Q: My little sister has her college graduation coming up and I’ve got gifts on the mind. Instead of going the predictable route – a fancy pen, monogrammed leather briefcase, cold hard cash – I was hoping to surprise her with something more tailored to lil’ sis. From what I understand, she’s big on eco-fashion, but I’m hesitant to buy her actual clothing – I’m a 28-year-old man – and God know she needs more jewelry. I’m thinking a nice pair of sunglasses might be unique; plus, I could attach a note that says “The Future’s So Bright You Gotta Wear Shades” (Yes, I really am going there). Anyway, I’m clueless when it comes to fashion, particularly “green” fashion, so I thought you might be able to advise. Are there eco-friendly sunglasses out there? Most of the shades I buy are plastic and cost $10, so I really have no clue where to start.


On the hunt for eco-aviators,


— Zac, Ashland, Ore.


A: Hey Zac,


That’s a fantastic idea and, yep, you are in luck, sir … I do know of a few eco-shade options that I think your sister will find agreeable since sunglasses are often overlooked by even the most diehard of eco-fashionistas. And I’m glad you brought this up because my knock-off Wayfarers have seen better days.

Without a doubt, iWood shades are a must-have for eco-conscious eyewear aficionados. They’re handcrafted in the U.S. with exotic, Forest Stewardship Council-certified reclaimed woods like teakwood, sapele and bubinga. So yeah, I don’t think anyone else in your sis’s graduating class will be sporting stylish, lightweight bubinga wood shades post-commencement. That is unless Elton John is in her graduating class. But here’s the catch: If you go with iWoods, you may want to pinch your pennies and lil’ sis may want to take out insurance on these bad boys — they cost more than 300 smackers.

Sunglass Hut, the mall-friendly purveyor of protective eyewear sells Mother Nature-approved shades at a somewhat gentler price point ($129) that won’t give your beloved sister a meltdown if she misplaces or breaks them. The swank sunglasses in Modo’s eco (‘Earth Conscious Optics’) collection are made from recycled metal and plastics and have received an Environmental Claims Validation by UL Environment. Plus, with each purchase eco will plant a tree through Trees for the Future.

Think lil’ sis would still rather make an eco-fashion statement with sustainable wood specs rather than recycled bits of plastic and metal? Cheaper than iWood eyewear at $180, Kayu makes seriously stylish shades out of renewable bamboo. Plus, with each sale, $20 goes to help fund sight-restoring surgery in developing countries. Even more wallet-friendly ($95 to $105), are Canby Sunglasses from Portland, Ore.’s Shwood Eyewear. They’re handcrafted from locally sourced hardwoods or sustainably harvested exotic woods like East Indian Rosewood and have killer Carl Zeiss lenses that offer 100 percent UVA/UVB protection. Not to play favorites, but I can totally see myself sporting these.

Finally, I must mention Eco-Friendly Classic Sunglasses from ICU Eyewear. They’re not the most au courant of the lot but these Oprah-approved recycled plastic shades are affordable at $22, leaving you with the option to perhaps make ‘em part of a green graduation goodie bag instead of going with expensive sunglasses-only.

So there we go, Zac. I hope these few options (from under $30 to over $300 … quite the price range, eh?) help get you started on your search. Again, I think it’s an awesome idea because gifting your sister a well-made pair of eco-shades will probably prompt her to treat them with care rather than neglect ‘em and toss ‘em around so they wind up in the trash sooner than later. Plus, you can’t go wrong with a 1986 pop song reference. Happy shopping.

— Matt

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Photo: Aga and Miko Materne/iStockphoto; MNN homepage photo: Shwood 

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

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