Eyewear is the most tangible segment of our industry—the final product that consumers can touch, feel, wear and love—which makes it an integral touch point for the sustainable message. Across the industry, eyewear companies are adopting and advancing their sustainable practices: reimagining materials, product, packaging and marketing to make every step better for the planet we live on. These positive changes are translated from the production floor to the ECP and, finally, to the consumer, who will carry that sustainable story with them every time they wear their frames.

From small, passionate, independent brands to the biggest names in the eyewear industry—everyone is concerned with the impact our industry has on the planet and how we can lessen it. Here, we take a look at some of the ways eyewear is changing, innovating and becoming more sustainable every day.

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Charmant USA, Building Sustainable Product Lines
The idea that recyclable fashion can’t be beautiful is a myth Charmant USA is quick to dispel. New collections from ELLE, Eddie Bauer and ESPRIT are made of biodegradable acetate, proving that luxury and sustainability can go hand in hand.

Director of product for product development Michele Ziss said the collections are lightweight and provide flexibility and durability, with a history of creating sustainable pieces dating back to the 1960s. “These new Esprit Ecollection eyeglasses take sustainability to the next level. Not only are these modern frames light, thin, durable, and UV-resistant, they are made of responsibly sourced eco-acetate,” she said.

Ziss noted that the collections contain a high proportion of plant-based ingredients including cotton cellulose, eco-acetate which can be processed with biodegradable natural plasticizers. “ELLE consumers are more aware of the environmental importance, causing a search for more eco-friendly options. The make-up of acetate is already largely plant based, but conventional acetates usually have plasticizers which release toxic chemicals when they biodegrade. Biodegradable acetate uses bio-based plasticizers made from renewable sources and ensures premium hand feel, look and quality.”

She said consumers have gotten on board and welcome the addition of sustainable pieces. Sales have increased in these specific brands because of the company’s sustainable efforts.

“We are creating these sustainable products because of the importance it has on the environment and our community. Many environmental reasons have shifted the consumers’ consumption and priorities. There is a renewed sense of purpose and accountability for protecting the environment in every aspect,” she said.

Biodegradable acetate is made of cotton seeds and wood pulp, which is designed to decompose, and degrade in nature, leading to less waste. Responsible processing requires significant and ongoing cleaning of facilities or separate production lines, storage, and management of bio-acetates, to be sure the end-product can pass all testing. Biodegradable acetate offers production processes that handle acetate without risk of phthalate contamination.

The company has expanded their efforts to American Forests in partnership with Eddie Bauer to further help protect and restore our forests. For more than 25 years, Eddie Bauer has partnered with American Forests to plant more than 8 million trees.

During the Month of April, a portion of every Eddie Bauer frame sold was donated to the American Forests. For every dollar donated, a tree is planted. The campaign offered multiple opportunities for customers to extend their Eddie Bauer Eyewear inventory and maximize their donations.

Charmant is also utilizing social media to help spread the word about sustainability efforts.

“Our future goal is to continue making products that protect our environment. As an eye and health care specialist, our primary goal is to enhance the lives of people worldwide through our actions,” she said. “These actions are based on our socially, environmentaly, and economically sustainable mindset,” Ziss concluded.

Costa’s Commitment Runs Deep
From the very beginning, Costa had a clear mission: “protect and preserve the waters, beaches, and coastal communities that we call home.” Every pair of sunglasses the brand sells helps support its conservation programs, as well as its 30+ non-profit conversation partnerships that help protect fisheries and waterways, reduce ocean plastic pollution, educate and empower the fishing community, and restore and rebuild coastal communities.

There has never been a doubt about what Costa stands for—or how committed the brand is to its planet-first cause.

When it comes to eyewear offerings, Costa approaches sustainability in a handful of ways. First is its Untangled Collection, made from recycled fishing nets collected with a California-based partner Bureo. These commercial fishing nets which would have otherwise been left in the sea are turned into Costa’s NetPlus material, and then into frames.

Secondly is Costa’s lightweight and durable bio-resin collection, made from castor oil it is part of the brand’s Kick Plastic initiative to reduce its carbon footprint. This year, Costa also introduced bio-acetate into its offerings as part of its best-selling Del Mar collection.

But for Costa, sustainability is about so much more than what product is made from. The company supports a number of organizations and initiatives aimed at protecting the planet and its people. John Sanchez, VP of global product strategy for Costa Sunglasses broke down some of these initiatives for VM.

“Costa’s Kick Plastic program helps reduce the number of single-use plastic water bottles piling up in our landfills, and waterways. It has also, with the help of our Kick Plastic Ambassadors, recycled 14 tons of polycarbonate lenses. Our OneCoast program—inspired by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria—helps rebuild communities impacted by natural disasters through the purchase of OneCoast apparel, direct donations, and volunteering. Trout Unlimited Costa 5 Rivers, engages the next generation of anglers with a nationwide network of conservation-minded college fly fishing clubs.

“Costa has also developed meaningful partnerships with mission-aligned organizations around the world. To name a few: IndiFly, founded as a Costa-led initiative, provides an economic opportunity to fishermen by developing sustainable fly fishing ecotourism businesses around the world.

