In our recent blog post, What Can Cloud-Based Optical Software Save Your Practice?, we revealed our logo made out of beach trash sent to us from The Optical Vision Site. Today, sticking to the enviromentally friendly theme, The Optical Vision Site is here to give you some marketing advice when dealing with eco-friendly customers.
Marketing for Optometrists: Which is More Eco-Friendly? Contact Lenses or Eyeglasses?
I don’t know if you have ever had this question from your environmentally concerned patients, but if you Google this question, you’ll find over 19 Million results, which means the consumer wants to know!
Frankly, for those who need vision correction, there are 4 options: eyeglasses, contacts, Lasik, or do nothing about it. Obviously, doing nothing is out of the question, so I will deal with the others and it is a tossup. On the other side of the coin, what does it matter? If you have contacts, you should have a backup pair of eyeglasses and at least one pair of sunglasses. Plus everyone should have a pair of sunglasses for maximum eye protection. Why? Because cataract surgery is one surgery you may not avoid, but you can certainly put off for a year.
Eyeglasses by manufacturing nature use energy. Most eyeglasses and readers are made in China-Asia or Europe (transportation cost). Depending on the type of material, there can be a lot of waste. Polishing eyeglasses can take a lot of water, some of which cannot be recycled. There are eco-friendly eyeglasses, MODO for instance makes eyewear out of recycled materials, and plants a tree for every frame sold. Bamboo eyewear is available as well. Most Bamboo comes from China, but it is also home to Pandas whose habitat is being encroached upon by civilization and bamboo harvesting. The most eco-friendly bamboo eyewear you can purchase is eyewear that is certified FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) Bamboo.
- Wood is another option, but cutting down trees to make eyewear is iffy unless you are making eyewear from reclaimed wood or FSC certified wood. In the case of a company called Drift Eyewear in California, they make eyewear from driftwood. No trees are cut and the wood is salvaged. Many wood eyewear suppliers are ‘local’. In other words, they are small companies that are hand making their eyewear locally. This means that if you are purchasing from a local company i.e. Shwood, (Oregon), you are keeping your tax dollars local and reducing carbon footprints with less transportation costs.
- Another eco-friendly option is to buy local. Buy frames that are made in your city, state, or country. As an example, Frieze Frames and Wiley X make ‘USA’ eyewear. Rons Optical distributes products such a Ficklets which are made in the USA.
- Since ‘Retro’ is such a big trend, vintage frames are probably the most sustainable option. There are many local antique and eyewear stores that stock vintage frames, plus ebay and numerous online stores. The carbon footprint is the cost of transportation.
- Another choice in the eco-friendly eyewear arena is to purchase eyewear from companies that give back. There is a myriad of companies that consistently support vision-saving organizations that give back to their local charities. Companies such as WileyX and Zyloware are housed in sustainable buildings, ClearVision supports local charitable causes, while Hilco, Wiley X, and ClearVision support Breast Cancer initiatives. 141 Eyewear gives a frame to the needy for every frame sold, others support 1% for the Planet, and some plant trees.
Lenses on the other hand use a lot of waste (energy and water). The Vision Council Sustainability committee is working hard on developing resources for labs to effectively re-sell and recycle their waste products. You can eco-eyes your lenses by companies such as Vision-Ease Lens, who use renewable energy and have made in USA lenses. Technically speaking if a lab has Free-Form Lens Equipment, the product is made in the USA which makes it very sustainable.
Lab Equipment manufacturers keep developing ‘energy and water efficient’ equipment. Most likely the most eco-friendly way to make lenses is to make them in-house if you are an optical retailer (less transportation cost) and use Water-Energy Efficient machinery. You can purchase ‘reused equipment' from companies like Vision Systems, purchase all in one surfacing equipment from Fast Grind or Briot, AIT and Santinelli that have water saving lab equipment.
Buying cheap eyewear and readers is not an eco-friendly option for many reasons. The first being that cheap is usually disposable. Disposable = waste in landfills. Secondly, cheap means most likely made in China (high carbon footprint and labor costs). Lastly, cheap means non-biodegradable material, which means if it goes in landfills, it gets lost and it will be there 1,000 years from now. The most eco-friendly thing to do is purchase a quality frame that can be reused or donated over the years.
Consider the average consumer buys 1 new pair of glasses every 2.2 years. If they recycle their old eyeglasses (donate or resell) their ‘eco-worthiness’ goes up!
Again the process of contact lens manufacturing takes a lot of energy and water. The best option is to again buy local and if you can buy made in the USA. The eco-thing about contact lenses is the packaging and the solutions, the contact lens kits, plus the use of water you are running when putting in contacts. You can recycle the aluminum and the cardboard in blister packs. Even if wearing dailies, the transportation cost of getting them adds up. Add into the fact that a contact lens wearer should have a backup pair of glasses and wear sunglasses. The best thing you can do is to recycle the contact lens cases, and encourage your patients to reuse or bring them into you. Another option available is vegan contact lens solution called Clear Conscience.
Just to add a little more, The Slate did a whole article on this and the carbon footprint.
What about eyeglass lenses? The amount of material can vary, depending on the type of plastic used, the prescription, and the shape of the frame. But a reasonable estimate, according to the Minnesota-based manufacturer Vision-Ease Lens, might be 120 grams of plastic for a pair of blanks—little slabs that opticians can grind down into finished lenses—and 35 for lenses that come pre-finished from the manufacturer, and just need to be shaped to fit the frame. Consumers tend to buy new glasses every 2.2 years, but 35 grams of plastic is the equivalent of almost four years worth of daily contacts, or more than 50 years worth of biweeklies.
…Bausch & Lomb told her that making one pair of soft contact lenses produces approximately 0.29 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent, and Vision-Ease has estimated that (in it's Minnesota facility, at least) making a pair of eyeglass lenses produces 10.5 pounds of CO2-equivalent. If those numbers can be trusted, wearing daily disposables for a couple of years would contribute 22 times more greenhouse gas emissions than wearing a pair of glasses over that time. However, there are still frames, plastic bottles, and cardboard boxes to consider, not to mention the production of all the raw materials.
There is a fallacy that if you have Lasik you will never need to wear glasses again. Most likely you will need to wear readers at some point. And definitely need sunglasses. Is the carbon footprint reduced?
Bottom line - It is a personal choice. Stem Cells and implants are a wave of the future, but who can know when and how affordable and viable it is. If your patients ask, this is what you can tell them.
- Buying local (from you) is one of the most sustainable things a consumer can do
- Promote (if so) you are using local suppliers
- Recycle blister packs if their local ‘waste management’ does not.
- Set up your ‘eco-friendly’ eyewear options in the dispenser with proper signage.
- Put up this type of information on your website.
- Encourage them to recycle readers, eyeglasses, and sunglasses.
For more information, see our Pinterest Board on Eco-Friendly Eyewear.
See What Myoptic Optometry Says on their article, 6 Ways You Can Save The Earth With Your Eyewear.