If you’ve read anything about the insane amount of pollution humans dump into the environment, you know that it is, as the Spanish say, no bueno. We are creating trash at an unsustainable rate, while we rely on environmentally damaging crude oil to make ubiquitous plastic materials.

In order to combat all that bad ecological juju, Zeal Optics developed plant-based lenses and frames for their sunglasses.

As a somewhat eco-conscious guy, I was pumped when I heard that sales pitch and was asked to review a pair of their shades. The only question left was, do they actually work?


I received a pair of the Boulder, Colorado-based company’s Emerson sunglasses ($199), which come with a traditional Italian-style frame. While decidedly more fashion forward than the sunglasses I normally wear, they didn’t make me look like an alien or some caricature from the newest Zoolander.

Zeal Optics Emerson

They look good and have less impact on the environment. That’s a win-win. Photo: Courtesy of Zeal Optics.

The Emersons are made from natural oils in castor beans, which according to Zeal are “the perfect resource because [castor bean] is an efficient, fast-growing perennial that withstands drought and thrives on marginal lands.”

But the biggest question I had was whether the plant-based frames would be as durable.

After accidentally dropping the Emersons numerous times over the course of a week of wear and tear, they haven’t broken yet. Given that my track record with sunglasses is akin to that of a bull in a china shop, I’ll chalk that one up as a win.

The polarized lenses work like any pair of good polarized lenses should, and even when driving directly into setting sunlight, I never felt like I needed to squint my eyes while wearing the Emersons.

Overall, if you’re eco-minded and looking for a pair of sunglasses that will leave you with a clear conscience, you can’t go wrong with the Emersons. The $199 price tag might be a bit much for some people, but the sunglasses perform admirably in comparison to other $200 pairs of shades I’ve tested.

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