“Headquartered in our home state of Florida, Captains for Clean Water is a grassroots non-profit organization fighting to protect our watery resources; and The Billfish Foundation, and Bonefish Tarpon Trust are working to conserve saltwater fish species,” according to Sanchez.

When it comes to eyewear, though, Costa has seen a genuine interest in sustainable offerings. Sanchez said, “Sales are good, environmental impact is better. Nearly all of our products contain sustainable materials, so in terms of sales they’re doing great. We’re seeing an increase in interest for our Untangled collection, which is the most sustainable collection of products we offer.

“Sales for that collection were up nearly 50 percent last year… Generally speaking, our customers care about sustainability. They look to partner with cause driven initiatives, and it reflects in both their partnerships and buying habits… Results are seen in both overall sales and emotional connectivity to the brand.”

To help make this message clear, Costa’s account marketing team works closely with the brand and sales teams to ensure that Costa provides the right tools to help customers better understand the brand story and sustainability efforts. This happens through various channels, from point of sale elements on the sales floor to e-commerce and newsletters to social media assets and tools at retail events.

The brand also ensures that the vendors it works with stay true to its principles, using sustainable materials and bulk shipping where possible.

Looking to the future, Costa’s commitment to protecting the waterways will continue to grow, deeply impacting the planet for the better. Sanchez explained, “It’s not just our ambition to be the most sustainable brand on the water, but to actually be regenerative to the watery world. We’re here to protect and restore.

“With the power of EssilorLuxottica behind us, we have some amazing activities in development to help us achieve our ambitions… Beyond sustainable products, our boots on the ground and hands in the communities is truly what makes us unique. In the future, we’ll be scaling where and how we show up, but our end goal is to leave the world a better place than we found it,” Sanchez said.

Eco Eyewear Is The Name of the Game
Eco Eyewear has long set the standard for environmentally conscious eyewear production. Launched by Modo in 2009, Eco is one of the fastest growing brands in Modo’s portfolio. Brian Dombrowski, Modo’s director of ECP sales and marketing, told VM, “Though we launched Eco in 2009, we have really seen an increase over the past few years as customers and patients are seeking out more sustainable solutions in all their purchases. Similarly, we continue to evolve with our products and also work with our suppliers to do the same.”

Eco takes what it calls a 360-degree approach to sustainability—frames are made from bio-based castor seed oil, recycled metal or recycled ocean plastic, while the brand’s packaging is made from recycled paper, recycled PET and cornstarch. Eco’s biodegradable transport bag is made from 100 percent cornstarch—the first of its kind in the industry.

Even Eco’s demo lenses are made from 99 percent recycled plastic, and its display trays and stands are made of 100 percent FSC certified bamboo or recycled paper. As of February 2023, Eco is carbon negative too, thanks to its mission of planting trees for every frame sold. This means that the 3.3 million trees Eco has planted in partnership with Trees for the Future (so far) clean out more CO2 than Eco’s production makes.

From every angle, Eco prioritizes the environment—it’s in the production, in the product, and in the name. Dombrowski said, “Sustainability really is the mission for us and it’s not an initiative.” It’s also in the way Eco works with ECPs and other partners.

Dombrowski explained, “Our customers and reps appreciate our 360-degree approach. Our sales team does an incredible job educating shops, opticians and doctors about the products and purpose of Eco; our team helps to merchandise in-store with our traditional forms of POP (counter cards, mirrors, displays, and more) or provide digital assets for social media pages.”

Eco has come as close to mastering sustainability as possible, but that doesn’t mean they’re stopping any time soon—innovation and environmental consciousness are at the heart of everything Eco does and will continue to do.

EssilorLuxottica Keeps Its ‘Eyes on the Planet’
Each season, more brands in the EssilorLuxottica portfolio join the sustainability club. For Spring/Summer 2023 specifically, Arnette, Starck Biotech Paris, Ray-Ban, Burberry, Armani Exchange, Giorgio Armani, Emporio Armani, Coach and Tory Burch all offer sustainably produced eyewear collections or specific styles. These frames are crafted with a mix of recycled content, bio-based materials, and castor oil made from renewable sources, covering all bases, and offering something different for every type of customer.

The company sees sustainability as part of its DNA—a central facet of eyewear production that cannot be overlooked. Elena Dimichino, global head of Corporate Social Responsibility, EssilorLuxottica, explained to VM, “Sustainability is an essential part of our Group’s DNA and is strongly intertwined with our business strategy and with our Mission of helping people see more and be more.

“The products we design, manufacture and sell have a social function by definition: to correct, protect and frame the beauty of our eyes. To see well improves everything in life: individual’s health, education and work opportunities. And this is our company’s mission: to help people see more and be more with the goal of helping eliminate uncorrected poor vision from the world by 2050.”

On the production side, EssilorLuxottica is progressively replacing standard acetate with high-content bio-acetate, as well as increasing its ability to recycle industrial waste. It is the first eyewear company to obtain the ISCC Plus certificate for circular economy for its in-house nylon recycling process at the Agordo plant in Italy. That plant recycled over 30 tons of nylon in 2022.

