The BEST Ethical Sunglasses in the UK
Whether you’re holiday-bound, updating your look for the summer, or just in the market for a great pair of ethical sunglasses, you want to find the perfect balance of looking and feeling great.
In this post, I’ll take you through a few great brands that offer style and substance. From sporty to stylish, classic to cool, you’ll find the perfect pair for you.
I love sunglasses for so many reasons. While there’s obviously the benefit of protecting your eyes, ethical sunglasses also add the cherry on top to a great outfit. A winged frame adds vintage glamour to any look, while throwing on an aviator style is always effortlessly cool. You really can’t go wrong with a great pair of sunnies.
So summer sun, here you come!
Are sunglasses ethical?
Are sunglasses ethical? Well, it depends.
When deciding if a pair of sunglasses is ethical, you want to think about how they are made and what they are made of. Look through the About Us or Sustainability (sometimes called (Corporate) Social Responsibility) sections of a sunglass company’s website and see if there are policies or certifications that indicate that the brand is prioritising people and planet in addition to prettiness. If the brand doesn’t have this, that’s a red flag. Transparency is key in deciding if a brand supports ethical practices.
Top tip: going on holiday? Check out my post What is Carbon Offsetting for Flights?
Ethical sunglasses: shop secondhand
Secondhand is a first love of mine! And while you might not think that it’s possible to get high quality pre-loved models, this is actually a great option for ethical sunglasses. Here are a few of my top sites:
You can also try Retrospecced, a great brand for vintage sunglasses. The brand refurbishes vintage frames, reducing waste in the process. Each pair is unique, ultrasonically cleaned, and gorgeous! And on top of this, the company donates 20% of profits from the frames to Vision Aid Overseas, a charity providing eye care across countries in the Global South. It’s a really good look.
Top tip: not sure how to shop secondhand online? Check out my post How to Make the Most of Online Charity Shops.
Best brands for ethical sunglasses
Bird is a pioneering brand in the glasses and sunglasses world. They have a commitment to people and planet, sourcing sustainable materials (including certified woods, recycled aluminium, and more) wherever possible. They are also the first B Corps certified eyewear brand in the UK, gaining the certification in April 2020. Need more? Every pair of glasses sold supports Bird’s partnership with SolarAid, which distributes solar light to families in Malawi and Zambia.
In addition to great ethics and sustainability, you’ll find classy and classic styles at Bird. On offer are sunglasses for men and women (though some are unisex), perfect for any summer look.
Why to buy: sustainable sunglasses that will never go out of style.
Pala commits to keeping environmental impact low and people-impact high (in the best possible way!). As of 2020, all new styles are exclusively made of bio-acetate, and all sunglasses are vegan and cruelty-free. All deliveries are carbon offset by £1.00, and all CO2 emissions from gathering elements are offset. The factory that Pala works with undergoes regular audits to ensure it adheres to ethical trading practices, too. It’s easy to see why Pala has been recognised through a number of organisations, including the Sustainable Lifestyle and Be the Change Awards.
There’s no compromise with a pair of Pala ethical sunglasses – they are positively stunning. I love the simple elegance of the frames, the classic look, and the effortless elegance that Pala offers. You really can’t go wrong, no matter which pair you choose.
Why to buy: the style you want with the sustainability we need.
Vow creates vintage-inspired ethical sunglasses using sustainable materials in socially responsible factories. You can find a list of materials on Vow’s website, which include biodegradable and recycled acetate, recycled PET, and biodegradable glitter (yay!). And the factories that Vow works with meet Ethical Trading Initiative certifications.
These ethical sunglasses are as fun as they are sustainable. The fact that Vow uses biodegradable glitter says it all! I love the range of colourful frames and funky shapes. I mean, where else can you get zebra-striped 80’s cat eyes straight out of Sex and the City – let alone ethical ones?
Monkeyglasses is an award winning sustainable and ethical sunglasses company. Each pair is handmade and all manufacturers must comply with the guidelines in the UN Global Compact on corporate social responsibility. What’s more, each pair only produces 266g of CO2 thanks to materials like cotton acetate. For comparison, some estimates suggest that producing just one cheeseburger contributes as much as 3.6-6.1 kg of CO2. Just as a bonus, monkeyglasses also supports Save the Orangutan!
