Climate Change

Published on July 22nd, 2013 | by Scott Cooney


Eco-friendly shades: Zeal Optics plant-based sunglass review

Screen shot 2013-07-20 at 4.34.49 PMHere at the Important Media network, we get pitched a lot. People ask us to promote all sorts of products, from toothbrushes to electric cars to luxury stays at four star hotels. one has pitched that at us, yet (ahem). But one of the real pleasures I take in working in the green media business is providing meaningful reviews of products in the eco-friendly marketplace, especially when those products have the potential to influence a particularly non-green industry, which this one does.

Zeal Optics recently sent me a couple of pairs of their new line of eco-friendly sunglasses. So let’s talk sustainability in sunglasses for a minute here. I couldn’t find any verified estimates of the amount of trash generated every year by the creation and disposal of sunglasses. But let’s just noodle it for a second: most of us probably go through at least 2-3 pairs of sunglasses a year. Some probably a lot more, depending on if they’re doing activities like sailing or white water rafting where they may be more prone to lose them. But if we just conservatively estimate that each American goes through 2 pairs of sunglasses a year, we’re talking, scientifically-speaking, of course, about a frikkin ton of waste (that’s metric, by the way). Yes, glasses can be upcycled, but actual recycling of glasses is pretty difficult because of the diversity of components.

The fact that sunglasses are made from petroleum means that not only is the creation of sunglasses a bit on the toxic side, but so is the disposal. Plastic…oh plastic. Where do we even begin with that?

But this is exactly what makes Zeal Optics’ new line of sunglasses so neat. They’re made from the castor plant, not from petrochemicals.

Zeal Optics Castor Plant

The castor plant is an efficient, renewable resource that can be used for a variety of purposes, from backsheeting of solar panels to lubricants to, well, sunglasses! Zeal Optics uses castor oil to produce Z-ResinTM, which makes up the foundation of their entire line of frames (as opposed to using crude oil, which is what sunglass frames are traditionally made from).

The other main eco-challenge with sunglasses is their short life. Cheap sunglasses may last only a few weeks shading your eyes, but once they break, will be around for thousands of years since plastic doesn’t biodegrade. Obviously, not ideal. To address this issue, Zeal Optics has a 2 year warranty on its products. They’ll do repairs or replacement if your sunglasses don’t last 2 years. Obviously, if you drop yours over the side of a boat, you’re on your own, but Zeal’s commitment to quality allows them to guarantee their product for 2 years of use without breakage.

But obviously, sunglasses need to be more than just eco-friendly. They need to be stylin’! Zeal sent me a pair of the Backyard and the Brody, two manly pairs of manly shades.

After a week or so of use, I have to say, I’m impressed. The shades look great, fit well, and the polarized frames make the world oh so beautiful.

The "Backyard" model, by Zeal Optics. Niiice...

The “Backyard” model, by Zeal Optics. Niiice…

This is not a paid review, though we were sent some product that we were allowed to keep. Regardless, as always on Green Living Ideas, the review is honest and factual, and all opinions are my own. 

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About the Author

Scott Cooney is a serial eco-entrepreneur including being the solo founder of Pono Home,, and CleanTechnica; author of two books; former sustainability consultant with clients including Johnson & Johnson, Eastman Chemical, Wal-Mart, and Duke Energy; former Adjunct teaching the first course in sustainable business in the MBA program at UH Manoa; lover of local, healthy food and especially vegan nachos. Find Scott on Twitter

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