Monday, February 9, 2009

I can see clearly now ...

Do you wear eyeglasses? How about sunglasses? Perhaps you use reading glasses and, to ensure that you are never without them, keep a pair at home, at work, and in the car.

Most of us have them ... to assist failing vision, correct vision problems, protect our eyes from the sun or ... simply to make a fashion statement. As our vision (or preference) changes, we get new ones. Unfortunately, the old ones usually get tossed out. According to Unite for Sight, over 4 million pairs of eyeglasses are thrown away each year in North America. That's a lot of spectacles in landfills. Is there a better way? Well sure!

Typically, both frames and lenses are made out of plastic. This is a lightweight and safe option ... and the plastic used is recyclable. While plastic, of any kind, is hard on the earth ... it is difficult to find other, earth friendly, materials for eyeglasses ... especially for the lenses. Yes, glass would be a better environmental choice but it is heavy and comes with safety concerns. There are some companies who offer Eco-friendly frames made out of recycled materials. There are others who sell frames made out of sustainable materials like bamboo. Unfortunately, they are hard to find. It doesn't mean that we shouldn't ask providers for Eco-friendly options ... I'm a firm believer that the more we ask, letting them know that there is a demand, the more they will consider meeting that demand. Until mainstream providers offer us "green" alternatives, however, most of us are stuck with plastic eyeglasses.

That being said ... let's consider some ideas for minimizing the environmental impact of eyewear:

  • Instead of buying new frames when a prescription changes, try having the new lens inserted into the frames you have. Or, if you want a "new look", browse thrift stores and garage sales for frames. One note ... be sure to call your eyeglass provider ahead of time ... not all of them will accommodate this request.

  • Did your glasses break? Try replacing the broken part only. For example, if a frame breaks, try to find something compatible to the existing lens. Again ... call your provider to be sure they'll work with you.

  • If both the lens and frame are broken, recycle them in the plastics container. Remove any metal screws or components first.

  • If the glasses are in good shape, consider donating them. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 153 million people around the world need glasses for nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. 90% of all people who need glasses live in low- and middle-income families. To donate, check out these programs:
  • OneSight takes usable eyeglasses and distributes them to people in need throughout the world. According to their website, they need "to collect and recycle 1.2 million pairs of used eyewear annually in order to support 20 Global Clinics each year". In North America, bring used eyewear to any LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Sunglass Hut, Target Optical or Sears Optical to participate in their program. Or, click HERE for a drop off site near you. For drop off locations in other countries click HERE for Asia Pacific ... HERE for Europe ... and HERE for the rest of the world.

  • The Lions Club, a non-profit organization, donates eyeglasses and vision services to people throughout the world. Click HERE to find out how to donate to their program.

Sometimes, it's the most common items that offer us the easiest ways to be kinder to the earth. Follow these ideas and I'm sure you'll "see" a greener world.

By the way ... Earth Hour is coming up. So mark your calendars for March 28th @ 8:30 pm and tell all your friends. To learn more, click on the link in the side bar.

As always ... I'd love to hear from you!