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Eyewear Shopping Guide

The Good Eyewear Edit

Shopping Guides for the Future

 


 

Most eyewear brands that you’ve heard of are actually owned by just one company, but you’ve probably never heard of its name – Essilor Luxottica. They own or make glasses for brands ranging from Ray-ban, to Oakley, to Michael Kors, even the Sunglasses Hut, along with many others. They are an absolute behemoth worth over 50 billion dollars and they control about a third of the entire global eyewear market (in glasses that’s about 1 billion pairs sold per year). Since they control most of their competitors they can and do rip you off by setting artificially high prices. And they rip the planet off through their extractive business model. All while padding the unimaginable wealth piles of billionaires, like majority owner Leonardo Del Vecchio’s fortune of twenty-some odd billion dollars

Most people tend to see this sort of trend in wealth and power concentration as a problem (although think tanks funded by other billionaires may disagree). Many of the super-rich do try to redeem themselves through philanthropy, but it’s not a great solution. So if you’re in the majority then you might be interested in using your buying power to spread the wealth and help smaller future-thinking companies that are using recycled materials, innovative design, and regenerative business models. To help you out with this we’ve curated a list of the most sustainable indie eyewear brands on the net.

 


The Top 10

These brands are using environmentally sensible business models to disrupt business as usual.

Ballo

Ballo’s sunglasses are all designed and handmade in Cape Town using leftover materials from other industries. By relying on local talent, instead of outsourcing and automating production to overseas factories, Ballo is able to craft unique goods while addressing South Africa’s biggest problem – unemployment. Abiding by their own waste-free principles, Ballo also uses extra bits of material from their own production process to make things like keyrings, earrings, and card stands.

Frames: Upcycled wood offcuts, recycled paper, bio-resin (40% pine sap), eco-friendly cork, cotton hemp fabric offcuts
Lenses: UV400; polarized options
Accessories: Rigid recycled wood pulp case
Type: Sunwear; Bluelight; Prescription friendly
Price: $$$-$$$$
Warranty: 1-year

Check them out here.

Bureo

Bureo has a vendetta against discarded fishing nets which make up 10% of all ocean plastics. Their answer is to prevent nets from reaching the ocean. To date, they’ve collected 600,000Kg by paying fishermen to collect and clean worn out nets so that Bureo can recycle them into anything from skateboards, to Jenga blocks, to sunglasses. 

Frames: 100% recycled nylon fishing nets collected from the ocean; designed to be fully recyclable.
Lenses: UV400 protection; polarization; Costa 580® color-enhancing lens technology
Accessories: None
Type: Sunwear
Price: $$$-$$$$
Warranty: Lifetime free repair or replacement guarantee (unrepairable frames will be recycled)

Check them out here.

Dresden

An Australian company that is combining affordability with simple modular glasses and a closed-loop production process. Their speciality is prescription eyewear, although they do have options for everyone.

Frames: Recycled and recyclable ultra-durable nylon plastic 
Lenses: UV400 protection, polarized options
Accessories: Recycled leather case; fabric pouch and cleaning cloth made from recycled PET bottles
Type: Prescription; Prescription sunwear; Sunwear
Price: $$$$
Warranty: 10-year unlimited warranty on frames; 2-year defect warranty on lenses

Check them out here.

FOS

FOS makes handcrafted eyewear in Barcelona using the city’s waste resources. They aim to promote an ethos of local self-sufficiency through decentralised production. FOS supports those who want to start making their own recycled plastic shades by selling moulds of their frames and offering consultation services.

Frames: Recycled and recyclable plastic from municipal waste streams
Lenses: UV400
Accessories: Recycled textile waste protective sleeve (sold separately) 
Type: Sunwear; Optical; Bluelight
Price: $$-$$$
Warranty: Unknown

Check them out here.

Karün 

Drawing on inspiration from the stunning landscapes of Chilean Patagonia, where they are based, Karün shows us what a future-fit business looks like. Instead of a linear take-make-waste model, they are creating a circular model, that pulls plastic waste out of the environment, rather than adding more waste.

Frames: ECONYL® regenerated nylon from ocean plastic; Souring ocean plastic from Patagonia provides economic opportunities to local entrepreneurs who collect discarded nets 
Lenses: UV400; ZEISS polarized & non-polarized options
Accessories: Recycled leather case; recycled cleaning cloth from PET bottles
Type: Sunwear; Optical
Price: $$-$$$$
Warranty: 1-year free repair or replacement; Return worn or broken glasses to be recycled and receive a 25% discount on your next pair anytime

Check them out here.

Parafina 

Parafina are alchemists when it comes to turning a wide variety of waste materials into new shades. The Spanish company also donates 5% of their profits to projects that support access to primary education for kids in Asunción, Paraguay.

Frames: Plastic bottles; tire rubber; aluminum cans; bottle corks
Lenses: UV400; All lenses are polarized
Accessories: Recycled plastic case
Type: Sunwear; Optical; Bluelight
Price: $$
Warranty: 2-years

Check them out here.

Sea 2 See 

Sea 2 See is building circular supply chains by working with fishing communities in Spain and Ghana to collect marine plastic waste (abandoned fishnets, ropes, lines, and bottles). Their model not only pulls a half tonne of plastics out of the ocean per day, it also provides fishermen with a new source of income. The company is able to transform about a quarter of all the waste they collect into new sunglasses.

