Eco-Friendly Optical Stores Show Their Green Thumbs

As spring sets in, businesses across all industries regain environmental consciousness and look for ways to celebrate and show their concern. The fashionably responsible trend certainly doesn't bypass eyewear retailers, many of whom have taken great strides toward greener pastures in recent years. As Earth Day approaches, eco-friendly optical stores all over the country are showing their green thumbs, and we at VM have tracked down a few to give them our thumbs up for their efforts in this issue's Seeing Green

Eco Design Ethic in NYC’s Greenwich Village
New York, NY

The appropriately named Eco of Greenwich Village is just as it sounds—a small shop filled with Earth-friendly minds and materials located in the trendy downtown area of Greenwich Village, Manhattan. The boutique, which opened in May 2011, not only distributes Modo's Eco collection, but is eco-friendly itself.

Eco of Greenwich Village.
Eco eyewear is the first collection to use 95 percent recycled material for their optical and sun products. The collection, which was evaluated by UL Environment (a subsidiary of Underwriters Laboratories), has received an Environmental Claims Validation, marking it a leading product in the green industry.

The frames themselves are not Eco's only claim to fame, of course—the store itself is made with recycled material, as well, using only reclaimed wood for its floors and walls. Additionally, the location uses LED lighting to cut down on electricity consumption.

"Everything we use at the store is energy efficient," said Loret Gamboa, Modo's retail manager.

As a nod to Earth Day, Eco hosted a small party on Sunday, April 22, where customers who snag an eco-friendly pair of specs received 30 percent off their purchases. Organic beverages will also be served. "Just a small party, some drinks, some discounts, nothing too formal," Gamboa told VM.—

The discount and small celebration are not the only reasons to stop by—as an added bonus, each Eco frame sold constitutes a donation to Trees for the Future, which according to Gamboa led to over half a million trees planted last year. The pledge to plant, which stands year-round, shows that optical companies are not only going green, but growing green. 
Cat Wolinski

Glimpse-ing A Green Sensibility in Delray Beach, Fla.

If ever there were a town that is identifiably “green,” Delray Beach, Fla. is it. Nestled in the Pineapple Grove arts district, the small neighborhood has become a haven for artistic and earth conscious businesses, one of which is the eco-conscious Glimpse Eyewear & Sunglasses Boutique. Owner Karen Pagano shared with VM what makes her town and her boutique so great—and so green.

“[Delrey] is a walking community, and of course there is nothing more green than walking,” Pagano said as she described the area. “Everything is in walking distance; it’s the most fabulous little town.”

Pagano opened what she describes as her “fabulous high-end boutique” a year and a half ago, after being a sales rep in the optical business for 16 years. Though the shop sells both optical frames and sunglasses, the most eco-friendly eyewear they are known for are Anni Shades, a line of sunglasses made with 100 percent wood frames. The shades, which ship from the one-man company in Alliance, Ohio, are also packaged in recycled material.

In celebration of Earth Day, on April 22 Glimpse Eyewear had a trunk show featuring the maker of the frames himself, Phillip Mastroianni. In addition to this one-day event, customers are also encouraged to take advantage of a special promotion offering 10 percent off all frames purchased in the store for the entire month of April—“Just a little extra incentive to get people to buy green,” Pagano said.

Keeping the Earth in mind in her business as well as in her personal life, Pagano also makes her own natural cleaning products, such as a vinegar-based eyeglass cleanser, and a peppermint oil all-purpose cleaner she uses around the store. “I’m not putting harsh chemicals into my environment, for my shop and for my customers,” she told VM. “Anything I can do, I do.”
Cat Wolinski

High-End N.C. Boutique Keeps Shop Down to Earth

Going green isn’t a new trend, but as consumers become environmentally conscious, more and more businesses all over the country are finding ways to use recycled materials and reduce their carbon footprints. In the meantime, they’re also connecting with their customer base. While some places are using their eco-friendly image as a selling tool, one optical boutique truly believes in the cause.

Most optical stores and eyewear companies have been focusing on creating eco-friendly collections in an effort to go green. But one boutique in Raleigh, N.C. decided to take a different, more understated approach, and literally worked from the ground up.

Village Optique in Raleigh, N.C.
Marla Brautman, owner of Village Optique, opened the Lafayette Village store in November 2011. Setting up her shop involved unique recycling techniques. “I just wanted to be more eco-friendly and mix nature and optics,” she said.

After deciding to make the store environmentally conscious, Brautman contacted Jonathan Shapiro, a Pittsburgh-based sculptor known for using natural materials and found objects in his work. Shapiro helped her take her store from just another family-run business to a shop that stands apart from the rest.
The store’s most obvious nod to nature is its chandelier.

“The chandelier is made up entirely of wood and twigs found outside,” Brautman explained. From there, the nature-theme continues throughout the shop. The frames around the mirrors and counter toppings are all made of wood taken from old workshops and barns, Brautman said.

While the eco-friendly design is subtle, it mirrors Brautman’s approach to her store. The fact that the optical boutique is eco-friendly isn’t broadcast across its website, Facebook page and Twitter account. This high-end shop just prefers to take a down-to-earth approach to its environmental roots.

Since being green is a year-round choice, Village Optique didn’t have any definite plans yet for Earth Day. “I don’t know what we’re going to do yet for Earth Day,” Brautman said. “My main focus is mixing nature and reusing material all year long.”
—Lindsay Christ