Sustainable Sunglasses: Shining Light on Eco-Friendly Eyewear

Sustainable Sunglasses: Introduction

As spring is here and sunnier days are on the way, it’s time to dive into this week’s eco-tip where we shine a light on Sustainable Sunglasses. As part of our commitment to encouraging a greener lifestyle, we recognise that every choice, no matter how small, plays a crucial role. While traditional sunglasses often rely on virgin plastics, contributing to environmental strain, the emergence of sustainable options provide a path to a greener future.

Crafted from recycled materials, ethically sourced wood, bamboo, and innovative bio-based plastics, these planet-friendly alternatives merge style with sustainability. Through this article, we will explore the environmental advantages of sustainable sunglasses. We will also highlight brands that are making a significant impact in this space. Join us on this enlightening journey to discover how a simple switch to sustainable sunglasses can mark a big step towards environmental stewardship.

Non-Sustainable Sunglasses: A History

Sunglasses evolved from ancient protective gear to today’s fashion staple, blending utility with style across civilisations. Their earliest form can be traced back to ancient times when Inuit peoples wore flattened walrus ivory and added slits to shield their eyes from the harsh Arctic sun. This innovative solution to glare predates written history, showcasing human ingenuity in adapting to environmental challenges.

The journey continues in ancient Rome, where Emperor Nero is famously said to have watched gladiator fights through polished gems to reduce the sun’s glare. Meanwhile, in 12th century China, sunglasses took a more recognisable shape with the introduction of lenses made from smoky quartz. These protected eyes from brightness and helped maintain privacy, especially among judges in courtrooms.

The 18th century marked a significant leap with James Ayscough’s belief that blue- or green-tinted lenses could correct specific vision impairments. This introduced the idea of sunglasses serving a dual purpose: protection and vision correction. However, it wasn’t until Sam Foster introduced mass-produced sunglasses to America in 1929 that they became a widespread accessory. Amazingly this was thanks in part to the burgeoning film industry and celebrities adopting them as essential for mystique and glamour.

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Sustainable Sunglasses The Inuit people were the first to use sunglasses to protect them from harsh sunlight
The Inuit people were the first to use sunglasses to protect them from harsh sunlight

This evolution reflects a continuous interplay between form and function. Now, modern advancements focus on UV protection and polarised lenses to safeguard vision. As sunglasses evolved from pragmatic solutions to status symbols, their history is dotted with innovations. These innovations mirror changing societal norms, technological advancements, and a growing awareness of eye health.

Non-Sustainable Sunglasses: Environmental Impact

The production of traditional sunglasses casts a long shadow on our planet, marked by pollution, resource depletion, and extensive waste. Each year, the fashion industry, with sunglasses as a significant contributor, produces over 92 million tons of waste. A portion of this waste includes countless pairs of non-biodegradable sunglasses that end up in landfills for centuries.

This waste problem is exacerbated by the fact that over 75% of the world’s sunglasses are crafted from virgin plastic materials derived from crude oil. This process not only depletes finite resources but also emits a considerable amount of CO2. It therefore contributes to the global greenhouse effect. The manufacturing cycle of a single pair of plastic sunglasses involves multiple energy-intensive processes, from extraction to moulding. 

Unfortunately, these processes emit over 6 kilograms of carbon dioxide per pair. Moreover, the lifecycle of these sunglasses often ends in oceans, contributing to the 11 million tons of plastic that enter our marine ecosystems annually. Sadly this endangers marine life and pollutes our waters with microplastics. This scenario underscores the urgent need for a shift towards sustainable production practices in the eyewear industry.

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Sustainable Sunglasses - Hundreds of millions of plastic sunglasses are discarded each year damaging the environment
Hundreds of millions of plastic sunglasses are discarded each year damaging the environment

Recognising the gravity of this issue, there is a growing movement towards using sustainable materials. This includes recycled plastics, bio-based materials, and other alternatives that significantly reduce environmental impact. By adopting eco-friendly materials and circular economy principles, the sunglasses industry can mitigate its contribution to pollution and resource depletion.

Sustainable Sunglasses: What to Look For

When looking for sustainable sunglasses there are several things to consider. First and foremost is the material: Opt for frames made from recycled plastics, which repurpose existing waste. Alternatively look for naturally renewable resources like bamboo and ethically sourced wood. These have a much lower environmental footprint than their virgin plastic counterparts.

