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A lot of outdoor companies get lost in the race to be the “most sustainable” or using “X number” of recycled bottles or pounds of plastic in a given item.
Over at Zeal Optics, the Colorado-based eyewear brand is making an even more interesting transition towards sustainable manufacturing while also tackling agricultural waste issues. The new See Grass Collection shows how, offering two unisex styles made of a unique material composed of straw, hemp, and flax waste mixed with recycled plastic.
Zeal's material partner in the project is Truegrasses, a Taiwanese company that got their start in 2013 making a durable, moldable textile for home goods (think pans, cups, plates) made out of fibrous agricultural waste from Taiwan and recycled PET from China. Fibers from the stalks of the waste are mixed with the melted-down plastic, then molded and ground into pellets ready for injection molding.
“We’ve done a ton of a R&D and the durability is every bit as good as regular plastic or our glass material made from castor oil,” says Zeal’s Director of Marketing Mike Lewis. “We’ve seen zero breakdown.” (Zeal sent out early models to a number of its own ambassadors for testing in a variety of environments.)
Because of the nature of production, every pair will look slightly different. And for now, the material can only be produced in limited colors and matte finishes.
Truegrasses’ factory itself is powered by biogas sourced from methane extraction from a nearby landfill. In an effort to close the loop of the use cycle, Zeal will collect worn out glasses at their Boulder store and from select retailers and send them back to Taiwan for full recycling into more usable material. Carbon footprint aside, it's a pretty sound cycle.
Lewis hopes that this broader approach to sourcing and using sustainable waste-based materials continues to expand the conversation in the outdoor business. "Is this the be all, end all? No, but it’s great to see these brands push boundaries and get people to think about the multitude use of materials."