The Best Sustainable Sunglasses for Bright Days Ahead

Pela is our top pick for eco-friendly sunnies.

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Pela Sustainable Sunglasses

Pela

Oftentimes, sunglasses get left out of the conversation of sustainable clothing and gear, but if you're striving to find an eco-friendly pair of sunnies, there are some nice options out there. It’s important to note that buying second-hand sunglasses is also an earth-friendly option that can save you big bucks as well.

Lots of sunglasses are made from wood, metals, and recycled materials. But it’s worth mentioning that many other frames are made with acetate, a semi-synthetic material made from wood pulp and cotton, which can be made without fossil fuels and is much more durable and flexible than plastic (more on acetate in the FAQs). This material is more sustainable than most plastic options but may not be the most eco-friendly choice on the market.

Here, the best sustainable sunglasses for those bright, sunshiny days ahead. 

Best Overall: Pela Sunglasses

4.9
Pela Sunglasses

Pela

Compared to conventional sunglasses, the manufacturing process behind Peta's shades emits 33% less CO2 pollution, uses 34% less water usage, and generates 82% less waste. Their classic styles should last you for years, but when you're done with them, you can return your frames to the company and they'll close the loop by recycling them. They offer full UVA/UVB protection, and come in a range of styles, from chunky squares to cute cat eyes.

Pela's frames top our list not only because this company is investing in circular manufacturing, it's also a Certified B Corp (committed to ethical business practices) and Certified Climate Neutral (offsetting its greenhouse gas emissions). Worldwide shipping is free, and a percentage of every sale is donated to ocean cleanup causes.

Best Recycled Plastic: Sea2See Sunglasses

Spy Sunglasses

Sea2See

Ocean plastic is a huge problem. Sea2See decided to do something about it by collecting fishing nets and ocean plastics and converting them into raw material to make glasses and sunglasses. To date, they’ve collected almost 500 tons of plastic from Spanish ports and coastal areas of Ghana and are cranking out stylish shades in numerous designs.

The glasses are molded in Italy and are PETA-approved vegan. We love the Abyss sunglasses for their sleek look and the Spy shades (pictured) for their fun and funky style that is sure to have people asking, “Where did you get those sunglasses?”

Best Wood: Proof Eyewear Wood Sunglasses

Proof Eyewear Unita Sunglasses

Proof Eyewear

Founded in 2010, Proof Eyewear is the brainchild of three brothers from a sawmill family in Idaho who wanted to make an eco-friendly wood product. Proof also makes sustainable eyewear from acetate and aluminum, but their wood collection is exquisite, with frames made from sustainably-sourced wood.

Each frame comes with a unique quote engraved on the inside arm and a wood cork folding case and microfiber cloth for cleaning. A portion of each sale goes to the company's Do Good philanthropic program, and $10 from every wooden frame supports health, vision, education, environmental, and empowerment projects that benefit people across the globe.

We also like that if your frames break, you can send them back to Proof for recycling and receive a discount on your next purchase.

Best Recyclable: Waterhaul Sunglasses

Waterhaul Harlyn Sunglasses

Waterhaul

According to recent data from the World Wildlife Fund, between 500,000 and one million tons of ghost fishing equipment are abandoned in the ocean each year. All of this pollution is a huge problem for marine life and something that Waterhaul is trying to tackle, one frame at a time.

The company is transforming discarded fishing nets into sunglasses that are stylish but also great for anyone who cares about our oceans. The sunglasses are guaranteed to last a lifetime, and some of the frames are even paired with recyclable mineral glass lenses making every part of the design recyclable. The shades are packaged without any single-use plastic, and each pair comes with a free magnetic fold-flat hard case made from sustainable cork.

Best Luxury: MONC Sunglasses

MONC Gracia Sunglasses

MONC

Design enthusiasts love MONC sunglasses for their unique styles and top-notch quality, but also for their sustainability. The company employs bio-acetate and mineral glass in its frames and is committed to lowering consumption through small-batch production, meaning each product release is a unique, limited batch.

Chic, of course, these glasses are also more eco-friendly than mass-produced options. The company also gets a few bonus points for using recycled paper cups for packaging. Rest easy buying anything from their Conscious Collection. We love the tortoiseshell Lokka sunglasses (view on MONC), and the red Sodermalm sunglasses (view on MONC) give off vintage yet stylish vibes.

Best Metal: Dick Moby Sunglasses

Dick Moby Lyon Sunglasses

Dick Moby

In 2012, the founders of Dick Moby—Tim and Robbert—took a surf trip that turned out to be horrendous. The sea and beach were bursting with trash, so much so that the duo decided to pack up and head home, angry about the environment they’d just seen.

