons of plastic debris each year. What’s more, it also catches microplastic, fuel, oil and detergents – thus cleaning the ocean water thoroughly.
All of their sunglasses are made from either 100% recycled plastic or 100% recycled skateboard wood and are fitted with polarized UV 400 lenses.
Ozeano offers free worldwide shipping and only employs a carbon-neutral shipping service. Moreover, they only use home compostable courier bags to avoid any unnecessary plastic packaging.
To reduce waste even further, you get 25% off your next purchase for life as part of their circular economy.
In addition to their commitment to cleaner oceans, Ozeano also help people with vision impairment. To that end, they donate 10% of each sale to their registered eyecare charity partner, The Fred Hollows Foundation.
Every pair of their sunglasses comes with a 100% recycled bamboo protective case and a 100% organic cotton pouch.
Check out Ozeano’s full collection here.
Peep Eyewear is a British company with a little bit of a difference.
The company offers vintage sunglasses that have had the lenses replaced and these can even be customized.
There are thousands of pairs of sunglasses already made out there and just waiting for a home and if they can avoid being discarded, then this can only be a positive thing.
Peep has set about ensuring good pairs of sunglasses don’t get thrown out.
On top of this, for every pair sold, Peep plant trees through cooperation with Trees for Cities in an attempt to counterbalance any environmental negativity and help the world become more sustainable.
Of course, we condone all-new sunglasses being made in an eco-friendly way, but once a pair exists they may as well go to a good home and not further add to the waste and pollution.
Peep restores them to their former glory and extends the lifespan of existing sunnies.
Check out Peep Eyewear’s full collection here.
Founded in 2010 by 3 brothers from Idaho, Proof has since become one of the leading brands when it comes to environmentally and socially conscious sunglasses.
The American company embraces the idea of being a global citizen. As a result, giving back and doing good is an integral part of their business model.
Ever since their founding year, they have donated and helped in a variety of ways, from tsunami relief in Japan, child soldier rehabilitation projects in Africa, reforestation in Haiti, to building two eye clinics in India and other projects.
When you buy a pair of Proof sunglasses, $10 of every purchase goes to an environmental or social cause. To which one in particular depends on the collection you choose from:
|Wood Collection||sustainably sourced wood, including bamboo, lacewood, ebony or mahogany||Health and Vision projects worldwide.|
This includes health screenings, cataract, club foot, and cleft lip surgeries.
|ECO Collection||cotton-based acetate and wood||Empowerment projects around the world.|
Aim to provide long-term solutions like micro-loans or Safe Houses for women and children.
|Skate Collection||recycled Canadian maple skateboards||Environmental protection projects worldwide.|
Reforestation efforts and partnership with the Nature Conservancy.
|Aluminum Collection||recycled aluminum||Education initiatives around the globe.|
This includes rebuilding schools or covering school fees and supplies.
As you can see from the table above, all of Proof’s handcrafted sunglasses and optical frames are made from either renewable resources or recycled material.
No matter which collection you choose from, your new pair of Proof shades will have a minimal ecological footprint but a big positive social or environmental impact.
Check out Proof’s full collection here.
Based in San Diego, California, Solo Eyewear is another impressive company with the compelling mission #LiveandGive.
The idea for Solo was born as a class project at University when one of the two founders came across a startling statistic: about 80% of the worldwide blindness is preventable, while about 1 billion people do not have access to eye care.
Founded on that basis, it comes as no surprise that the company is primarily committed to restoring eyesight and preventing blindness through the funding of cataract surgeries, eye exams, and eyeglasses.
That’s why Solo Eyewear donates 10% of its profits to Aravind Eye Care System and Restoring Vision. Each of Solo’s sunglasses has the name of a country engraved on it where the company has funded eye care.
The company has already helped over 15,000 people with eye exams and surgeries to restore vision, making a huge positive impact on those people’s lives – both in the US and in countries where access to healthcare is limited.
In addition to their eye care efforts, Solo is also committed to doing as little damage to our environment as possible by using recycled plastic and repurposed bamboo to produce their sunglasses. This helps to avoid further plastic waste and environmental pollution caused by the production of virgin plastic.
Furthermore, Solo eyewear says they only work with manufacturers which have been audited by an American based auditing company to ensure workers safety and health as well as proper chemical management.
Check out Solo Eyewear’s full collection here.
Swell Vision‘s products are an expression of their mission: to promote sustainability across our globe.
All of their sunglasses are handcrafted and their frames made from sustainably sourced bamboo and equipped with polarized lenses. Some of their models are made with both, bamboo and plant-based acetate.
Did you know that some of the more than 1,000 species of bamboo are the fastest growing plants on earth – up to 91 cm (35 in) per day? But the super fast growth rate is not the only reason that makes it an excellent building material.
Bamboo, which is actually a grass, also reaches its full height and diameter within 1 growing season of just a few months, has a higher compression strength than wood, brick or concrete, and a tensile strength similar to steel – all at an unrivaled strength-to-weight ratio.
So, as you can see, Swell Vision’s sunglasses clearly speak the language of sustainability. But the company does more than “just” eco-conscious products.
Children are in general the most creative and optimistic people on earth. Educating the next generation of green leaders and changemakers is the goal of the Green School.
