What’s better than a great looking pair of sunglasses? Two words: recycled sunglasses. I was super excited to find so many socially conscious companies making stylish eco-friendly sunglasses out of recycled materials, as well as bioplastic materials like cellulose acetate. When you learn about the inspiration behind some of these sustainable sunglasses brands, plus the way so many give back by supporting charitable causes, I think you’ll feel as psyched as I did when you read about them.
As you’re probably already aware, we’re experiencing a global plastic waste crisis. So, recycling plastic into other useful products helps to keep it out of our oceans and landfills – at least for a bit longer. It turns out that sunglasses are an ideal use for recycled materials, as they require only small pieces. As a result, product designers can create cool sunglasses from small material scraps. Consequently, we’re starting to see some innovative sunglasses made with recycled and upcycled materials. The groundbreaking companies showcased here are making recycled sunglasses out of recycled plastic waste from the ocean, as well as a host of other reclaimed materials, including skateboard decks, aluminum, wood flooring, vinyl records, and more.
We humans buy a lot of sunglasses.
People all over the world wear sunglasses, and let’s admit it – many of us own more than one pair. In 2019, it’s expected that Americans alone will buy over 200 million pairs of sunglasses. (Statista.) When you combine this with the number purchased by people from other countries, you can see there’s a massive market for this accessory. After your cell phone charger, sunscreen, razor, and toothbrush – sunglasses are the most common item that you’ll forget to pack when leaving for vacation. So, what do you do? You buy a new pair.
Thankfully, recycled sunglasses and those made with other eco-friendly materials, like wood, bamboo, and bioplastic, are hitting the beaches and streets around the world. And they can’t get here fastest enough! In addition to recycled sunglasses, if you’d like to see cool shades made from other eco-friendly materials, check out my post on wood frame and bamboo sunglasses.
The problem is that every year, tens of thousands of tons of fishing nets are discarded or lost in the ocean. These discarded fishing nets comprise nearly half of the plastic pollution in the ocean by weight, and they cause the death of tens of thousands of marine animals every year who get entangled in them. The marine animals that are entangled in the nets attract even more marine animals, who also get entangled, dying a slow and painful death. These ghost nets also damage critical marine habitats, such as coral reefs and kelp forests.
Here’s a video from Waterhaul about the origins of their recycled sunglasses:
Bureo is another eco-conscious company that collects old fishing nets that are polluting the ocean, breaks them down into tiny pellets, and recycles them into a recycled plastic that makes some very cool shades.
Bureo’s founders created a recycling program in Chile dubbed “Net Positiva,” which provides collection points where fishermen and other locals can drop off discarded fishing nets that are polluting the ocean and harming marine life. The Net Positiva program gets the fishing nets out of the sea, while providing financial incentives to local communities to help with collection.
Here’s a video from Bureo about the Net Positiva program:
Pela, maker of the biodegradable and compostable phone cases, has come out with eco-friendly sunglasses that have biodegradable, bioplastic frames that are 100% compostable. While the lenses themselves are not compostable, these sunglasses are almost zero waste because you can return them back to Pela, who will clean them and give them to someone in need, turn them into new products, or compost them with their Pela 360 program.
The frames are made with Pela’s innovative bioplastic, which is free of phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA).
Here’s a video from Pela about their inspiration and mission:
In addition to recycled plastic, today you can find some great styles of sunglasses that are made with cellulose acetate, which is a synthetic compound that is derived from plant cellulose. Cellulose is a readily biodegradable substance by organisms that use cellulose enzymes. So, cellulose acetate, depending on how it’s made and on environmental conditions, is more easily biodegradable than traditional petrol-plastic.
Zeal Optics makes a variety of cool bioplastic shades with cellulose acetate frames.
Dzim Eco Eyewear makes cool sunglasses in a wide variety of styles, from wayfarers to aviators, mirrored lenses, and more, and the bioplastic frames 100% biodegradable and made with renewable materials. They have polarized, impact- and scratch-resistant frames. In addition, Dzim ships their eco sunglasses in a cotton cleaning back and minimalist 70% recycled and recyclable packaging.
