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    The growing green trend in optical

    Why some companies are taking the eco-friendly step


    Eco-friendly materials

    While some companies are being green in the way they make their frames, others are choosing to be eco-friendly in what they use to make their frames.

    While Modo’s Earth-Conscious Optics (ECO) brand’s Born Biobased collection is made from castor bean oil, its Born Recycled collection features 95 percent recycled acetate and stainless steel. A spokesperson for Modo says that the production process for these recycled materials is more expensive, but the company believes in lower margins to invest in products that it believes are worth it.

    And Modo doesn’t stop there—all of its packaging and marketing materials are made of recycled materials.

    One of the coolest examples of eco-friendly materials is Zeal Optics’ metal eyewear frames, which are forged out of recycled stainless steel from Sendai, Japan, the area hardest hit by the 2011 tsunami.

    “Zeal Optics sources stainless steel as a way to help the community recover while recycling materials that would otherwise be dumped in landfills,” says Mike Lewis, director of brand activities and digital strategy at Zeal Optics.

    Zeal also has a line of biodegradable sunglasses that are made out of 100 percent cotton. According to the company, M49 is a natural material produced from cotton and wood pulp fibers, which is manufactured using only renewable resources. The company says the material keeps all of the characteristics of traditional acetate, but it is free of the toxic substances used in most plastics. If left in soil or water, the frames will begin to biodegrade after 18 months.

    And Zeal’s Ellume lens is the world’s first plant-based lens that features polarization and protects against UVA/B/C and HEV light.

    More optical: Why you should offer children's eyewear

    Sanchez, who is the former president of Zeal Optics, says that Costa is looking into utilizing many of the materials used by Zeal, such as cotton and wood pulp fibers. Sanchez says biodegradability is important to the company—especially when you consider that every petroleum-based sunglass ever made still exists.

    “There are a lot of great companies who are developing amazing sustainable raw materials,” he says. “The more of those that are used, the better it will be for all of us.”

    And while Zeal travels as far as Japan for some of its frames, WooDone just goes out into its own backyard.

    WooDone is an Italian optical company that offers hand-made eyewear frames each carved from a single piece of wood from South Tyrol, Italy. WooDone features two collections—Wood and Nature. The Wood collection includes a variety of frame styles, each featured in different woods: acacia, nut, ash, and chestnut. The Nature collection features wood frames with a choice of nature-themed treatments: roses, viöl (violets), fienum (hay), ulmus (leaves), and bling (galena mineral dust).

    “We all need to be a little more caring about how we live our lives, and eyewear is just one piece of that puzzle,” says Jeff Stern, a WooDone U.S. sales agent.

    Stern says the company chose to work with wood not only because it is environmentally friendly but also because of the unique aesthetics of each frame.

    “The factory in Italy is right in the middle of this beautiful landscape and nature,” he says. “We want to do it differently than it’s been done in the past. The environment is important to us—and the aesthetics are important to us.”

    Stern says that while wood eyewear frames have been around for years, the market didn’t grow because they were difficult to adjust. But that problem has since been worked out, and wooden frames are growing in popularity.

    “It’s really the beginning of a category,” he says. “With each show, it’s growing—and even more so in Europe.”

    Next: Eco-friendly programs

    Colleen E. McCarthy
    Colleen McCarthy is a freelance writer based in the Cleveland area and a former editor of Optometry Times. She is a 2010 graduate of the ...


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