By Linda Conlin, Pro to Pro Managing Editor

As frame and lens experts, we know that plastics are the most commonly used eyewear materials. How can our industry address its impact on our environment and the expectations of the modern eyewear consumer? An Industry Report from Villa Eyewear, “Is your eyecare practice ready to meet the moment? An ECP’s guide to climate change & consumer expectations,” has some answers. (See the full report HERE.)

First, it’s important to remember that 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. The report notes that consumers tend to view sustainably made products as better quality, and Gen Z and Millennials, whose buying power is rapidly expanding, are willing to spend more on those products. This group and most other consumers know that cheaply made products break more quickly and need to be replaced more often, increasing unsustainability.

Which eyewear materials can we offer environmentally conscious consumers? The Industry Report recommends titanium as “easily recycled, ethically sourced, and durable enough that it doesn’t require as many replacements as cheaper and more wasteful materials.” For acetate frames, the report recommends seeking out “brands that offer products made of recycled or eco-friendly made materials that resemble acetate.” Packaging is part of sustainability, too. Look for brands that limit the use of plastics in their packaging.

Consumers also want to know what your practice is doing to be environmentally friendly. Start with waste from the office. It can be easy to incorporate recycling and composting into your practice with many commercial waste companies offering those services and receptacles. The report also suggests donating glasses to the needy, and staff volunteering for environmental causes in the community. That can garner some media attention to let consumers know you take sustainability seriously. Be sure to include those activities on your website and social media.

It’s important to get the sustainability message to your customers at point of sale. Be sure that staff understand the brand story behind the sustainable products you offer. That includes materials, manufacturing processes, packaging, and what the manufacturer is doing to reduce their environmental impact on the community. Staff should be confident and proud to share that information with their customers. Sustainable practices not only benefit the environment, they contribute to customer satisfaction, loyalty, and build the business by setting your practice apart.