These reasons are (A) because they are prescription sunglasses. I have no idea why I waited 20 bespectacled years to buy a pair – it is amazing to be able to see and not have sun in my eyes at the same time! But mostly (B) because they are about as sustainable as it gets – they are vintage reused frames and purchased from an awesome UK social enterprise, Retrospecced.
(Also (C) because they make me feel like a movie star. This is mostly because I often wear them indoors because I am too lazy to switch them with my ordinary glasses and I really can’t see without prescription lenses.)
I read about Retrospecced earlier this year on Ethical Unicorn, and was gutted because I had literally just ordered a new pair of glasses the week before (my previous glasses were broken in a particularly dramatic game of mixed netball, and I had been wearing my “emergency glasses” for six months). Despite really not needing glasses, I checked out the Retrospecced website and saw that they also do prescription sunglasses. So despite living in the coldest, rainiest, least sunny city I have ever lived in, I decided I would buy a pair.
So what is so sustainable about specs from Retrospecced?
You can read all about it on their about page, but there are three main reasons I think they are wonderful:
- They minimise resource use and waste. Glasses aren’t exactly a single use item, but as Hannah Blythyn (Minister for Environment in Wales) noted at an Institute of Welsh Affairs event earlier this year – they are still often made of plastic. (And as the media has been making us very aware for the last year, there are many negative impacts associated with plastic manufacturing, use and disposal). Buying items secondhand is recognised as an eco-friendly choice for a very good reason – it is right up there on the waste hierarchy as part of “re-use”. In addition to delaying sending them to landfill, buying a pair of secondhand frames avoids the need for materials and energy to be used to make a new pair.
- They brings benefits to communities through partnership with Vision Aid Overseas. Again, you can ready the full story on the website, but essentially Vision Aid Overseas is a charity that provides eye care across the developing world. For years they tried to do this by matching donated glasses with people of the same prescription. Turns out that was a bit impractical (makes sense, I know my prescription is pretty odd…yay for astigmatism!). Retrospecced have partnered with Vision Aid Overseas, through this arrangement Retrospecced sell the donated frames and donate part of the profits back to Vision Aid Overseas. Everyone wins!
- They are unique and fun and I don’t want to stop wearing them. The main reason I stopped wearing contact lenses was I couldn’t stand the amount of waste it created. But what made me happier about that decision was having glasses that I like to wear (my pink every day ones make me feel like a nerdy owl – in the best possible way). Now I have sunnies that I love to wear too! You can definitely find new glasses that are very cool (I feel like the choices are so much better now compared to when I was a teenager), but nothing beats the crazy vintage styles.
I have found a consistent theme since deciding to shop in a more sustainable way – while it takes me a really long time to decide to buy something, when I eventually get around to it I always end up with something really lovely. These sunnies are no different. I have happily used them all summer and now that summer in the UK seems to have abruptly come to an end, I will tuck them away and look forward to using them again next year.
(I never imagined I would write a whole blog post about sunglasses, but there you go! In case you were wondering, I am nowhere near fancy enough to have sponsored posts even if I wanted to do them, I just really like my sunnies!)
- Here is a recent article from Ecocult about sustainable sunglasses brands and greenwashing. I still think second hand is the best bet!
- Some handy reminders on how to source things (glasses, clothes, household items etc) ethically and sustainably are Sarah Lazarovic’s “Buyerarchy of Needs” and Elizabeth Stillwell’s lovely infographic about shopping ethically.