With every pair of sunglasses you buy from Swell Vision, the company pays for 2 weeks of tuition for a local student. Being a sponsor of the local scholarship program since 2014, Swell Vision’s support today enables 40 Balinese children to attend the Green School full time.
Through a holistic, natural education based on sustainability, this greenest school on earth on Bali has been helping students develop the skills necessary to solve our planet’s most urgent problems since 2008:
Investments into Education in order to come up with eco-friendly solutions to our current environmental issues are probably the most underrated – and yet surely the ones with the greatest potential for meaningful change.
The New York City-based company Warby Parker was founded with the goal of alleviating vision impairment at the heart of their business model while offering affordable, high-quality glasses.
Their slogan “buy a pair, give a pair” describes exactly the simple and yet impactful idea – for every pair of sunglasses (or eyeglasses) sold, one pair is distributed to someone in need.
Thanks to this socially responsible model, more than 4 million people with vision impairment in over 50 countries worldwide have received a pair of glasses since the beginning of Warby Parker. To that end, they partner with experienced non-profits like VisionSpring.
Especially in developing countries, alleviating vision impairment is a crucial factor which often leads to significantly higher productivity and thereby a higher income for those people, as studies by the WHO have shown.
A few years ago, the company additionally started projects which provide free eye exams in schools and distribute free glasses to those schoolchildren who need them.
Aside from prescription eyeglasses, Warby Parker offers a wide variety of stylish – and surprisingly affordable – quality sunglasses. Naturally, all their lenses protect you from 100% of UV-A and B rays.
Additionally, the lenses are treated with an anti-scratch coating, and the company will replace your lenses free of charge should any scratches appear within one year of your purchase.
All frames are either made from plant-based acetate or titanium. Warby Parker has its glasses manufactured in Italy with Mazzucchelli, renowned for its quality acetate production.
A very convenient service is their Home Try-On service: you can have 5 frames sent to you for free, try them on for 5 days and buy your favorite online, which they’ll send you a fresh pair of. Then you simply return the trial frames with a prepaid shipping label.
Check out Warby Parker’s full collection here.
Founded by a marine biologist and surfer, the company Waterhaul transforms ocean plastic into swell eyewear.
Based in Cornwall, England, the founder of Waterhaul recognized the huge damage so-called “ghost nets” – lost or discarded fishing nets – do to our marine ecosystems.
Waterhaul studied the facts and found out that 640,000 tonnes of fishing nets are lost or discarded in our oceans every single year. What’s more, fishing gear makes up about 46% (by weight) of all oceanic plastic waste.
Being made of plastic, fishing nets never biodegrade and persist for centuries. And since fishing nets are designed to catch marine life, that’s exactly what they keep doing – virtually indefinitely – even after they’ve been lost or discarded (a phenomenon called “ghost fishing”).
Due to their tendency to entangle, they not only kill fish, turtles, birds and more, but they also do significant damage to coral reefs and seabed habitats.
Waterhaul wants to change all that, so they’ve partnered up with local fishermen, NGOs and community groups to intercept and remove fishing nets and other ghost gear from our oceans and beaches:
By recycling fishing nets and creating net amnesty programs, Waterhaul makes a significant contribution to reduce current and avoid further ocean plastic pollution.
The recovered fishing nets and other plastic debris are then washed, shredded, turned into pellets and molded into high-quality frames by a specialized Italian factory.
Another thing that makes Waterhaul sunglasses special is the fact that their lenses are made from 100% recycled mineral glass instead of plastic. These Italian premium lenses (made by Barberini) are polarized and offer full UV protection as well as superior comfort.
What’s more, Waterhaul offers a warranty and lifetime buyback guarantee on all their eyewear. This is part of their circular economy to recycle all of their frames and have none end up in landfill.
The company additionally completed a plastic audit of their entire supply chain and removed all single-use plastic. They also package all their sunglasses 100% plastic free.
It’s hard to imagine how high-quality sunglasses could be any more environmentally friendly.
Check out Waterhaul’s collection here.
Based in Boulder, Colorado, Zeal Optics is an American company providing outdoor enthusiasts with quality sunglasses and ski goggles.
Their simple and yet effective motto is “Use less, give back, explore more”, which summarizes their core values brilliantly.
The company’s intelligent designs use plant-based materials as an alternative to plastic.
All of their frames use castor oil as starting material, which is derived from castor beans. The coating of their polarized lenses is made from a plant-based polymer called Ellume.
Using natural instead of petroleum-based materials, the production of their sunglasses has a much lighter ecological footprint than conventional production based on fossil fuels.
They have many designs including classic sunglasses designs such as wayfarers and even some more interesting, unique, and modern looks.
Furthermore, Zeal donates to charities and supports projects of all kinds, including preservation, environmental charities, and children’s charities, continuing their holistic work every time a pair of their sunglasses is purchased.
Let’s be honest: we don’t need another brand of conventional plastic sunglasses which only exists for its own profit.
Instead, what we and our planet need is more businesses like the ones that we have explored in this article.
Businesses that use their products as a vehicle to make this world a little bit of a better place.
When you see the wonderful work being done by these sustainable brands, it is hard to justify purchasing a pair of sunglasses anywhere else.
Which one is your favorite?
P.S.: don’t forget to pick up an eco-friendly and safe sunscreen to protect your skin form harmful UV rays as well.
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