Intriguingly, some brands are innovating with materials such as recycled fishing nets and plant-based plastics. This pushes the boundaries of sustainability in eyewear. Another crucial factor is the production process. Seek out brands that champion energy-efficient manufacturing techniques and employ practices that significantly reduce water usage and chemical waste.

Additionally, the lifecycle of the product holds paramount importance. Brands that offer recycling programs or craft sunglasses designed for disassembly at the end of their life support the principles of a circular economy. This ensures that the sunglasses can be reused or recycled rather than contributing to landfill waste.

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Sustainable Sunglasses - Look for sunglasses made from recycled materials or renewable ones like wood or bamboo
Look for sunglasses made from recycled materials or renewable ones like wood or bamboo

Lastly, packaging should not be overlooked. Sustainable brands often use recycled or biodegradable packaging, minimising the environmental impact even further. Next comes our three featured sustainable brands making it easy to pick your next pair of low-impact sunglasses!

Sustainable Sunglasses: Three of Our Favourite Brands


At the forefront of environmental innovation is Waterhaul. Amazingly, this company is turning the tide on oceanic waste by transforming discarded fishing nets into high-quality, durable sunglasses. Their frames are a testament to the possibilities of upcycled materials, offering a stylish solution to the issue of marine pollution. Incredibly, each purchase supports their mission to clean our oceans, with a percentage of profits dedicated to further clean-up initiatives. Explore Waterhaul’s range on their online shop and become part of the solution. Use Code PLAYITGREEN10 for 10% off your first order and contribute to their impactful cause.

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Sustainable Sunglasses - Waterhaul's Pentire Slate sunglasses made from rescued fishing nets from the ocean
Waterhaul's Pentire Slate sunglasses made from rescued fishing nets from the ocean

Nomad Eyewear

Our second brand, Nomad Eyewear breaks new ground with its commitment to sustainability, using bio-based materials in their range of trendy sunglasses. Brilliantly, their innovative approach not only reduces reliance on fossil fuels but also introduces a new level of environmental responsibility to the eyewear industry. Designed for the eco-conscious adventurer, Nomad’s sunglasses are both earth-friendly and fashion-forward. Available for purchase online, each pair sold supports global reforestation projects, reinforcing their pledge towards a greener planet. Use Code PLAYITGREEN20 for 20% off and join their journey towards sustainability.

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Sustainable Sunglasses Nomad Eyewear's Caramel Blush sustainable sunglasses made with recycled ocean plastic
Nomad Eyewear's Caramel Blush sunglasses made with recycled ocean plastic

Bird Eyewear

Our final brand, Bird Eyewear blends style with sustainability, offering frames made from recycled aluminium and bio-based acetate. Furthermore, they have been recognised for their ethical practices and contribution to renewable energy projects, Bird Eyewear is not just about looking good but also doing good. Brilliantly, Bird Eyewear are on a mission to reduce the impact of their business as well as their products. Not only that, but they are creating circularity with their return and recycle scheme. Dive into their collection online and make a difference with your choice. Use Code birdflock for a 10% discount and fly high with Bird Eyewear‘s vision of a sustainable future.

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Sustainable Sunglasses Bird Eyewear's Otus sunglasses made from plant based materials which are biodegradable
Bird Eyewear's Otus sunglasses made from biodegradable plant based materials

Sustainable Sunglasses: Wrap Up

Embracing sustainable sunglasses is a stylish and impactful way to contribute to environmental conservation and personal well-being. Brands like Waterhaul, Nomad Eyewear and Bird Eyewear are leading the charge, offering products that prove fashion and sustainability can coexist harmoniously.

By choosing sunglasses made from recycled materials, sustainable wood, or bamboo, and supporting companies committed to ethical practices and environmental stewardship, we make daily choices that reflect our commitment to the planet.

Let’s continue making conscious choices, starting with our fashion accessories. Sustainable sunglasses aren’t just a personal statement; they’re a collective step towards a brighter, greener future.

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Play It Green: Empowering Your Sustainability Journey

Ready to take your commitment to sustainability to the next level? Play It Green stands as your partner in creating positive environmental change. From educational resources on sustainable practices and signposting to sustainable services to initiatives like tree planting and social giving, Play It Green offers a holistic approach to environmental stewardship. 

Join us in the journey toward sustainability—embrace eco-conscious practices and be a force for positive change in our world. All whilst staying relevant, meeting legislation and aligning with the values of today’s consumers and employees.

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