In addition, EssilorLuxottica’s material choices are subject to control operations related to their chemical composition and physical and mechanical characteristics, and the company’s commitment to research has allowed it to introduce innovative, renewable raw materials instead of fossil-based ones—thus enabling the launch of specific collections.

Dimichino said, “At EssilorLuxottica, sustainability and innovation go together, with the product naturally at the center of our circular economy approach. The aim is to minimize the impact on the environment while enhancing product excellence and quality. We speak of ‘sustainable innovation.’

“Our vertically integrated and open business model is a lever for sustainable innovation. In 2022, we started a full comprehensive approach for all our products, called eco-design, with the aim to develop products more sustainable starting from the product design. And all this is nurtured through the Eyes on Circularity pillar of our Eyes on the Planet sustainability program.”

Launched in 2021, this is EssilorLuxottica’s first sustainability program and Dimichino explained it “marked the beginning of a new journey, which has deep roots in Essilor’s and Luxottica’s sustainability legacies… Our entire value chain is involved in this journey, as the Planet belongs to us all.

“And it’s up to all of us to look after it and its inhabitants… the deployment and evolution of the five pillars of Eyes on the Planet (Eyes on Carbon, Eyes on Circularity, Eyes on World Sight, Eyes on Inclusion and Eyes on Ethics) requires a collaborative effort and involves many stakeholders to make the difference and reach the same ambition: making EssilorLuxottica a leader on sustainability,” Dimichino said.

EssilorLuxottica communicates its sustainable mission to customers through a variety of channels, especially making use of its learning platform Leonardo, to make every detail relevant to accounts. Ludo Ladreyt, chief commercial officer, EssilorLuxottica Wholesale NA, told VM, “When we introduce sustainable collections and individual sustainable styles, there is an enormous storytelling opportunity for both our ECP customers and end consumers.

“Through Leonardo, our 24/7 learning platform, our customers have access to overarching sustainability content as well as more focused content like which components in any given style are made with bio nylon, recycled acetate and so on, and how we manage water waste in the facility where those frames are made. This resource delivers incredible value for ECPs and our EssilorLuxottica sales force, bringing everyone on the same page,” he said.

Dimichino said, “We know that buying from a company that makes sustainability a priority is important to our consumers. EssilorLuxottica is not only offering beautiful eyewear collections made with bio-based materials, but we’re also doing the hard work on the inside, from both environmental and social perspectives.”

Kenmark’s Sustainable Commitment Increases Throughout Supply Chain
Kenmark is making great strides to increase the sustainability of their products. For the past two years, the company has been participating in the UPS Carbon Neutral Program. The carbon offsets purchased through this program have mitigated over 350 metric tons of C02.

Last year, the Eastman Acetate Renew product accounted for nearly 30 percent of Paradigm sales. The company has even shifted their ordering practices to ensure they are never causing more production than required.

“Having our entire supply chain certified, validating the material and the product has been the only real change in terms of the effect on the manufacturing process. We are conscious of ordering based on our demand, rather than over-producing in hopes of certain models or colors to sell,” said Kenmark social media manager Sarah Beth Mayton. “In the past 12 months with the product featuring Acetate Renew, we’ve been able to divert roughly 8,000 kilos of greenhouse gas emissions, equating to nearly 400 trees.”

She added the company has also partnered with Cool Earth, donating 20 percent of sales from Paradigm’s ‘Sid’ in Ginkgo to aid in their fight against the climate crisis.

Response from ECPs has been positive, according to Mayton. She said the sales consultants have made great strides to tell the brand’s sustainability story and that the team has undegone extensive training on how to talk about this collection to customers.

“Most ECPs have some sort of POP assortment in their stores, so we’ve produced a branded logo block made from the remaining Eastman Acetate Renew material in this collection. This logo block features information regarding the recycled content that makes up its DNA,” she said. “The intent is to further provide the end consumer with the proper information regarding the certified recycled content, and begin to seek it out when shopping for new products in the future.”

Marchon and Altair, Sustainable From All Angles
Marchon and Altair have been incorporating sustainable materials into production wherever possible for some time now, Gabriele Bonapersona, Marchon’s chief brand officer, told VM. It is one of the pillars of the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility platform, and spans Marchon and Altair’s portfolio, from luxury fashion brans to lifestyle and proprietary.

Bonapersona said, “We have several sustainable materials in our offering—including Plant-Based Resin, Responsible Acetate, Upcycled Plastic and three collaborations with Eastman including Acetate Renew, Tenite Renew and Tritan Renew. We are thrilled to be able to offer our customers sustainable options as they are shopping for frames.”

This broad approach to sustainable offerings is one of Marchon’s strengths, and is popular with accounts and final customers alike. In fact, Marchon and Altair have seen evidence that final customers will choose a sustainable option over a standard frame, when given the chance. Bonapersona said, “Customers are delighted by the numerous styles and brands available incorporating sustainable materials, and our accounts say many consumers are selecting sustainable eyewear when given the choice.