Blue Planet says their goals are straightforward: “to help protect the planet, change lives, and have fun.” Founded in Santa Barbara, California, the company has been hard at work since 2009 bringing socially responsible and eco-friendly eyewear to people all over the world. They don’t just stick to the basics, either. They strive to satisfy all kinds of customers, with eyewear made from a range of sustainable materials, including recycled plastic, recycled metal, wood, bamboo, and cork.
With every pair of glasses they sell, Blue Planet donates a pair to someone in need via their global sight giving partners. To date, they’ve helped over 400,000 visually impaired people around the world.
Here’s Lisa Lawenda, a VP at Blue Planet, and Matt Weinstein, the company’s brand manager, talking about Blue Planet’s Visualize Change program, which helps restore sight for people around the world.:
Blue Planet offers a variety of lenses as well. They provide standard polarized lenses and lenses with maximum UV protection for extra-sensitive eyes. In addition to their super cool sunglasses, they also make reading glasses.
Unwilling to sit back and let the eight million metric tons of plastic pollution destroy our oceans, the founders of Norton Point have made it their mission to clean up the mess and recycle ocean plastic into high-quality, durable sunglasses. Their sunglasses are all made with recycled ocean plastic and plant-based materials. Based in Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, Norton Point donates 5% of their net profits to global ocean clean-up, education, and remediation practices.
Here’s a video featuring Shaun Frankson, co-founder of ThePlasticBank, an organization that helps monetize plastic waste by exchanging it for currency to help people in impoverished places. Shaun talks about how Norton Point is repurposing plastic from by ThePlasticBank into their eco-friendly shades.
Norton Point offers a large selection of men’s and women’s sunglasses, all of which come standard with solid stainless steel hinges. Their lenses feature 100% UVA and UVB protection and an anti-reflective coating, so you’ll be ready for the most intensely sunny days.
A pioneer in the sustainable eyewear industry, Boise, Idaho-based Proof Eyewear has been making eco-friendly sunglasses since 2010. In addition to using sustainable materials in their products, Proof donates to charitable organization around the world. Through their Do Good Program, they donate 12% of their annual profits to these causes.
Proof integrates sustainable materials like recycled aluminum, FSC-certified wood, and recycled skateboard decks into their designs. And, they use high-quality lenses. All of their lenses are UVA and UVB protected. If you need prescription lenses, you can easily switch out their standard lenses for your own.
Here’s a video from Proof featuring their aviators with recycled aluminum frames:
Sunski is a new brand on the scene that has their values in the right place. All of their frames are made with recycled materials and they’re produced in a carbon neutral manufacturing process. Sunski also avoids plastic packaging. In addition, they donate 12% or their profits to charities and they’re a member of 1% for the Planet.
Australia-based Ozeano is another innovative eyewear company that’s driven by a true sense of purpose. While traveling abroad, founder Mark Cason was walking on Serendipity Beach in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.
Mark was shocked by the volume of plastic pollution and other litter that was being washed up on the beach in what would otherwise be a paradise on Earth. He involuntarily started picking up some of the trash, when a local man named Heng joined him.
Though Heng suffered badly from cataracts, an eye disease that causes blindness but which is easily treatable with proper medical care, he still wanted to help. From this meeting, Ozeano was born – an eco-conscious, social enterprise that makes hip sunglasses out of 100% recycled plastic. Ozeano also donates 10% of revenue to the Fred Hollows Foundation, a nonprofit that helps restore vision for people in need.
In addition to being made with 100% recycled materials, Ozeano’s shades have premium UV400 polarized lenses. They also come in a 100% recycled bamboo protective case with a 100% organic cotton pouch. Plus, Ozeano ensures that all shipments are carbon-neutral.
Ozeano offers a special discount for UniGuide visitors: Apply the promo code “UniGuide” at checkout and you’ll get an extra 5% off your purchase price.
