How to Incorporate Sustainability into Your Practice

As more consumers look for eco-friendly products, learn how you can become more sustainable in your office.
Photo Credit: E+, Getty Images

Sustainability is an ever-growing topic, especially in the retail space, and eye care is no exception. As a business owner, you should consider several things pertaining to sustainability: consumer demand, your sustainable product assortment, and how both tie into the mission of your business. 

In relation to consumer demand, a recent study found that 78% of U.S. consumers said that a sustainable lifestyle is important to them, and more than 60% of respondents said they’d pay more for a product with sustainable packaging. Relating to assortment, products that make environmental-, social-, and governance-related (ESG) claims averaged higher cumulative growth throughout the past five-year period, over products that made no such claims.

By offering sustainable products, you can enhance your brand image and business reputation, attract the increasing number of environmentally conscious customers, enhance lifestyles, and improve your community.

Why Sustainability Is Important
The United Nations defines sustainability as, “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” We’ve all heard “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.” Practicing a sustainable lifestyle and selling sustainable products contribute to the protection of ecosystems from reduced energy use, pollution reduction, and the overall reduction of your carbon footprint. Sustainability starts way before the consumer is ready to purchase — it starts with those creating and selling the products. 

How You Can Incorporate Sustainability into Your Practice


  • Electronic Health Records (EHR) — Using EHRs saves an enormous amount of paper. You can further reduce paper use and streamline operations by incorporating digital signature pads and utilizing laminated forms that you can scan into records and re-use.
  • 3D-Printed Eyewear — Because 3D-printed frames are made-to-order to the exact bespoke specifications, there are no remnants of material that go to waste. 3D-printed eyewear also has the benefit of significantly reducing the supply chain timeframe.

Frame companies are jumping on-board with reusing materials for eyewear. Repurposing something that already exists is a great way to reduce landfill waste. Some of my favorite ophthalmic frame companies that repurpose material include:


  • Swarf — The white foam that dries like a pasty powder from edging lenses is known as swarf. Large commercial labs have processes in place to safely dispose of their swarf, which is important, because they produce so much of it. On this massive scale, Cherry Optical Lab spent years setting up systems to be able to recycle their swarf. Their process includes filtering then compacting and drying swarf into pucks, and it can then be repurposed at a specialty recycling facility. 
  • Contact Lenses and Blister Packs & Foil Lids — Small materials, like contact lens packaging, often get filtered out of regular municipal recycling, which then becomes waste. With the increased usage of daily contact lenses, two blister packs, two foil lids, and two lenses per day can really add up!
    • ECPs can market the Bausch + Lomb ONE by ONE Free Recycling Program to patients and encourage wearers to keep a bag or bin in their bathroom that they can toss their waste into, including used lenses. When it’s full, patients bring it to their eye care provider, who will add it to their collection bin. When the ECP’s bin is full, it’s sent to a TerraCycle facility where it is cleaned and separated by material type. Those materials are then recycled into raw formats that manufacturers use to make new products. 
    • CooperVision also has a partnership with Plastic Bank to collect, process, and reuse ocean-bound plastic. The partnership has prevented the equivalent of 100 million water bottles from entering the oceans. Additionally, its Biofinity, Clariti, and MiSight 1 day contact lenses are net plastic neutral, and over 95% of the company’s production materials are recycled. 
  • Used, Unwanted Eyewear — Many communities have charitable organizations that go on missions and donate eyewear to those in need. Check around to see what is available in your area. Lions Club International has chapters nationwide that can provide collection boxes for your office and arrange collection box pickups, or you can send your donated glasses into one of their Eyeglass Recycling Centers.
  • Packaging — Consider how you receive your shipments of frames, lenses, contacts, and clinical supplies. Do they use excessive plastic bubble packing, foam peanuts, recycled paper, or something else? How is the packaging for the product? Does each frame come in a recycled plastic resealable bag? What about the case? Now that it’s top-of-mind, give due diligence to inspecting product packaging and evaluate if giving more business to companies that are environmentally conscious is important to you. Rather than simply discarding plastic packaging, you can gather it for NexTrex to convert into eco-friendly outdoor products.

Sell Sustainably Sourced Eyewear
My patient-pleasing, and personal favorite, go-to has been the Dragon collection, which offers several sustainable options, including a plant-based resin collection made from sustainably grown castor beans. Look around for different options on the market — frames are made from all kinds of sustainably sourced material, some include wood, cotton-based acetate, plant-based resin, bio-acetate, and recycled materials.

Sell Socially Responsible Eyewear
Many frame companies have powerful social missions, which tie in nicely to product assortment and marketing efforts. For example, for every 141 Eyewear frame purchased, they give a new pair of prescription glasses to a person in need. 

Another favorite is Arbor Eyewear. For each frame sold, the company plants a tree and contributes 3% of gross sales to organizations that help find homes for kids in foster care and orphanages.

Market Your Missions
If your practice is contributing to the betterment of society, make sure your patients are aware. Any efforts of reducing, reusing, recycling, sustainably sourcing, or being socially responsible can show patients that you care about positively impacting your community. Share your missions on social media, display seals or logos of organizations you are a part of, and use vendor POP that advertises the results of the mission.

An increasing number of consumers seek products with environmental claims. Get involved and find what you can incorporate into your practice! 

  • Carissa Dunphy, ABOC

    Carissa Dunphy is an ABO Certified optician who has been working in eye care since 2008. She is a Marketing Specialist at PECAA and founded Optician Now. Carissa is also an expert contributor for INVISION Magazine, co-hosts the OWA Talks Podcast, and is a Vice-Chair on the Communications & Website Committee for the Optical Women’s Association. In 2022, Carissa was named an Innovator in the Most Influential Women in Optical by Vision Monday Magazine and was awarded the Leadership Scholarship Award from the Optical Women's Association.

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