“On our Dragon brand, for example, the majority of our top 10 best-selling frames in the Dragon sun collection are made with Plant-Based Resin. Additionally, the Dragon Upcycled Collection has far outpaced its assortment percentage in the collection as a whole. We expect this trend to continue as we add more sustainable styles each season.”

Dragon’s sustainable offerings are appealing to customers, but it doesn’t end there. The brand partners with Plastic Bank, too, implementing a plastic offset impact program wherein each pair of Dragon optical frames, sunglasses and snow goggles sold will prevent the equivalent of 10 plastic bottles from entering the ocean.

Another Altair brand, JOE by Joseph Abboud, partners with Keep America Beautiful, supporting the Great American Cleanup. Through these types of partnerships, Marchon and Altair can approach sustainability from all angles—underscoring a true commitment.

Wooden dowels used for hanging banners are made from locally sourced hardwood, endcaps and wires are made of PVC-free plastic, and chemical free ink is the standard. All displays and parts can be separated and recycled, ensuring a sustainable mindset from start to finish.

Marchon and Altair’s efforts are vast—but they continue to grow. Bonapersona concluded, “We are committed to our CSR platform, leveraging to use sustainable materials wherever possible and available and simplifying and eliminating waste by improving our recycling efforts. Marchon is constantly looking for ways we can improve and build on our efforts, now and in the future.”

Mita Brings Miami Personality to Its Sustainability Efforts
Born in Miami and headed by chief creative officer Nora Cabrera and CEO Fabio Ferracane, Mita Eyewear focuses on sustainability above all else. The Mita collection includes both sun and optical offerings, and all are made from sustainable materials including recycled water bottles, recycled aluminum and sustainable lenses.

All Mita packaging is made from 100 percent sustainable materials, too. As the brand explained to VM, “Sustainable eyewear corresponds to 100 percent of our revenue and sales.”

Since its launch in 2019, Mita has launched three collections, making up 37 sun and 36 optical styles. The collections take inspiration from the brand’s home city of Miami, bringing the bold, eclectic and multicultural background of the city into the eyewear designs. Mita said it has seen a welcoming response here in the U.S. with the rise of environmentally conscious consumers, and is also available in stores in Canada and the U.K., as well as multiple countries across Latin America, Europe and Asia. Online and direct to consumer, the collection is available globally.

Over the past few months, Mita has taken home Mido’s 2023 Certified Sustainable Award in the Sunglasses category, as well as the Vision Expo East 2023 NOW Award in the Sunglasses Under $250 category.

Mita’s sustainable efforts don’t stop at its eyewear, though. The Mita website is a Net Zero page, meaning it does not set off any carbon into the atmosphere, and 2 percent of all website proceeds are donated to Clean Miami Beach and Tree Nation. Plus, Mita plants a tree in a reforestation zone for every pair of eyewear sold through its website. In Miami, Mita partners with Clean Miami Beach to offer local volunteer efforts that include both the Mita team and customers.

A spokesperson for Mita said, “Sustainability is a factor in every decision we make, from design to manufacturing, all the way through to our packaging. It takes community involvement to truly make a lasting impact.”

Mondottica Protects The Surf

Mondottica’s relationship with Quiksilver and Roxy created a natural step into a sustainability mindset. Both brands are iconic names in the surfing and beach lifestyle worlds, and are equally committed to taking care of the shores that they call their home.

Kat Pedercini, Mondottica’s marketing manager, told VM, “Quiksilver and ROXY are not only committed to making waves and moving mountains, but also preserving them.” This partnership also gives Mondottica the opportunity to support Quiksilver and Roxy’s parent company, Boardriders, in its mission to help preserve the environment, through hands-on experiences like ocean cleanup projects.

Mondottica works “in solidary with the brands’ mission,” Pedercini said, by using plant-based acetates throughout the Roxy and Quiksilver collections. She explained, “Environmentally friendly, sustainable, safe, and natural, eco acetates are a plant-based material free of traditional plasticizers normally found in acetate material. It’s bio-degradable and affords the Roxy and Quiksilver consumer a green option when it comes to eyewear.”

In the same vein, Mondottica overall “strives to source and work with manufacturers who carry specific standards that support the integration of sustainability within the DNA of the eyewear, such as Carbon Neutrality certification.”

Overall, Mondottica has seen a positive reaction from accounts, both to the introduction of Roxy and Quiksilver and to this step into sustainability. They extend this step toward point of sales contact with customers, too.

Mykita Takes a Holistic Approach
Mykita does not separate its designs out into specific sustainable collections—instead, it applies the same environmentally conscious standards across all of its frame production, from its acetate collections made with Eastman to its recycled stainless steel designs. A spokesperson for the company told VM, “We aim to continually reduce the footprint of our products and entire operation. We do not have separate ‘sustainable collections,’ the approach is a more holistic one.”

All Mykita frames are made in the EU and handcrafted in the Mykita Haus in Berlin under fair working conditions.

Critically, Mykita has total transparency of its value chain and buys 90 percent recycled materials overall. This is exceedingly important for a manufacturing company, where the bulk of emissions lie with the materials used. For stainless steel, which can be reused indefinitely, Mykita operates in a closed loop with its supplier. Meanwhile, all Mykita acetate products have been produced with Eastman Acetate Renew since 2022.

