Seeing Green
Serengeti Aurora sunglasses.
Eco elements have been a part of outdoor accessories, like sunglasses, for some time. The increasing use of castor oil seeds used in textiles, plastics, coatings, personal care items, pharmaceuticals – and bio-polymers in sunglass frames – for its bio-based origin and low carbon footprint have actually heightened the need to monitor the supply chain.

Launched in 2016, The Pragati Initiative enables sustainable crop production in India by using good agricultural practices to increase yield and farmer income, efficiency in use of water and maintenance of soil fertility, adoption of waste management practices and enabling better health and safety practices/respecting human rights. Member firms include BASF, Arkema, Jayant Agro-Organics and Solidaridad. More than 74,500 tons of SuCCESS certified castor beans were cultivated from 2017 to 2023.

As optics firms work hard to strike a balance between technology and sustainability, here’s what a few of the performance industry’s finest are currently working on.  


Technology: In an effort to re-energize the brand’s coastal American roots, in February 2024, Bollé Brands moved the Serengeti headquarters from Lyon, France to Carlsbad, California. Joe Freitag is President of Bollé Brands North America. “Serengeti exists for the person who wants a world-class lens to help them experience life in the best way possible with great fit, timeless style and great quality,” he said. The brand recently launched an ophthalmic eyewear collection and plans to marry the idea with sunwear options through the launch of eyeglass clip-ons featuring its iconic 3-in-1 lens that combines polarization, color control and photochromic technologies in one lens. “Now people can experience Serengeti without sacrificing if they wear prescription glasses,” added the exec.  

Sustainability: “Our goal is to have 90% of our product line made of eco-friendly materials in 2027 and a cornerstone of this mission is to find alternatives to the plastics we are using,” Freitag noted. Most of the brand’s lenses are made of mineral glass and acetate frames are being shifted to materials like Mazzucchelli’s M49 bio-acetate, which is sourced from plants. Freitag hopes for other eco-friendly options in the future, possibly including sustainable 3D printing and repurposed scrap, such as a leather regrind or plant-based leather alternative.

Smith Hookset


Technology: Smith’s sunglass category hero is its ChromaPop technology, which uses dyes to selectively filter light in confusion areas on the visible spectrum. “That separation allows for sharper color perception, higher definition and crisp, clear optics to enhance overall experience,” explained Scott Randall, global vice president of product at Smith. Last year, the firm launched Glacier Photochromic lenses that are UV sensitive and adapt to changing light conditions. 2024 brings a blend of both innovations, with ChromaPop Glass Polarchromic lenses that combine the glare-free benefits of polarization with self-tint-adjusting photochromic technology in glass lenses – available in yellow blue mirror and brown green mirror for on-water usage.

Sustainability: Evolve bio-based frame material is used in over 90% of Smith’s sunwear collection. “Evolve is comprised of 53% non-GMO castor plants to create a lightweight, durable material that reduces environmental impact,” noted the exec. The Hookset frame marries ChromaPop Glass Polarchromic lenses with an Evolve frame and strategic frame chamfers along the bottom rim which allow moisture to perforate off the lens and away from the groove to prevent fogging.

Costa Loreto 580G Gold Mirror.


Technology: The firm, founded by anglers and watermen, recently launched  580 Gold, a rose-based lens that delivers clarity and added scratch resistance on the water. Designed with a lighter Visible Light Transmission (VLT), the lens offers versatility across a spectrum of lighting conditions for optimal clarity whether out on the water in the bright sun or on an overcast day.

Sustainability: Costa launched the Kick Plastic Program in 2015 to reduce the amount of single-use plastic in our waterways and reduce the amount of plastic used as a company. “We currently use bio-based materials like bio-resin and bio-acetate, and our collection of frames is built from recycled fishing nets, the Untangled Collection,” commented John Sanchez, VP of global product strategy at Costa Sunglasses. Its bio-acetate frames are made from vegetable-based plasticizers and responsibly sourced wood pulp. The bio-resin are frames manufactured from castor oil. The Untangled collection is in partnership with California-based Bureo which produces the NetPlus material, made with 100% post-consumer recycled fishing nets from South American fishing communities. “We’re now also using the NetPlus material in our apparel and hats starting spring 2024,” he added.

Ultramarathoner Tim Tollefson in Julbo Density.


Technology: Last year, Julbo released a Category 0-4 high contrast photochromic goggle lens, meaning the lens becomes fully clear in dark or overcast conditions and adjusts to an amber tint to enhance contrast/reduce glare in full sunlight. This year, that lens, which is essentially five lenses in one, is being incorporated into several sunglasses, including the Shield and Explorer. In addition, “side shields are having a moment right now beyond mountaineering sunglasses, which Julbo’s been making since 1888. We’re responding by expanding our heritage line, adding new and contemporary styles with plastic and leather side shields,” said Tyler Cohen, sports marketing manager, Julbo Eyewear USA.

Sustainability: More than 75% of Julbo’s sunglasses frames are made from Arkema’s Rilsan, the bio-sourced material made from castor beans. According to Cohen, “Rilsan is lightweight, flexible and durable, sustainably produced and has significantly less carbon impact than traditional plastic.” All of Julbo’s photochromic lenses are made from lightweight PPG Trivex, offering a combination of durability and optical clarity to have wide photochromic range and quick reaction time. The team at Julbo aims to incorporate sustainable materials across its entire product line, including in helmets and goggles.