Growth the green way

Discussing the environmental impact and challenges within optics on Earth Day 2021

woman hugging the planet
Getty/ Ponomariova_Maria

Living in the nation’s capital it’s not often that I get to hear the blissful stillness one might experience from living in the countryside.

However, for a brief and bizarre moment in time during the first lockdown, I did. The rule to ‘Stay at Home’ meant that the usual hustle and bustle of the city stopped overnight.

The urban hum I had associated with living in the city was gone and I have to confess I rather enjoyed it. These were replaced with the sounds of birds chatting or even the ebb and flow of the Thames against the riverbank, something I’d never heard before.

And I wasn’t the only one, listening to BBC Radio London many callers at the time commented on how the city’s wildlife was making a resurgence. For me and many others, the first lockdown demonstrated how quickly wildlife can recover and thrive.

Earth Day 2021 takes place today (22 April) focusing on the theme, Restore Our Earth. If the pandemic has made a few things clear, it’s that, as a society, it is possible to adapt, grow and restore. So how can we take stock and assess our own impact on the environment we live in?

One topic many optometrists may have given consideration to is the use of single-use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

PPE has undoubtably been a lifeline and a survival tool for health care professionals and the general public over the past year, however, as we start to emerge out of the most recent lockdown, is it time to think about the wider environmental impact the use of PPE has created?

In the upcoming June/July edition of OT we will be discussing this subject in more detail by speaking to experts and presenting the latest research.

For now, we would like to find out how you use and dispose of PPE in practice. How much do you order or get through in one week? Are you concerned about the environmental impact this will have in the future?

We’re looking for your anecdotes, opinions, photos or any other creative ways you might like to share this with us. If you would like to share your experiences and be featured in the next edition, please get in touch with OT’s assistant editor, [email protected]

On Earth Day, it is also worth reflecting on the shift coming from eyewear brands towards sustainability. Developments in this area have been around for some time, but we’re now witnessing more brands make this a focus and an important part of their identity.

Most recently, we spoke to Modo Eyewear’s European CEO, Giovanni Lo Faro, about its Eco Eyewear brand’s sustainable goals and the launch of its new Ocean Frames collection. We asked Faro about the concept and he commented: “Ocean plastic is such a big issue now and we wanted to find a way to recycle it. That is how we came to team up with Waste Free Oceans, an NGO that works with local fishermen who collect the used plastic. These are processed and extruded into plastic granules that become our ocean frames.”

We also asked him about his predictions for key trends in eyewear and optics for 2021 and he replied: “Sustainability and environmental awareness is a responsibility for every company nowadays. We feel COVID-19 has boosted this, as many consumers are seeking brands that empower them to make a difference without compromising style.”

Another brand to make this shift is Cubitts in its collaboration with conceptual product and eyewear designer, Yair Neuman. Frames in the Fused collection are made from Delerex, a material invented by Neuman and made from discarded ‘dummy’ lenses, using no glues or bonding agents.

Cubitts founder, Tom Broughton, said: “What I find most inspiring is not only the practical reuse of objects that would otherwise end in landfill – but the underlying beauty of Delerex. Unique, iridescent, and striking – one person’s waste is truly another’s treasure.”

The success and innovation in sustainable eyewear was recently demonstrated by Inspecs for its O’Neill ‘Wove’ sunglasses. The company won the International Green Product Award in the sport category for the ‘Wove’ sunglasses and packaging which uses a collection of recycled, recyclable and biodegradable materials. The sunglass frames are formed from recycled materials, such as ghost fishing nets, with mineral and recyclable glass lenses, and touchpoints made from recycled rubber with a sunglass case made from recycled plastic bottles.

Small changes have the potential to have a large impact. As we all know the High Street and small business have been affected by the pandemic, so by shopping locally and supporting small businesses not only helps recovery, but also helps reduce carbon footprint.

If the past year has taught us anything it’s that regeneration and growth is possible; how green we want to go is in our hands.

Although there may be challenges ahead, perhaps the positivity and vision of the millennials and Gen Zs is something to keep in mind. A recent survey by Deloitte on millennials and Gen Zs suggested that they could hold the key to creating a “better normal”.

The authors wrote: “In the face of unprecedented health and economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, millennials and Gen Zs express resolve and a vision to build a better future…putting people ahead of profits and prioritizing environmental sustainability.”

“They’ve seen how quickly the earth can heal, how rapidly business can adapt, and how resourceful and cooperative people can be.”