Mykita sees its distinctive design language as the key thing that attracts people to the brand, but, “We can state that sustainability, durability and under what conditions a product is made—are all of paramount importance to our consumers and important reasons why they purchase a Mykita frame. And we see this consumer expectation on the rise, globally. People seek brands that align with their values,” the company said.

This ties into how the brand communicates sustainability to its accounts and customers. “Most accounts will not bring in product on sustainability aspects alone, but sustainability aspects give them another selling point to their customers from a brand they already trust. The launch of the Mykita acetate collection last year, made from the recycled Acetate Renew, definitely was a big success with sales surpassing expectations,” the company said.

Safilo’s Sustainable Business Pillar
Safilo Group sees sustainability as “the key strategy that sustains and drives purpose into every aspect of our business,” Vladimiro Baldin, the Group’s chief licensed brands and global product officer, told VM. In the U.S., Safilo’s sustainable frame collections include Polaroid, BOSS, Fossil, Tommy Hilfiger, Under Armour, Levi’s and Smith—a sizeable offering already, but one that is planning to grow.

Baldin explained, “Our target is to expand our sustainability offer so that by 2025, 25 percent of the models in our new collections will use certified sustainable materials, either recycled and/or bio-based.”

While Safilo works toward this goal, the Group is investing heavily into other sustainable initiatives, too. Baldin said, “We will continue to using chain of custody certifications (designed to help organizations prove traceability of certified materials as they flow through all points of the supply chain for recycled materials) in order to be able to perform transparent and clear product environmental claims.

“Additionally, we will continue with our life cycle assessment approach to evaluate the environmental impact of our products to enable designs that are best for environment. In particular, we study the carbon footprint that indicates the CO2 equivalent that the production of each product creates.

“This kind of data, along with indicators, are used to help our product creation team select the best possible material and production flow to guarantee the aesthetical and functional result while minimizing the impact on the environment,” Baldin said.

For Safilo, sales performance of sustainable styles is “similar” to that of standard styles—“a good result considering the premium the consumer has to pay for sustainability,” Baldin said. Safilo aims to continue to minimize the cost of sustainability, especially through its partnership with Eastman.

According to Baldin, “For us, innovation is real only when it is sustainable and inclusive.” Safilo’s North American commercial team has seen an increasing interest in eco-friendly options across all of Safilo’s brands, especially as public awareness grows.

“Whenever we have a sustainable frame or compelling product story or offer, our customers gravitate toward those styles. It helps the brand and frame stand out and tell a story. In the end, the main deciding factor today when our customers select product is the price and quality. If the price is reasonable and the quality is in line with expectations, then sustainability is a bonus as long as the price point, product story and brand’s other sustainability initiatives also align,“ he said.

The next step for Safilo Group is to “fully understand consumer willingness to pay a premium for sustainability in order to continue to scale-up the adoption of sustainable materials in our collections. There is still an educational gap to cover in order to better engage the consumer and the lack of standards are not helping to communicate sustainability and transfer this value to the consumer,” Baldin said.

“Hopefully, regulators will help to create standards with specific taxonomy and to harmonize current country specific standards so that everyone will be able to communicate sustainability in a clear, transparent and coherent way. We want to have an active role in this journey, as per our participation in The Fashion Pact, a global coalition of fashion brands and their suppliers, as we think sustainability is no longer a ‘nice to have’ but a ‘must have’ and consumers are keen to make the switch to a trend that is here to stay and we need the power of the collective to achieve inclusive and sustainable solutions,” he said.

Safilo’s regional sales managers and sales representatives focus on sustainability wherever relevant in a wide range of customer meetings, and the Group highlights sustainable concerts in its corporate materials, too. The vast majority of POS materials provided by Safilo are Forest Stewardship Council certified, ensuring that wood pulp comes from responsibly managed forests.

Baldin said, “We are also in the early development stages of creating dedicated displays, for applicable brands, that will identify the sustainability attributes of the featured products.” Each sustainable brand has its own specific callouts that highlight its sustainable initiatives, too.

On the large sale, Safilo Group is committed to a common core of key environmental goals in three areas: stopping global warming, restoring biodiversity and protecting the oceans. The Group has an internal Sustainability Committee, with strong internal controls over sustainability related processes, too.

Sea2see’s Ocean Mission
Since its inception in 2016, Sea2see has been focused on one thing: marine plastic. Founder François van den Abeele spent years working in the maritime industry and seeing the impact plastic has on our oceans—a journey which led to him to create a company that creates a new life for recycled marine plastic.

100 percent of Sea2see eyewear, which currently includes 350 skus, is made from recycled marine plastic, which the brand calls “Upsea” plastic material. Thanks to the brand’s own Sea2see Foundation, Sea2see can monitor its direct environmental impact; each year, in collaboration with thousands of fishermen from Spain and France, the Foundation collects about 600,000 pounds of plastic from the waters surrounding those countries.

Of that collected plastic, 12,000 pounds is used for Sea2see frames, while the remaining plastic is sold to the textile industry.