They decided to do something about it and came up with Dick Moby, which makes high-quality glasses and sunglasses from recycled materials. These sunglasses are made from salvaged surgical-grade stainless steel that's surplus from other glasses. The team adds on multi-barrel hinges, anti-scratch coating, and more to transform the sunglasses into stylish and durable frames that you’re sure to love.

Best for Outdoors Adventures: Zeal Sierra

Zeal Sierra Sunglasses

Zeal

Both the frames and the lenses of Zeal’s Sierra frame are made from bio-based polymers. The polarized lenses offer a high level of visual contrast and clarity while at the same time filtering out blue light and harsh UV rays. The resin used in the frames is made from castor oil, which has a lower carbon footprint compared to other plastic frame materials. 

The frames are also gently flexible for a better fit and have non-slip pads on the bridge of the nose, so you’re less likely to lose them on the trail or out on the water. They’re also lightweight, which makes them a great pick for all-day use. The Sierra comes in three colors, and can also be fit with prescription lenses. 

Zeal uses a number of sustainable practices in its Boulder, Colorado headquarters and is a One Percent for the Planet member.  

Best Vintage: Vintage Eyeglass World Sunglasses

Vintage Eyeglass World Sunglasses

Etsy

Shopping for vintage and secondhand items is a great way to sidestep the environmental issues associated with the manufacturing of new products, plus you may prevent something from getting discarded.

For sunglasses, check out this cool Etsy shop based in L.A. It has tons of 1970s and 1980s styles, for anyone who loves a retro moment. Many of the regular glasses frames can be converted to sunglasses, just reach out to the seller to find out.

Best Budget: BioSunnies Sunglasses

BioSunnies Sunglasses

BioSunnies

Made from post-harvest wheat stalk, BioSunnies come from a renewable resource rather than virgin plastic that won’t biodegrade in landfills or oceans. These sunglasses do in fact biodegrade and are colored with a plant-based dye for more eco-consciousness. The lenses are polarized for maximum sun protection and have full UVA and UVB protection.

At the end of their life, simply take the frames to a composting facility and pop out the lenses, which are recyclable as well. These sunglasses come in five different colors, and the classic frame style goes well with any outfit or outing on land or sea.

Final Verdict

We love Pela's sunglasses for their ethical production and circular manufacturing. Plus, the sunglasses are stylish and great for trips on the boat or refined seaside dinner dates. We also love the idea of normalizing second-hand items again and are so sick of throwaway culture, so we are digging Vintage Eyeglass World and its treasure trove of retro sunglasses.

What to Look for When Shopping for Sustainable Sunglasses

If you want more sustainable sunglasses, look for frames made from materials like recycled plastic, sustainably sourced wood and cork, recycled metals, acetate, and bio-acetate. Sunglasses made from virgin plastics are among the least sustainable options.

Second-hand and vintage frames also count as sustainable since you’re using an item already made instead of purchasing something brand new. 

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Are acetate sunglasses eco-friendly?

    Acetate can be made without fossil fuels from plant fibers, making it a step more eco-friendly than new plastics; however, it does require energy and chemicals to produce. Its flexibility and durability are why so many eyewear companies use it. Acetate is more eco-friendly than new plastic, and even greener options would be bio-acetate, recycled plastic, wood, metals, and cork as long as it’s sustainably sourced.

    If buying acetate frames, look for acetate that is listed as bio-acetate or made without synthetic plasticizers that contain phthalates. It’s also good to look for acetate frames made by highly transparent and ethical companies that ensure workers have proper ventilation and protective clothing.

  • Can plastic sunglasses be recycled?

    For the most part, you can’t recycle plastic sunglasses because they're often made from a composite of metal and different types of plastic parts. However, some companies run their own take-back recycling programs.

    Acetate frames also shouldn’t be put in with your recyclables because acetate recycling is not widely available in the United States. You can always donate your old sunglasses to charity, or try to use them as long as possible. 

  • How can I make my sunglasses last longer?

    Clean your sunglasses often to remove oils and sweat. If the arms are feeling loose, take them in to a frame retailer and see if they will tighten them back up for you and give them a cleaning. You can also try removing scratches with baking soda, toothpaste, furniture polish, silver polish, and even sunscreen.

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Treehugger is committed to helping our readers reduce the environmental impact of their day-to-day lives. Author Amanda Ogle is a veteran reporter who loves writing about sustainability and believes it is important that we all strive to be as environmentally friendly as we can.

View Article Sources
  1. "Stop Ghost Gear." World Wildlife Fund.