In 1987, the United Nations Brundtland Commission defined sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” In other words, it’s our society’s ability to exist and develop without depleting all of the natural resources needed to live in the future. Natural disasters, such as storms, wildfires and floods, have prompted even more attention to the environment and scrutiny of how everyday items are made, used and disposed of, including eyewear. Across the industry, eyewear companies are adopting and advancing sustainable practices for materials, production and packaging for their part in securing a healthy world future.
Sustainable materials currently used in frame manufacturing include biodegradable acetate derived from natural substances like cotton seeds and wood pulp. It is lightweight and can be made in any color or shape. Other frame materials are vegetal resin, made from castor oil; M49 bio-acetate, a plasticizer made with cottonseed fiber and wood; recycled plastic, bamboo, cork, buffalo horn and even fishing nets. And let’s not forget metals. Recycled stainless steel, titanium and aluminum are sustainable frame materials. Companies are also experimenting with organic materials such as coffee grounds and flax fibers.
Sustainability isn’t only about frame materials. Manufacturers are moving to eco-friendly packaging using recycled paper, cornstarch, algae-based ink, plant leather cases and paper packaging tape. Displays are made from recyclable materials such as wood and bamboo. Frame companies also are involved in community and global sustainability efforts. Some have programs to plant trees, support local and global conservation efforts, help rebuild communities impacted by natural disasters, educational platforms and more. Companies are working to reduce the environmental impact of their manufacturing facilities too. Some offer services to repair rather than replace frames to reduce waste. Others are utilizing solar power, recycling wastewater and industrial waste, gearing production more precisely to demand, sourcing from companies with Carbon Neutrality certification, evaluating the impact of CO2 emissions from manufacturing processes and making products that last.
Today’s eyewear consumers are more informed about sustainability and want to know about the sourcing, manufacturing, packaging, recycling and innovation for their purchases. They want to know where their eyewear came from and that the manufacturer has sustainable and ethical practices, including for their workers, resulting in brand loyalty. Consumers often are willing to spend more on those products and view them as higher quality. Sustainable practices not only benefit the environment, they contribute to customer satisfaction, loyalty and build the business by setting your practice apart.
• Linda Conlin
Pro to Pro Managing Editor