In addition to the environmental impact, the Sea2see foundation also helps create employment for those collecting the plastic. The Foundation has expanded waste collection into Ghana and Senegal too, and has plans to extend further into Cameroon, Sri Lanka and Madagascar in the coming months and years. There is also an arm of the Foundation that supports the education of rescued enslaved children from the fishing trade in Ghana.

When it comes to the eyewear, though, Sea2see is paving a fully sustainable path. In 2021, Sea2see became carbon negative, offsetting all its carbon emissions in UN certified solar projects. The brand stated that the average impact of its eyewear is 0.18 kg CO2, which is 80 percent less than an average acetate or TR90 frame. The brand is also B Corporation Certified and Cradle to Cradle Certified.

Sea2see has found the reception to its sustainable mission strong, but varied. A spokesperson for the company told VM, “When we started promoting our ‘seastainable’ products in Europe in 2017, Scandinavia and Northern Europe loved our mission, made in Italy products and prices instantly. Canada followed with great enthusiasm. Southern and Eastern Europe are now moving in. After having presented our products at Vision Expo West 2022 and Vision Expo East 2023 it seems that finally the U.S. market is ripe for real sustainable products and even more so when made in Italy.”

For ECPs, Sea2see offers POS materials and other marketing to help underscore both the importance of this mission, and our own individual impact.

“Sustainable glasses will not change the world, people that wear them will. Educating people and raising awareness about the state of our Ocean is our mission; each frame sold does its part and makes each customer a part of this story,” the company said.

Silhouette Builds Sustainability to Last
Since its founding in 1964, The Silhouette Group has had eyes on the environment. Its proprietary material, SPX+, is a sustainable polyamide used in an injection-molding process that significantly minimizes waste and allows for leftover material to be recycled. Silhouette’s titanium frames are always made with wire rather than titanium plates, allowing production to use and discard significantly less material.

However, Silhouette’s commitment to sustainability goes far beyond its materials. Since September 2022, Silhouette’s eyewear production is carbon neutral with offsetting, and by the end of 2027 Silhouette’s goal is to produce its eyewear carbon neutral without offsetting. The company also continues to reduce its CO2 emissions through in-house sustainability initiatives, including green electricity and solar energy used exclusively for its HQ office and production sites.

Jill Caponera, media relations and marketing manager for Silhouette, told VM, “We are constantly expanding our company’s own solar panel system. By the end of the year, all available rooftop space at Silhouette will be filled with solar modules.”

Because Silhouette’s Austrian production facility is located within a water conservation area, the company also makes it a point to prioritize conscious water usage. Silhouette reduces and reuses water wherever possible, resulting in smaller volumes of wastewater released into local sewage systems. Water is recycled several times before being purified and released into those local wastewater systems, ensuring correct temperature, pH and volume.

Another main tenant of Silhouette’s sustainability mission is the simple fact that their eyewear is built to last. Caponera said, “We pride ourselves in offering our consumers long-lasting eyewear that enhances their daily lives. Instead of simply consuming resources, we strive to preserve their value as much as possible and extend their life cycle.

“Exceptional service is another way we extend the lifespan of our products. We offer a high-quality repair service to avoid unnecessary waste, and expert one-on-one business consultancy through our sales account executives to ensure our customers make the right purchase decisions,” she said.

Thema’s On-Demand Approach to Production
For Thema, an Italian eyewear company with a factory in Miami, Florida, the first step to sustainable production is production on-demand. Thema has been invested in on-demand production since it opened its U.S. factory in 2017—“long before it became a top and popular concern,” Giulia Valmassoi, CEO of Thema North America, told VM. “Attention to the environment is part of our company policy that aims to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth.”

In addition to on-demand production that decreases waste, Thema’s unique production techniques and patented machines help the company reduce waste by producing only what is needed when needed. All eyewear is made from Advanced Bio-Circular (ABC) and biobased materials in place of a fossil fuel-based alternative—in fact, one of Thema’s most popular collections is its Green Hi-Tech, which is crafted from a bio-based acetate derived from cotton fibers and castor seed oil.

Valmassoi said, “For every ton of ABC material used in place of a fossil fuel-based alternative, the equivalent of one car is taken off the road for a year and two farming families (typically 10 people) enjoy a profitable and sustainable lifestyle.”

Alongside this, Thema is working to implement virtual activities that will help them limit the production of physical samples, thus significantly reducing overall waste. This helps the company express its sustainable message to accounts, too, alongside comprehensive training and resources. Valmassoi has seen a general rise in accounts interested in the sustainability story—something she thinks comes directly from the consumer.

She said, “It’s a rising trend among ECPs to look for sustainable products, but the biggest driver is from their customers, in my opinion. They are more aware it’s important that the companies they chose to do business with are conducting themselves in an environmentally responsible way, and by supporting these companies, they share this responsibility and feel good about it.”

Tura Takes Sustainability Seriously
In 2022, Tura launched Botaniq, a fully sustainable collection featuring bio-based acetate and natural wood harvested from ISO-certified forests with the Forest Stewardship Council seal. The collection also uses recyclable stainless steel and cork, as well as frame cases and cleaning cloths crafted from recycled PET, and recyclable demo lenses and nosepads.

