Eyewear to ‘Why’ wear? Frame Companies Look at Sustainable Materials, Messages

The optical and sunglass sectors are taking real steps to examine materials and frame-making manufacturing processes to employ new types of bio-based materials as well as packaging and presentation concepts to address growing consumer interest in the realm of sustainability.

New efforts are also integrally linked to “social purpose” values, which are also gaining ground and tie into a growing interest among both young customers and baby boomers to “do good” with the purchases they make and companies they patronize

Modo’s path has touched all aspects of its business since the launch of eco, its earth conscious optics project. “There’s no such thing as a 100 percent sustainable company,” said Alessandro Lanaro, Modo’s president and CEO. “We decided that we would not only reduce the footprint of making the product, but look for ways to offset the remaining footprint by giving something back.”

First, eco developed a manufacturing process using recycled steel and repurposed plastic to produce frames with a minimum 95 percent recycled content. They went through a rigorous process of having the manufacturing certified by UL Environment, a new program of Underwriters Laboratories, the world leader in product evaluation. Eco is the first consumer brand to receive ULE’s approval, which certifies that the product’s green claims have been validated by an independent third party—“extremely important,” said Lanaro, “in a world where lots of products make sustainability claims they can’t verify.”

Next eco formed a partnership with Trees for the Future, a 1 percent for the Planet recipient non-profit that helps communities around the world plant trees, to fight global warming and protect wildlife habitat. For every pair of frames sold, eco donates one tree to the Cameroon Reforestation Project, and expects to plant half a million trees in the West African nation this year.

The frames are shipped in packages made with 100 percent recycled paper, in a pouch of organic cotton. Inside the package is a return envelope for customers to donate their unwanted glasses, via eco, to OneSight, the Luxottica nonprofit foundation that matches the prescriptions to people in Africa and Southeast Asia who would otherwise not be able to afford corrected vision. Modo encourages its retail accounts to consider eco a way to build a competitive advantage and tap into a new and growing audience of eco-friendly consumers

At Revo, the company’s new Eco-Collection uses a sustainable manufacturing process, either Re-Use or Eco-Use. Revo Re-Use is a frame material made from 100 percent recycled pre-consumer polymer resins, a top-grade recycled TR-90 nylon. Revo’s Eco-use features a nylon frame material made from the seed of the castor bean plant instead of widely-used petroleum based nylons.

The company has also aligned itself “to support people and projects aligned with both outdoor exploration and a humanitarian or ecological cause. These Ambassadors include: Sebastian Copeland, renowned polar explorer and global warming advocate; Alexandra Cousteau, global water advocate and founder of Blue Legacy International, and Jimmy Chin, world-renowned photographer and mountaineer.

Kenmark Optical last year debuted several styles within its Jhane Barnes men’s collection, inspired by the designer’s commitment to the environment. Each new style incorporates Jhane Barnes’s design aesthetic into designer frames for men that are eco-friendly. The frames feature thin sheets of recycled wood pulp laminated into an acetate temple consisting of 30 percent recycled scrap. The styles feature titanium fronts and use bio-degradable demo lenses made from corn rather than standard petroleum based demo lenses. Frames will be packaged with backing cards printed on recycled paper.

Over three years ago, Smith Optics reported it brought environmental thinking to the materials and processes which were used to manufacture its sunglasses, goggles and helmets. After three years of successfully testing bio-based, nylon alternative, Rilsan Clear in a limited range of sunglass models comprising the Evolve collection, Smith is taking another step by introducing the bio-based material into 95 percent of its injection-molded sunglass frames. This material, replaces 53 percent of the petrol-based chemicals in each frame with a resin derived from non-GMO, organic castor plants. All Smith sunglasses are covered by Smith Optics True Lifetime Warranty.

“Shift into Neutral” is a new sun collection from VonZipper, made from sustainable oil derived from the castor bean. The frames come with a cotton sunglass bag and minimal packaging, the company said.