As well as protecting your peepers, a stylish pair of shades can add extra pizzazz to your outfit. Basically, they’re a summer essential. But how do you go about ensuring your summer eyewear isn’t serving style at the expense of the planet?
From second-hand specialities to recycled frames, there’s a wealth of ways to make a kinder choice. We’ve put together some key things to look out for in a pair of sunglasses and recommended our favourite places to get your hands on some sustainable shades.
One of the most sustainable ways to shop for shades is bagging a second-hand bargain. Sites and apps like eBay, Vinted and Depop boast countless options in a range of styles, from designer pieces to vintage frames. Rumage have made it super easy to search all the best second-hand platforms in one go.
Buying second-hand means you’re using a product that already exists and stopping it from ending up in landfill, plus you avoid the carbon footprint involved in the production of a new pair of sunglasses.
New sunglasses – what to look for
If you can’t find a second-hand pair you like or you just want to treat yourself to a brand-new pair, there are some great companies out there offering more sustainable sunglasses. Keep your eyes peeled for these things:
It’s common for sunglasses frames to be made from plastic, but alternatives such as bamboo, metal or bio-based acetate are usually eco-friendlier options. Bio-based acetate has the look, feel and lightweight qualities of plastic, but is made from plant fibres and breaks down more easily. When it comes to lenses, look out for ones made from mineral glass instead of plastic (don’t worry, it’s been treated to make sure it’s extra-sturdy and safe for eyes!)
Some of the sunglasses brands on our list use recycled plastic for their frames. We love this solution, as you still get to enjoy the hardwearing, lightweight qualities of plastic, but no new plastic is being put into the world. Often, frames are made from plastic waste that would otherwise end up in landfill or polluting our precious oceans.
Sunglasses are for adventures, so it’s almost inevitable that they’ll end up getting dropped, scratched or sat on at some point. But that doesn’t mean they need to go in the bin. For a pair of sunglasses you can enjoy for years on end, look for companies that offer product repairs as standard.
1. Pala Eyewear
Pala Eyewear uses a range of alternative materials for its frames, such as bio-based acetate, recycled plastics, and bamboo. What’s more, they partner with a social enterprise in Ghana to provide funding for eye-care projects and to train local people to provide affordable eye care in their communities. Additionally, they are a member of the 1% for the Planet initiative, pledging to donate 1% of their annual sales to environmental organizations.
Pala’s Jabali frames come in 7 different colours and cost between £125 and £160.
2. Retro Specced
For the vintage lovers, Beagle recommends Retrospecced. They specialise in upcycling and refurbishing vintage and second-hand glasses frames. They take pre-loved frames and refurbish them to a like-new condition, adding modern lenses and making any necessary repairs. By repurposing existing frames, Retrospecced is able to significantly reduce waste and promote a more sustainable approach to eyewear. They also donate a portion of their profits to Vision Aid Overseas, a charity that provides eyecare services and access to glasses to people in need in developing countries.
As you might expect, most of their frames are one-offs, but a pair of refurbished frames usually costs around £35-£45.
CHPO is a Swedish watch and accessories company that also sells stylish eyewear. They use recycled materials in their products, including recycled plastics and metals, and strive to minimise their environmental impact throughout their production process. Additionally, CHPO partners with various organisations to support social causes such as LGBTQ+ rights, mental health awareness, and environmental protection. They’re also a more affordable option than some others on our list, so we recommend them for those on a tighter budget.
Their trendy Rumi frames will set you back EUR 29 (around £25, depending on exchange rates!)
Waterhaul is a UK-based eyewear company that sells glasses and sunglasses made from recycled fishing nets and other plastic waste recovered from the ocean. The waste plastic is combined with bio-based materials to create durable and stylish sunnies. Their frames are made from mineral glass and the Waterhaul Lifetime Warranty means you can send back your frames to be repaired or replaced FOR LIFE! Waterhaul also donates a portion of its profits to ocean conservation organisations, and if you want to get involved yourself, they sell litter-picking gear so you can do your own beach clean-up!
5. Coral Eyewear
If you’re looking for a touch of luxury, UK-based Coral Eyewear could be the place to go. Their sunglasses and ski goggles are made from recycled materials like Econyl, which is produced from recycled fishing nets and other nylon waste. Coral Eyewear is another member of the 1% for the Planet initiative and has taken steps to reduce their carbon footprint, as well as offering a recycling programme for its glasses.
Coral’s Albacore – Sun glasses cost £119, with a choice of 5 frame colours.
Keeping an eye out for ethical products
Getting flummoxed by trying to keep one eye on sustainability while you shop for your new garments and accessories? The Beagle Button can help. Simply install it in your browser and it’ll pop up with handy suggestions for more ethical alternatives to products as you shop online!