Frames: 100% recycled ocean plastic (mostly nylon fishnets)
Lenses: UV400; polarised options
Accessories: Cases made from recycled cork
Type: Sunwear; Optical
Price: $$-$$$
Warranty: Unknown

Check them out here.

Sunski

Sunski is an American company fully committed to extending the lifespan of each of their shades by offering a lifetime warranty, and affordable replacement lens kits. Their next step is working on making their recycled glasses to also be recyclable.

Frames: Recycled plastic from factory offcuts
Lenses: UV400; All polarised
Accessories: Case made of virgin plastic as of 2020, but claim to be working on integrating recycled materials; replacement lens kits 
Type: Sunwear
Price: $-$$
Warranty: Lifetime warranty covering repair if they break

Check them out here.

Waterhaul

Waterhaul is an English company redesigning plastic waste into new pairs of durable sunglasses. Their mission is not only to loop ocean plastic back into production but to ensure that none of the materials they use become waste ever again. They do this by offering a lifetime warranty, incentivising customers to simply return broken or unwanted frames. Every pair that is unrepairable will be recycled and replaced for free.

Frames: 100% recycled fishing net frames with life guarantee
Lenses: Scratch resistant Mineral glass UV400 polarised recyclable lenses; lightweight cellulose-based plastic polarised lenses; impact resistant polarised polycarbonate lenses
Accessories: Sustainable cork folding hardcase included
Type: Sunwear; Optical
Price: $$-$$$
Warranty: Lifetime free repair or replacement guarantee

Check them out here.

Yuma Labs 

Belgium based Yuma Labs acts as a ‘future laboratory’ for alternatives to the linear, disposable economy. Their business model demonstrates a totally circular approach to business with the core material used in their sunglasses being part of a virtually endless recycling loop.

They do this by doing three things. 1) Design for disassembly – meaning their shades are made to be easily recycled. 2) Provide a financial reward to customers, who return their broken or unwanted sunglasses. 3) Use protective cases for reverse delivery. Their cases are designed to allow customers to mail their shades back to Yuma from anywhere in the world for free. 

Frames: Recycled PET plastic. Including bottles and cups collected at Tomorrowland 2019.
Lenses: UV400; polarised
Accessories: ‘Send Back’ case made by a group of female artisans in Panajachel, Guatemala who are paid fair wages.
Type: Sunwear
Price: $$$
Warranty: 1-year

Check them out here.

Honourable Mentions

Dick Moby

An Amsterdam based company focused on timeless design combined with recycled or bio based materials.

Frames: Biodegradable acetate made from wood pulp; recycled acetate; recycled surgical-grade stainless steel
Lenses: UV400 protection, ZEISS anti-scratch
Accessories: Recycled leather case; fabric pouch and cleaning cloth made from recycled PET bottles
Type: Sunwear; Prescription friendly
Price: $$$$
Warranty: None

Check them out here.

Pala 

A US based company that is conscious of the materials they use. But their focus lies in the potential for empowerment through eyecare aid (10% of the world’s population goes without eye care). Pala takes the issue on by funding eye-care programmes in low-income nations including, Ghana, Ethiopia, and Zambia.

Frames: 100% plant-based bio-acetate; recyclable and biodegradable
Lenses: UV400; Some polarised options
Accessories: Recycled plastic cases made from litter and handwoven by Ghanaian weavers.
Type: Sunwear
Price: $$$
Warranty: 1-year warranty on product defects. Future plans to provide a discount for returned glasses that have reached the end of their useful life.

Check them out here.

Pela Vision 

A Canadian company on a mission to displace plastic with bio-based alternatives. They are unique for creating sunglasses that will completely biodegrade in landfill environments, even the lenses (This does not mean you can compost them in your backyard).

Frames: 100% biodegradable bioplastic
Lenses: UV400; not polarised due to incompatibility with biodegradation
Accessories: Bluelight protection lens kit
Type: Sunwear; Bluelight; Prescription friendly
Price: $
Warranty: 90 day warranty on defects; after 90 days returns will not be replaced, but they will still be recycled into new frames

Check them out here.

SOLO

SOLO’s is a US company with a mission to help restore the vision of people in need. They recognise the strong connection between blindness and economic disempowerment. With 80% of the world’s blindness being preventable, SOLO is donating 10% of profits to address this through funding eye exams, eyeglasses and cataract surgeries. They also use recycled and repurposed materials to make their eyewear. 

Frames: Repurposed bamboo, reclaimed wood, cellulose-acetate
Lenses: UV400; all polarised
Accessories: Wood case
Type: Sunwear; Bluelight; Prescription friendly
Price: $$
Warranty: None

Check them out here.

Wildwood 

A Canadian company making handmade eyewear. Caring for forests is central to their brand. They use a range of sustainably sourced woods in their frames and partner with the Eden Projects to support reforestation. 

Frames: Sustainably sourced woods; plant-based acetate; biodegradable materials (wheat straw); recycled plastics.
Lenses: UV400, polarised and non-polarised options
Accessories: Wood or kraft paper case; Microfibre pouch and cleaning cloth from (Unknown recycled content)
Type: Sunwear; Perscription friendly options
Price: $-$$
Warranty: 1-year replacement guarantee

Check them out here.

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