More than half of us need glasses to correct our vision, but like sunglasses they’ve long been a challenge to the eco-conscious. Frames are usually made from polluting, non-biodegradable petroleum-based plastics or from metal. While both are recyclable, your local scheme is unlikely to accept old specs, which are more likely to end up in landfill. Finishes include polluting dyes, glues and coatings. High-street opticians add to the waste by assuming you’ll take new frames with each prescription update.
For years, the best available compromise was to choose carefully for style and durability, and keep updating the same pair. Fortunately for the image-conscious, several quality optical companies are now focusing on offering eco-friendly, sustainable and ethical specs and sunglasses which are also irresistibly stylish. We’ve picked out sunglasses from three sustainable UK companies taking a stand against fast fashion with their stunning classic frames.
‘Be The Change’ award-winning Pala was founded specifically to create covetable sunglasses that give back. As a B Corp, they’re committed to balancing profit and purpose and subject to a rigorous assessment of their impacts on workers, customers, community and environment, with all this reported transparently on bcorporation.net. They were also among the first companies to receive sustainability consultancy Eco-Age’s respected Brand Mark. Working with Vision Aid Overseas they provide vision screening and eyecare dispensaries for people across Africa who would otherwise lack access to the glasses they need to read, learn and work. Even Pala’s recycled plastic cases are from weaving communities in Ghana, where their offsetting scheme also provides safe, less-polluting stoves.
They’re also taking a conscious stand against fast fashion with classic, eye-catching frames which are genuinely sustainable because they’re destined to be loved forever. The cheeky Meria cat-eyes, for example, were handmade in Italy to never go out of style. Made from biodegradable cellulose bio-acetate rather than plastic, they’re suitable for your own prescription and the impressive list of stockists includes independent opticians across England and Wales. If you buy them just as sunglasses the coloured lenses are made using 39% plant resin. They accept all their glasses back for recycling.
Putting other wooden frames in the shade, Bird’s award-winning round Blackcap come from their unisex Strata range. Twelve layers of biodegradeable, sustainably sourced ash, bamboo, sandalwood and beechwood produce the beautiful horizontal stripes, in this case featuring a ‘black cap’ inspired by the bird of that name. Built to last around a two-layer recycled aluminium core and finished with bio-acetate and water-based dye, they come in a renewable cork case with a cloth made from plastic bottles.
Bird was the first UK eyewear brand to become a B Corp. For every pair they sell, a solar light is supplied to a home in Malawi or Zambia. Many African families are forced to rely on hazardous, toxic and inadequate homemade kerosene lamps which they can’t afford to keep lit. A solar lamp can literally provide more hours in a day to spend on work or study. They hope to extend their thorough and generous Birds recycling scheme to include other specs brands soon. All Birds can be made up to your prescription or bought as off-the-peg sunglasses. Either way, you know you’ll love them for years to come.
Peep view eyewear sustainabiity from a slightly different angle. For a long time, the most sustainable way to source new frames was to seek out either deadstock, (old stock which was never sold), or used glasses. Choosing an already existing frame reduces landfill, conserves resources and avoids pollution. Peep’s optical expertise and an eye for vintage style and quality have allowed them to shape this concept into a fabulous business. They source and refurbish stand-out vintage lines and unique frames to create inspiring collections to be bought as sunglasses or made up to your prescription. We’re hypnotised by their TV-inspired The Serpent seventies collection, which includes these serene Bodhi aviators. They come with case and cloth made from plastic bottles and to offset the environmental impact of the business, they’ll plant a tree for every pair sold.
Peep also make impressive efforts to support slow fashion, offering a full refurbishment service. They’ll help you keep own specs in use not only by renewing the prescription but also by restoring battered frames. They’ll also bring your classic sunnies back to life or make over and make up that amazing vintage find. Their recycling scheme includes any glasses, and not only helps Lions Club UK’s worldwide efforts to pass on glasses to those in need but also rescues parts for use in restorations.