Dex Shades is another brand that’s recycling used skateboard decks and converting them into high quality shades. Each pair of their eco-friendly skateboard sunglasses is subtly colorful and unique. Plus, they’re comfortable to wear and super lightweight, weighing less than 1 oz. Dex Shades have polarized lenses and spring-fit hinges for laid back comfort. And as if you need more persuading beyond how cool these sunglasses are, Dex Shades plants a tree for every product they sell.
If there’s a luxury brand of skateboard sunglasses, it has to be 7plis. They have a high price point, but these recycled shades have a sleek look that’s all their own. 7plis mixes chic design with a cool, distressed look that conveys the history of the materials. You can imagine some gnarly stunts were done on the skateboards from which these sunglasses originated. The lenses all offer 100% UV protection.
Amoloma is another eco-conscious brand that makes cool shades out of recycled and Earth-friendly materials, including used skateboards. They offer a range of color combinations, including red, green, black, brown, and blue. All of their lenses are polarized for optimal UV protection.
Sk8rings is another designer that creates unique, colorful sunglasses made with upcycled skateboards. Based in Serbia, they also make a range of other recycled items, including rings, guitars, guitar knobs, and more. The lenses on their recycled sunglasses are polarized and offer 100% UV protection.
Famous for their eco-friendly and vegan handbags, LaBante has recently come out with a line of sunglasses made with different varieties of reclaimed wood, such as beech wood and padauk wood. There are a variety of styles, including aviator, round, cat eye, and more. For other styles of wooded sunglasses, visit my post on wood and bamboo sunglasses.
16. Upcycled Vinyl Records Eyewear by Spexwax
If you’re a music fan, these cool sunglasses made with upcycled vinyl records are a must-have. San Diego-based Spexwax reclaims unplayable vinyl records and turns them into cutting edge eyewear that epitomizes urban cool. They call their sunglasses “upcycled art for your face.” I wholeheartedly agree.
17. Recycled Records Sunglasses by Vinylize
Base in Budapest, Vinylize also hand makes great looking eyewear from upcycled vinyl records.
For all of you wine lovers (yeah, I’m sure there are a few of you out there :o), check out these truly unique sunglasses make with recycled wine corks. Moon Shades actually uses the byproducts from the wine cork manufacturing process. This means these sunglasses are made with reclaimed, natural sustainable materials. It’s hard to get better than that on the eco-friendly scale! The lenses on these eco-conscious shades are polarized. And, as you can see in the photo, these sunglasses float, plus that have comfortable flexibly arms.
In a world of wayfarers and aviators, there is Zanziba Ri, offering sunglasses that are unlike any I have ever seen before. They incorporate upcycled African fabrics into their unique designs, creating beautiful sunglasses that will undoubtedly have people stopping you in the street and asking, “Where did you get those shades?” Not stopping at beautiful design, the company donates 10% of proceeds to educational programs in Tanzania.
20. Sustainable, Recycled Sunglasses by Karün
Karün is a sustainable eyewear company based in Sweden that makes sunglasses with recycled fishing nets, recycled carbon fiber, recycled denim scraps, and other Earth-friendly materials. The company credits nature as their best “inventor and teacher.” With strong, eco-conscious values, the Karün team is focused on creating “a movement of like-minded people that trust that we can change the way we interact with our planet. We want to prove that it is possible to make the best quality products, but in a completely different way.”
21. Recycled Acetate Sunglasses by Dick Moby
Dick Moby’s sunglasses frames are made with 97% recycled acetate. Based in the Netherlands, the company puts a special emphasis on reducing plastic waste by continually recycling it. They offer a wide variety of frames shapes and colors.
22. Upcycled Denim Sunglasses by Mosevic
23. Paper Sunglasses by Paper & Paper
Paper & Paper is a Spanish company whose philosophy is to “move away from fast-fashion to embrace the handmade movement.” They create their one-of-a-kind frames by laser-cutting upcycled paper pieces and then placing them by hand into an acetate base. The process gives their eyeglass frames a cool 3D effect. The company offers frames made from comic books, newspapers, and other types of paper.
To see more eco-conscious sunglasses, check out my post on: