For the last 53 years, we have been celebrating Earth Day and today Americans of all ages will take time out of their very busy lives to participate in events to increase public awareness of environmental concerns and to celebrate their respect for our somewhat fragile environment. Today, more than ever, we need this very important reminder as we are bombarded with headlines about powerful tornadoes and hurricanes, pollution to our oceans, lakes and rivers, and scientific evidence about the perils of climate change as our planet warms toward catastrophic levels.

But before we look ahead to what’s in store for Earth Day, let’s take a look back at the history of the environmental observance. According to Mental Floss, when the inaugural Earth Day was suggested by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson and San Francisco activist John McConnell in 1970, a date was needed that would allow for activists attending college to be free to participate, a point made by organizer Denis Hayes. April 22 fell between spring break and final exams for most universities.

According to Mental Floss, “McConnell actually preferred the Spring Equinox for Earth Day, since marking the changing of the seasons and a balanced amount of daylight and darkness represented Earth’s unique traits. Because April 22 allowed college students to be more active in the events, however, that was the date that stuck.

“The modern Earth Day, with its themed objectives and upbeat spirit, is a marked departure from the first Earth Day in 1970, which had demonstrations that bordered on protests. (One enthusiastic group smashed an old Chevrolet to condemn air pollution.) While the world recognizes Earth Day, outside the U.S. it’s actually known by another name: International Mother Earth Day,” according to Mental Floss.

 Read More About Sustainability 
For a look at what eyewear companies and manufacturers are doing in the sustainability sector, read 2022’s Growing Green: The Sustainability Journey Accelerates in Eyewear.

Vision Monday’s editors are currently working on this year’s feature on sustainability which will take an in-depth look at product choices and new initiatives. VM’s May Cover Story will examine how optical retailers and ECPs are starting to communicate about the sustainable features of brands and products in their mix as well as what tools are being made available to them to advance sustainability messages to consumers.

Look for the Digital Edition of the May Issue on on Monday, May 22.

What started out as a small number of activists concerned about the planet’s health has blossomed into a full-blown movement. Earth Day is now a global celebration that's sometimes extended into Earth Week, a full seven days of events focused on green living and confronting the climate crisis.

Here’s what had to say about the evolution of Earth Day.

“Since 1970, Earth Day celebrations have grown. In 1990, Earth Day went global, with 200 million people in over 140 nations participating, according to the Earth Day Network (EDN), a nonprofit organization that coordinates Earth Day activities.

"In 2000, Earth Day focused on clean energy and involved hundreds of millions of people in 184 countries and 5,000 environmental groups, according to EDN. Activities ranged from a traveling, talking drum chain in Gabon, Africa, to a gathering of hundreds of thousands of people at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

“Today, the Earth Day Network collaborates with more than 17,000 partners and organizations in 174 countries. According to EDN, more than 1 billion people are involved in Earth Day activities, making it the largest secular civic event in the world," said.

One of the most powerful ways that people can help save the environment is to support and buy from companies with a sustainability mindset. These days, Americans are Uber aware about their carbon footprint and sustainability is at the forefront of consumers’ minds on Earth Day as well as the other 364 days of the year. Raising awareness about threats to the environment and “going green” are all well and good, but are consumers ready to pay more money for eco-conscious products?

A majority of U.S. consumers—particularly younger consumers—said they are willing to pay extra for more sustainable products, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). Recent surveys, including those conducted by IBM with NRF and the Baker Retailing Center at the University of Pennsylvania, found between half to two-thirds of consumers said they will pay more for sustainable products.

For consumers ages 18 to 34, the percentage reaches 80 percent, according to a Business of Sustainability Index  report. Similar survey results date back to at least 1989, when 78 percent of consumers claimed they would pay 5 percent more for products in more sustainable packaging.

However, some retail executives are skeptical—they see a long-running gap between consumer intentions and actual consumer behavior, according to the NRF. While consumers say they will pay more, self-reported purchasing practices suggest otherwise.

Despite financial worries, consumers are interested in buying more sustainable products and remain concerned about climate change and related sustainability issues. GfK research shows 62 percent of U.S. respondents identify climate change as an extremely or very serious issue. About one-third (32 percent) say they consider the environment all or most of the time when making purchases.