With One Tree Planted, Tura plants a tree for every Botaniq frame sold, too. Botaniq is doubtlessly the jewel of Tura’s sustainable offerings—but it is also only just the beginning.

A sustainable mindset carries across Tura’s entire brand portfolio, with an assortment of sustainable styles found within each brand. Across the board, Tura works to design and manufacture with as little waste as possible, often using bio-based acetate made up of 50 percent natural contents including wood pulp, vegetable polymers and cotton fibers. When properly composted, it breaks down in 120 days.

The material can be manufactured in a variety of colors and textures, and the Tura team often creates its own colors to add a touch of uniqueness. Kristen McLaughlin, Tura’s director of marketing, told VM, “We approach our sustainable collections with design integrity as the driver, and our commitment to an eco-friendly product as an essential direction for how we position our company and brands. The beauty of our bio-based acetate is that if we didn’t tell you that it was eco-friendly, you may never detect it.”

Tura spreads their environmental message both through social channels and by including the product story at point of sale, often with a QR code that directs the customer to the website for more information. For Botaniq, the sustainable story is included in the frame case.

McLaughlin said, “Initially, ECPs were hesitant to adopt sustainable eyewear due to their slow progress. Additionally, since they already had a substantial inventory, they were unsure about the growing demand for sustainable products. However, there has been a recent shift toward recognizing the importance of a cleaner planet, and eyeglass wearers are becoming increasingly interested in participating in this movement.”

Now, Tura is seeing sales of its sustainable styles remain stable, thanks to the company’s ability to integrate sustainable practices with good design. McLaughlin said, “Sales have remained stable primarily because of the style and design, rather than the sustainability factor, as the customer’s appreciation for the product appears to be based on the former rather than the latter.”

Villa Eyewear Represents Independent Brands Emphasizing ‘Green’
New York-based Villa Eyewear works exclusively with independent collections that prioritize using traceable, sustainable raw materials has always been the norm for Villa Eyewear, but the company also considers the management of the brand as a whole and looks beyond just which types of materials are used.

“We’ve always represented collections made by independent manufacturers that are evolving artisanal ways of producing high-quality, small-batch eyewear,” said brand manager Lorenzo Sfoggia. “Before being sustainable was ‘cool,’ the artisans who had an inherent connection to the environment in which they lived, worked, and consumed the eyewear were already thinking about how the methods and materials they used could impact the environment and therefore have always worked to protect it.”

He said the company doesn’t view sustainability as a campaign effort or something to garner new byers. Instead, the company focuses on prioritizing collections that are led by responsible people that make ethical decisions.

“It’s not just about using a recycled material to produce the frame, but all the things that surround it as well—including not wasting product, choosing to repair rather than replace where possible, reducing or eliminating single-use plastic from packaging, and producing seasonal merchandising materials from recycled materials,” he said.

Sfoggia is proud to work with brands like Gruppo Volo Canadair which donates part of the sales proceeds to conservation of biodiversity and natural landscapes, in anticipation of wildfires that could affect Italian territory in the summer.

Though ECPs are onboard with the company’s sustainability efforts, he said the overall goal is simply to create a product that is environmentally friendly.

“Again, we don’t see sustainability as a marketing campaign or sales tactic, rather as a way of doing business. From raw production, to distribution, to sales, and finally ‘consumption,’ there are many hands touching our frames, and we want our frames to reflect a sense of respect for all stakeholders,” he said.

“Nothing we sell is mass-produced, and that is reflected in the quality and attention to detail that goes into each product. Some of our primary materials, like titanium and aluminum, are very environmentally friendly. One of our brands, Blackfin, has completely rebuilt its headquarters and production facility to be one of the most sustainable in the region and to reflect its coexistence with the beautiful natural landscape in which it sits.”

Bajío’s Sustainable DNA
Founded in 2020 by Al Perkinson and Marguerite Meyer in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, Bajío was born sustainable. Vice president of optical and Rx Renato Cappuccitti tells VM, “Sustainability is key at each step along the way from design to packaging. Everything counts—from the materials we use for our products, to our manufacturing processes, and the vendors we choose. We are conscious and committed to finding and continuously improving our products to meet the highest performance standards while using the most sustainable resources and best practices available.”

All of Bajío’s frames are made with plant-based ballistic nylon, but that’s just the beginning. Cases are crafted from cactus leather, and cleaning cloths from recycled water bottles. All packaging is recycled cardboard printed with algae-based ink, and the company uses 100 percent biodegradable paper tape to seal boxes for shipping. The company is also 100 percent carbon neutral. In addition, Bajío donates a portion of its profits to (and speaks out about) a number of sustainable causes, including planting coral, mangrove planting, building oyster reefs, pulling trash from the oceans, and beach cleanups on the beaches of Xcalak, Mexico.