In addition to great ethics, monkeyglasses offers amazing style. You’ll find lots of variety, all with a simple, elegant, je ne sais quoi about them.
Why to buy: An expensive look that doesn’t cost you – or the earth.
LaBante London is a PETA-approved vegan brand selling sustainable clothing, bags, and accessories – including ethical sunglasses. The company only works with SEDEX certified factories, which are regularly visited by the founder and design team. They are also spot-checked and socially audited to ensure the highest ethical standard. Keen on sustainability? Every pair of sunglasses is made from recycled wood and is PVC free. Oh, and 99% of the design and production team are women. Who run the world?
On top of amazing ethics, you’ll get style to boot with LaBante London. From cat eyes to aviators and everything in between, you won’t have to sacrifice style for substance with these sunnies.
Why to buy: elegant, ethical sunglasses produced by a powerhouse of women.
Each pair of Oh My Eyes ethical sunglasses is handmade in Sabae, Japan, a city west of Tokyo renowned for its eyewear manufacturing. The aim is that ‘One pair of premium sunglasses will last a lifetime if taken care of.’ In addition to delicate craftsmanship, the company uses sustainable materials like plant-based acetate for its sunglasses. Oh My Eyes also supports communities in Tanzania through its one-for-one programme.
Stray from the norm with Oh My Eyes Scandinavian-inspired frames. You’ll discover pink lenses and oversized white cat eyes alongside thin metal frames and classic square frames. Make a statement and establish your look with these fab frames.
Why to buy: delicately crafted statement pieces that are made to last.
Antonio Verde began in 2013 as a company that offers ethical sunglasses to consumers who care about people and planet. The brand works with certified factories that are regularly visited, ensuring no child labour is present and workers are offered a fair wage, health insurance, and good working conditions. Bamboo temples (the part that goes over your ears) and recycled frames are used to lower the footprint of each pair.
You get a touch of nature in Antonio Verde sunglasses, as the temples are exposed bamboo. This pairs with timeless frame shapes, offering a standout look of natural elegance.
Why to buy: unbeatable style and quality with a hint of nature’s bounty.
If the summer sun means seaside fun, then give back to the beautiful ocean and invest in a pair of Sea2See sunnies. Sea2See only uses recycled marine plastic to make its frames, using plastic collected from Spain, France, and West Africa. One frame is equal to 1kg of marine plastic. The glasses are made in Italy, and you can even meet some of the guys on Sea2See’s website! So you can feel confident that these glasses aren’t just good for the earth, they’re great for people, too.
But what about the look? Well, it’s everything you could hope for. You’ll find sporty as well as sleek styles. Who knew recycled plastic could look so good?
Why to buy: the perfect combination of giving back and looking good.
MONC prioritises local materials in the production of their ethical sunglasses. In fact, the furthest any material travels to the UK is from Calalzo di Cadore, Italy, so you could drive there from London in less than a day! And MONC produces in small batches to minimise waste, and is working towards a closed loop system to get to zero waste ASAP. The company also focusses on craftsmanship, choosing to work with family-owned manufacturers.
A pair of MONC’s ethical sunglasses is definitely an investment, but when you look this good it might well be worth it. The classic frame shapes have real staying power, meaning they’ll carry you from season to season.
Why to buy: invest in your new favourite forever sunglasses.
Top tip: sunglasses are a great item to use the ‘cost per wear’ calculation. Take the price of the item and divide by how many times you’ll wear it. Considering that you wear sunglasses almost every time the sun shines, you can spend a bit more and still have a very low cost per wear.
Nothing looks better than a perfect pair of ethical sunglasses. So whether it’s the beach, the bar, or the backwoods that’s calling your name, these sunnies will mean you’re ready to answer stylishly and sustainably.
Now the hard part is just deciding which company – and which style and colour! – to choose. What’s certain is that you don’t need to sacrifice your ethical and sustainable values in the pursuit of summer style.