The 9 Best Sustainable Sunglasses Brands of 2021

Sustainable sunnies for bright days ahead

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The Rundown
Sea2See recycles fish nets and ocean plastics into stylish shades.
Made from post-harvest wheat stalk, BioSunnies come from a renewable resource.
Proof's wood collection is exquisite, with frames made from sustainably sourced wood.
With recyclable mineral glass lenses, some of Waterhaul's sunglasses are entirely recyclable.
Design enthusiasts love MONC sunglasses for their unique styles, quality, and sustainability.
Best Recycled Plastic:
Good Citizens Sunglasses at Com.au
Each pair is made from recycled plastic bottles, including the hinge.
Best Upcycled:
Peep Eyewear at Co.uk
Iconic vintage frames are restored to their former glory and outfitted with modern UVA/UVB lenses.
These sunglasses are made from salvaged, surgical-grade stainless steel.
Best for Outdoors Adventures:
Zeal Sierra at Zealoptics.com
Bio-based that sunglasses look sharp and incorporate the technical specs you’ll want in the wilderness.

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: Sea2See Sunglasses

Spy Sunglasses

Currently, we’re on track to see more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050. Sea2See decided to help the problem 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 (view on Sea2See.com) and the Spy shades (view on Sea2See.com) for their fun and funky look that is sure to have people asking, “Where did you get those sunglasses?”

Best Budget: BioSunnies Sunglasses

BioSunnies Sunglasses

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.

Best Wood: Proof Eyewear Wood Sunglasses

Proof Eyewear Unita Sunglasses

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 Recycled: Waterhaul Sunglasses

Waterhaul Harlyn Sunglasses

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 Lokka Sunglasses

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 Recycled Plastic: Good Citizens Sunglasses

Good Citizens Palm Beach Sunglasses

Made in Australia, Good Citizens’ sunglasses are made from 100 percent recycled, single-use plastic bottles. Each pair is made from 600 milliliter PET bottles, including the hinge. For each pair of sunglasses sold, Good Citizens donates funds to various NGO partners to remove plastic from our oceans. To date, the company has funded the removal of more than 6,000 pounds of plastic from oceans.

These sunglasses also have replaceable parts in case part of the frame gets damaged, and once you’re done with your glasses, you can send them back to the company for recycling or simply take out the lenses and recycle yourself. The sunglasses come in a box that’s 100 percent recycled and printed with plant-based inks. The case and cleaning cloth are also made with PET from recycled plastic bottles.

Best Upcycled: Peep Eyewear

Peep Aquarius Sunglasses

Peep Eyewear is fighting fast fashion by saving frames from landfills and bringing them back to life. Iconic vintage frames are restored to their former glory and outfitted with modern UVA/UVB lenses and new tints to suit each customer.

Choose an already restored pair, or work with the team to create a custom pair of sunglasses with whatever tint or prescription you’d like. All sunglasses come with a new case and cleaning cloth made from recycled plastic bottles, and for every pair purchased, the company donates money to plant a tree in an urban area.

Best Metal: Dick Moby Sunglasses

Dick Moby Lyon Sunglasses

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

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. 

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

Final Verdict

We love Sea2See (view on Sea2See) and Waterhaul sunglasses (view on Waterhaul) for their incredible efforts to rid our oceans of forgotten fishing nets. 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 Peep Eyewear and their vintage, timeless sunglasses (view on Peep).

FAQs

What makes sunglasses sustainable?

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 upcycled frames also count as sustainable since you’re using an item already made instead of purchasing something brand new. 

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.

Why Trust Treehugger?

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.