And how do consumers feel about sustainable products in the optical arena? Eyecare professionals recently shared their outlook on sustainability and what role their customers and vendors are playing in 20/20 Magazine’s Environmental Sustainability Survey conducted by Jobson Optical Research. Here are some of 20/20’s findings about the survey:

  • With the growing demand for sustainable products, the commitment to environmental sustainability continues to be a high priority for manufacturers.

  • The optical industry is seeing encouraging growth in this category as more and more companies are implementing sustainable practices and using sustainable materials for frames, lenses and packaging.

  • Consumers now have multiple options to choose from when it comes to sustainable eyewear offering premium quality and design.
Read more about the results of the Jobson Research survey here.
Following are a few examples of what some optical companies are doing in honor of Earth Day.

Bausch + Lomb Corporation, a leading global eye health company, announced its exclusive ONE by ONE and Biotrue Eye Care Recycling programs have recycled a total of 65.8 million units, or 397,194 pounds of used contact lenses, eyecare and lens care materials. Amy Butler, B+L's vice president, global environment, health, safety and sustainability, said, “Contact lenses, eyecare and lens care materials are often not processed in standard recycling facilities due to their small size and the type of plastic used to manufacture them.

"As a result, they can potentially end up in landfills or waterways and contribute to plastic pollution. We created the ONE by ONE program and later extended our efforts with the Biotrue Eye Care Recycling program to provide eyecare practitioners and their patients with a way to properly recycle these used materials and help prevent them from ending up in our environment.

"Now, with nearly 13,000 eye doctors’ offices participating as official Bausch + Lomb recycling centers and contributions from consumers all over the nation, we can take these once forgotten waste streams and use the millions of materials to create various post-consumer products like picnic tables and benches,” she said.

The ONE by ONE Recycling program has collected more than 65 million units of used contact lenses, top foils and blister packs since its launch in 2016, according to the company. The Biotrue Eye Care Recycling program, the first and only eyecare recycling program in the U.S. that launched in 2021, has collected more than 440,000 eye drop single dose units, lens cases and lens solution caps, as well as Biotrue Hydration Boost lubricant eye drops multi-dose bottles. Lens solution bottles can be recycled through standard recycling in accordance with local recycling guidelines.

The programs are made possible through a collaboration with TerraCycle, a leader in the collection and repurposing of hard-to-recycle waste. In addition to the U.S., Bausch + Lomb has a similar contact lens recycling program in Canada called Every Contact Counts.

Gina Wesley, OD, Complete Eye Care, Medina, Minn, said, “The Bausch + Lomb ONE by ONE and Biotrue Eye Care recycling programs are complementary and an integral part of our practice’s approach to sustainability as they allow us to contribute to the collection of these materials for proper recycling. My patients also appreciate hearing about these programs during their appointments, and many of them bring their used eye health materials to our practice to help minimize the waste these materials generate. Through these Bausch + Lomb programs, my practice can help make a difference in our environment."

In recognition of Earth Day, the Centre for Ocular Research & Education (CORE) has published four new infographics that encourage responsible contact lens recycling and disposal. The infographics are available for download and use by the global eyecare community.

Alison Ng, lead clinical scientist at CORE, said that major contact lens manufacturers have demonstrated an ongoing commitment to sustainable practices by preventing waste as well as encouraging reuse, recycling, recovery, and responsible disposal. She notes that helping contact lens users better understand how they can enjoy the multiple benefits of wear while behaving sustainably is also important—a sentiment that led to development of the infographics.

Helping contact lens wearers better understand how they can enjoy the multiple benefits of contact lenses while being active participants in sustainable behaviors is also important, which is what gave rise to the infographics.

One of the infographics designs helps eyecare professionals educate wearers about relative impact, putting contact lens-related waste into context with other common products and lifestyle habits. Two others explain the best routes for ideal contact lens disposal, while a fourth reminds wearers not to place their contacts into wastewater systems.

CORE has begun sharing the infographics through its “COREeyenews” digital channels including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.