SEEING GREEN—Eyewear Options Evolve as Consumer Interest Grows

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NEW YORK—More than a billion people around the world took part in Earth Day celebrations yesterday, April 22, the 42nd anniversary of an event that has now grown into a daily movement among many consumers for sustainability, social responsibility and environmental awareness.

From local events to cultural gatherings, people are getting involved. And from a business point of view, tied to the rise of “social purpose” and “corporate responsibility” initiatives crossing all fields and industries, the activities reflect a clear shift in consume priorities.

As VM pointed out in its comprehensive Seeing Green, A Movement Takes Hold report last year a growing range of consumers are taking an active interest in such issues as how products are made, how businesses reduce their impact on the planet. Spurred on by the still challenging economy, rising energy costs and concern about climate change, this trend is emerging as well in the eyewear and optical industries.

Some observers warn about “greenwashing,” the phenomenon of some companies to exaggerate or overstate their claims without corroboration from established sustainability groups and authorities. But nevertheless, there are many examples of the impact of real-world business and company accountability issues happening among companies and tied into consumers’ purchasing attitudes.

 
One Percent for the Planet Eco frames.

In the eyewear category, there is an examination—of materials, construction, fabrication and processes that create eyeglass frames, sunwear and lenses—to address the issue.

Modo’s Eco—Earth Conscious Optics—is the first certified eyewear material, using 95 percent recycled materials in the frames and the packaging and POP associated with the collection which has expanded significantly since its introduction. Eco plants a tree for every frame sold through its One Frame One Tree initiative together with Trees For the Future. The company is approaching one million trees planted.

Eco now has several sub-collections. The company features Summer Rayne Oaks, environmentalist, model and author, as a spokesperson for their efforts. Modo is an important member of One Percent for the Planet and just launched a limited edition to further support the program. The optical and sun frames in this range each have a blue and green temple tip symbolizing their connection to the causes.

And just being released is Modo’s new eco Safari collection. Safari is in collaboration with The Mezimbite Forest Centre, which is a full-service operation focused on community-based sustainable development and design. Their programs use all forest products, both timber and non-timber, as incentives for conservation. The Eco Safari collection consists of two unisex, classic aviators. The frame fronts are made of 95 percent recycled materials and the temples are made from repurposed wood.

As Valerie Vail, Modo’s senior vice president sales, pointed out, “We remain the leader of sustainable products in our industry—we are the only company worldwide with a UL certification. We believe that a certification is the key to transparency to avoid any ‘green-washing.’ Eco will be launching a new campaign, called 2.0, in the fall, to target a younger and hipper audience. Eco is the key brand and we will have a new campaign of Eco, called 2.0 in the fall which will target a younger and hipper audience.”

Eyewear plastics manufacturer (see story, M49) is also enabling frame designers and product developers to consider other sustainability-sensitive materials as an alternative to traditional material products. The Italian-based firm debuted its new “bio-plastic” material just last fall.

A growing range of companies, from Revo, Smith, Kenmark’s Jhane Barnes, Von Zipper and others are also emphasizing new approaches to materials.  Designer Stella McCartney (with Luxottica), special editions from Gucci (with Safilo) and a growing roster of new players, including Drift, Rolf and Shwood are bringing materials stories of sustainability into the eyewear category.