Shwood Eyewear recently joined forces with Louisville Slugger, offering eyeglass frames crafted from old broken bats.
GOING ECO WITH LENSES Vision-Ease Lens is just one of a handful of companies working to reduce the carbon footprint of its operations and its lenses. All products are now manufactured with 100% renewable energy, and each pair of lenses produced with this energy eliminates 10.5 lbs. of CO2 emissions. Lenses are shipped in packaging made of 35% post-consumer material, with no plastic cups, and are printed with soy-based ink.
The plant-based plastic ‘eco’ frames like Dempsey (in crystal purple) from dizm Eco Eyewear are 100% recyclable and biodegradable.
Wood as an eco-friendly category continues to grow steadily; shown here is the newly released Hayburn Red Gray from Proof.
Smith’s Evolve sunglass program uses bio-based materials from Arkema and EMS (shown here is Lowdown Slim in Celeste blue).

New materials and sustainability practices continue to grow the eco-friendly eyewear category.

Eco-friendly products. You hear the words. You see the manufacturers at the trade shows. But what’s really viable? And selling? And what should ECPs have in their arsenal to entice their patients? We went to the sources-the companies themselves-to find the answers.


The sustainability story is not new, but the approaches to materials are. Yes, Mazzucchelli’s M-49, manufactured from renewable resources such as cotton fibers, remains the “star,” but it’s not the only one. At Zeal Optics, for example, director of marketing Joe Prebich says the company “continues to push the envelope on biodegradable materials” and has begun obtaining new materials that are made from sources such as rice and corn.

Meanwhile at Shwood, long known for its wood frames, the company recently released its Fifty/Fifty collection, its first venture into acetate eyewear which uses cellulose acetate over petroleum-based plastics. And at MODO Eyewear, whose Earth Conscious Optics (Eco) lines have long included recycled plastics, there’s a new capsule collection called Eco Biobased with frames made of castor seeds and cases produced from recycled plastic bottles.

According to Visionworks’ president Jim Eisen, president, whose more than 620 optical stores recently started carrying MODO’s Eco Born Recycled frames (made from either 95% recycled acetate or 95% recycled metal), “more and more consumers are making sustainable products a priority in their purchase decisions.”

It’s no secret: Doing good makes folks feel good. And in the U.S.’s recession-weary economy, it’s still a persuasive selling point. According to Eisen, “our customers like the fact that for each pair of Eco glasses or sunglasses purchased, the company will plant a tree in Cameroon, a country greatly affected by deforestation.” Another nice touch: Each pair of Eco glasses comes with a postage-paid envelope so patients can easily send their old glasses to be recycled.

Adds ZEAL’s Prebich, not every consumer is an eco-conscious consumer, but there are ways to plant the seed. “The best way that eco works is to know your patients and bring up the relevant points when it matters most,” he explains. “Like we say, it isn’t about leading every sale with our eco story; it’s about tailoring that message to be impactful for the consumers that are looking for it. When that happens, people’s minds are changed and new doors are opened.”

ZEAL recently added three new styles made from castor-based resin as part of its Performance Collection. Brand new for the company: the Crafted Collection made entirely of biodegradable acetates. “This started with ACE, made from M-49, and will be expanded with three new styles-Memphis, Dakota, and Fleetwood,” says Prebich.

Sustainability remains a core mission at other companies as well, including Smith Optics and Revo. Smith’s Evolve sunglass program, for example, uses bio-based materials from Arkema and EMS, specifically the Arkema Rilsan Clear G830 and the EMS XE4010. Both include over 50% bio-based content.

And at Revo, where b. robinson recently got the sunglass license after the brand was purchased by Sequential, an upcoming brand re-launch will feature new styles, new ambassadors (NASCAR superstar Danica Patrick), new lenses, and more.

Wood as an eco-friendly category continues to grow steadily with collections from FEB31st, Drift Eyewear, Herrlicht, Iwood Ecodesign, Proof Eyewear, and Shwood, among its key players. According to Brooks Dame, CEO of Proof, people like the uniqueness, as well as the look and feel of authentic wood frames.

“If you give people the choice, nine times out of 10 they will choose the eco-friendly option if it is comparable and cost effective,” he says. “We live in a beautiful world that deep down everyone wants to preserve for future generations.” Proof’s prescription frames, which come in a skateboard collection as well as a hybrid (wood and Environmentally Conscious Optics [ECO] acetate), have been big sellers which he admits of late have been hard to keep up with the demand.

At Shwood, the company recently joined forces with Louisville Slugger and is featuring eyeglass frames crafted from old broken bats. The company has also opted for using cellulose acetate over petroleum-based plastics.

As for what needs to be done with the category overall to make it expand, Ryan Kirkpatrick, Shwood’s CEO, believes eco-friendly products need to become more accessible to the mainstream populace. “There shouldn’t be a functional or aesthetic sacrifice involved in buying ‘green,'” he says.

Seconds Dane: Eco-friendly products can’t be unrefined, big, or bulky. They need to compete with comparable mediums and should be priced right. They also need to be unique. “People want to show the world in a subtle way that they’ve got something that’s one of a kind,” he says.

The other part of this story is the sustainability factor on the manufacturing end as well as the continual hunt for sourcing new materials.

ICU Eyewear is committed to drastically reducing greenhouse emissions generated during manufacturing and shipping, and is presently involved in two initiatives. One reduces methane output at Fiscalini farms, a dairy manufacturer in Northern California near the company’s headquarters, while the other provides 130,000 megawatt-hours of clean electricity every year to the area by the Chifeng Wind Farm in China, where it manufactures.

And at two-year-old dizm Eco Eyewear, the company features plant-based plastic “eco” frames made from virgin plant-based materials, which are, according to Jonas Lee, general manager, “the first 100% recyclable and biodegradable plastic frame on the market.

“We’re pleased to be able to offer the aesthetics of a plastic frame without the environmental drawbacks associated with non-sustainable petroleum-based plastics or castor oil-based materials that are not fully biodegradable,” he says. “A commitment to sustainability is not really a choice any longer. It’s our responsibility.”

Jeanne Muchnick is Managing Editor of VCPN.

dizm Eco Eyewear
Drift Eyewear
ICU Eyewear
Iwood Ecodesign
MODO Eyewear
Proof Eyewear
Smith Optics
Vision-Ease Lens
ZEAL Optics



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