No detail is left untouched by a sustainable mindset—and therefore, sustainable product makes up 100 percent of Bajío’s sales. Cappuccitti says, “As a new business, there is always a risk that our projected sales are not in line with our results. We were pleasantly surprised that our customers really appreciated our commitment to sustainability and, as a result, our sales far exceeded our initial projections with a high rate of continued growth.”

In the same vein, Bajío has seen a clear positive response from ECPs and accounts when it comes to their dedication to sustainability. Cappuccitti believes that ECPs are adopting sustainable mindsets “absolutely without a doubt, and with incredible ease.” He explains, “I believe that most people embrace the idea of doing what is right, and our customers are becoming increasingly mindful of their choices to meet today’s sustainability standards and adapt to the evolving shopping habits of their customers.”

Bajío’s sustainable message is clear in both its frames and its marketing. Sustainability messaging appears in all of its counter cards, in-store display POP and product packaging. The company also utilizes “a simple and fun interactive online education tool to reinforce these core messages that allow new staff or other members of the team to train at their pace and convenience,” explains Cappuccitti. Sustainability is baked into Bajío’s DNA, a full commitment from every angle.

ECP Viewpoint: Seek Eyecare

It was 2019 when Seek Eyecare in Victoria, Minnesota, brought its first sustainable brand into the office. The journey began with Arbor Eyewear, and was inspired, really, by Arbor’s commitment to supporting children in foster care—something particularly important to Kelsey Keltgen, OD.

Office manager Rachel McKennon told VM, “Mitch, Dr. Keltgen’s husband, was adopted as an infant, so Arbor’s passion to donate a percentage of their proceeds to finding permanent homes for children in foster care was important to us. It was a cherry on top to learn that they plant a tree for every frame sold.”

As McKennon explained, this journey did not necessarily begin with a passion for sustainability. “I wouldn’t say we were looking for a sustainable option necessarily, we were more looking to partner with brands/companies that have a passion for giving back to their communities. Arbor did that, and then some.”

Seek has recently added Eco to its frame offerings, too, and moved its sunglass collection to its regular boards to showcase the new brand. Plus, the office partners with TerraCycle as a drop-off location for contact lens waste and gives patients their annual contact lens supplies in reusable Seek Eyecare branded tote bags.

McKennon said, “We’re not big on banners or any crazy POP, but we always have Arbor, TerraCycle, and now Eco’s POP and materials on display. It’s a great way for patients to see what the brands are about when the opticians are busy. Long term we hope to see more eyewear brands convert to more sustainable practices, and to place a big emphasis via social media on the companies that do so.” The appeal of a sustainable option varies from person to person, but McKennon cited one passionate patient in particular. “We have a young male patient, about 15 years old, who is environmentally conscious. When he came in for his routine eye exam a few years back, we told him about Arbor and he was adamant that he would only wear Arbor. He even got his grandparents—that live in Florida, by the way—to come here to get Arbor glasses.”

When it comes to the higher price for sustainable eyewear, she said, “I think there will always be a handful of patients that are more conscious of the final price, but I’d say most of our patients would be willing to spend a little more on something that has a positive ripple effect. We’re in a small, tight knit community, with huge support for small businesses.

“Our local cafe and bakery down the block uses compostable drinking cups, even for iced beverages, and they always have a line out of their door. I think that as long as the patient is well-informed, sustainability can be a huge selling point.”

ECP Viewpoint: The Vision Center

Botaniq is Tura’s standout, fully sustainable collection, and as part of this commitment the company has partnered with One Tree Planted to plant a tree for every Botaniq frame sold. For Tawnya Strause, optician at The Vision Center, P.C. in Muscatine, Iowa, this mission rings especially strong. Alongside Tura’s own donations, the Vision Center is donating a tree to its local Muscatine community with every purchase of Botaniq eyewear.

Strause first heard of the idea from her Tura sales rep. She said, “When the rep, Jan, came in with this new line, she explained what Tura was doing with planting a tree for every frame sold. It inspired us to do the same thing for our community. Not only are the glasses unique but the company was wanting to help with replacing trees for our planet and so does Vision Center.”

The Vision Center kicked off their tree planting program on September 20, 2022, at the local Riverside Park. With the help of Muscatine’s parks and recreation park maintenance superintendent Nick Gow and landscape horticulturist Melissa Baker, The Vision Center planted its first tree. The Vision Center has made a two-year commitment to the program, and purchased 25 saplings from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, which will be allowed to grow before they are planted in the park.

ECP Viewpoint: Quality Optical

Michele Parrino is a licensed optician and manager of Quality Optical in Ramsey, New Jersey. She says her clients are making the switch to sustainable eyewear. Once the customers have been told about their frame options, she said many will choose the greener option in an effort to reduce waste.

“I love a good cause. We are always looking for biodegradable products that are not going to be harmful to the environment,” she said, adding patients' response has been excellent, with many noting the high quality of sustainable frames as a factor in their final choice. “Patients love how lightweight they are and like that it's sustainable.”

She said that her team has worked to educate themselves on how to promote sustainable eyewear and make a meaningful connection with patients. The success of sales has driven Parrino to add as many sustainable lines as possible.

“I have a couple different lines with sustainable acetates, and we plan to add more lines in the future,” she said.