See Clearly: This Earth Day Look Towards Eco-Friendly Eyewear

As we acknowledge Earth Day today, it’s a timely reminder we should try to increase our scope when it comes to seeking out and supporting eco-friendly companies. And eyewear is a category which does not immediately jump to mind when we think of sustainability.

When it comes to reading glasses and sunglasses, whenever they break or we move on to newer styles or prescriptions, those plastic frames, metal parts and glass lenses are often discarded. Few consider recycling them or know how to since they consist of three different kinds of materials.

Dresden is an Australian eyewear company, which recently entered the Canadian market, whose modus operandi is not only adhering to eco-friendly and sustainable manufacturing practices but also to simplify the process of getting prescription eyewear and at astonishingly low prices which start at $49 CDN. Their frames, including the hinges, are made with durable, lightweight and recyclable nylon. Wood composites, Australian paper money, recycled plastics – including plastics and debris salvaged from the oceans – are just some of the materials used in making Dresden frames. And by manufacturing their own frames, they adhere to a closed-loop, zero waste system.

Founded in 2014 by Bruce Jeffreys and Jason McDermott, the company sells online but also operates retail stores in Australia, New Zealand and now Canada. Since opening their first retail store in Toronto late last year, Dresden has rapidly expanded and now has three stores in the downtown area.

Courtesy of Dresden

According to co-founder, Jeffreys, who was in town recently, Toronto was a logical choice for expansion because of the rich cultural diversity – a trait the Canadian city has with Sydney and Auckland. But while the entrepreneur seeks markets which are open, accessible and wildly diverse, his company is singularly focused on offering just one style of product. Walk into a Dresden store or browse their e-commerce site and you will only find one style of frames – a slightly retro rectangular frame. It’s a highly unorthodox business plan, since most eyewear stores offers frames in a wide variety of shapes and materials.

While most optometrists are trained to follow the methodology that everyone’s face is different and requires different frames, Jeffreys dares to challenge that notion and states, “People aren’t that different, they can actually all wear the one style.”

He believes by offering just one style of frames, he can offer a higher quality product at a lower price. “If you do one thing really well, you can give everyone a higher quality outcome,” he noted. The company stands by the product by offering a lifetime warranty on the frame.

But while there is only one style of frame offered, there are four sizes to choose from – xtra-small to large. Customers get to choose from a rainbow of colours and also mix or match the colours of the arms of the frames.  Dresden has also streamlined the process of getting glasses into a simple task. Walk in with your prescription, pick your frames and you can leave in 10 minutes with your glasses. They cut and fit the lenses right on the premises. There is also an optometrist on site should you need to get your eyes tested.

The eyewear industry has long been taxing consumers into believing they are not only different but eyewear needs to be an expensive and complicated process, he says.

At Dresden, we are celebrating and having fun with the very thing that makes us human – the aging process which includes deteriorating sight, he explains. “The fact we have poor eyesight doesn’t mean that we should be taken advantage of and made to spend so much money because we feel so insecure on something that is so human,” he says.