Lens Companies Explore Sustainability and Communicate Green Efforts

Several ophthalmic lens companies have initiated programs to broaden their own sustainability initiatives and/or to communicate information about lens materials and the impact of how they’re manufactured to ECPs and to consumers. Some have also taken a look at their operations and infrastructure to minimize environmental income and save costs.

In 2008, Vision-Ease Lens (VEL) ( www.vision-ease.com) began purchasing 100 percent renewable energy to power its Ramsey, Minn. headquarters and manufacturing facility. In addition, it revised its manufacturing and shipping for LifeRx lenses, eliminating shipping products across the country twice and saving more than 10,000 gallons of gas and 113 million tons of CO2 emissions per year.

By contracting for renewable energy to power the Ramsey plant, VEL can eliminate 15,759 metric tons of CO2 emissions per year. These savings are equivalent to CO2 emissions from 1,788,767 gallons of gasoline. Translated directly to lens production, each pair of lenses produced at Ramsey using renewable energy eliminates 10.5 pounds of CO2 emissions.

Using calculations via the carbon calculator on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website, VEL noted, with renewable energy the production of Vision-Ease lenses delivers the following comparable CO2 reductions:

• Each pair of lenses is equivalent to the carbon sequestered by one tree seedling for one year.
• Two pair of lenses avoids the carbon release of one gallon of gasoline consumed.
• 100 pair of lenses is equal to the carbon release of one barrel of oil.
• 1,000 pair of lenses is equivalent to the reduction of one passenger vehicle for 10 months.
• 10,000 pair of lenses equals the reduction of carbon release of the electricity to power six homes for one year.

“Beyond offering lenses that have a ‘green touch,’ by acting as a leader in sustainability and green practices within the eyecare industry, VEL is setting an example to those within the industry at all levels to examine their internal practices,” said Jay Lusignan, marketing communications manager for Vision-Ease Lens.

As part of its commitment to environmental sustainability, Transitions Optical is continuing to take steps to reduce its energy and water usage in its U.S. operations—reducing its carbon footprint across the globe.

Transitions Optical ( www.transitions.com) has a dedicated Environmental, Healthy and Safety (EH&S) team which reviews performance and waste reduction data and identifies new steps for minimizing Transitions Optical’s impact of operations on the environment.

In 2010, Transitions installed conservation measures in its equipment used to wash and rinse lenses, resulting in a 24 percent reduction in water usage for its U.S. facilities. The installation of a new roof, chiller and frequency drives helped to run motors more efficiently and resulted in a 12 percent energy reduction as well.

Globally, Transitions Optical’s water reduction for 2010 resulted in an 18 percent reduction over 2009. Transitions is hoping to increase that percentage by 5 percent in 2011, a company spokesperson told VM, noting that Transitions Optical re-invests any energy savings back into its green efforts to reduce energy consumption and put in new technologies in all of its facilities.

Essilor’s green initiatives have recently centered around Airwear lenses. The company points to a special website, www.lightersafergreener.com, which illustrates the way ECPs can learn how patients can support the environment their eyewear. A spokesperson said, “Essilor employs eco-conscious manufacturing processes in its Airwear lenses. Airwear lenses are the first Essilor lens material to go green, significantly reducing its environmental footprint by implementing responsible manufacturing” including:

Packaging: 100 percent recyclable cardboard made from 100 percent recyclable wooden fibers for Airwear lens packaging, helping to eliminate 460,000 pounds of plastic waste every year.
Water Consumption: 100 percent recycled water for manufacturing of Airwear lenses, conserving millions of gallons of water.
Recycling Excess Material: Airwear re-purposes unused materials for other industries, such as automobiles, toys and writing instruments.
Donating Eyewear: Essilor supports Lions Club International’s Recycle for Sight, program which accepts old, usable glasses and donates them to those in need.