Perhaps more than any of the post-Covid trade shows held in recent months, sustainability was very much front of mind at Opti in Munich last weekend (May 13-15). While it was good to see new brands and more people talking about the issue, I couldn’t help but feel a little underwhelmed by some of the newcomers in sustainable eyewear.

I talked to one new brand about its new ‘completely sustainable’ collection, made with the ‘new’ Mazzucchelli M49 bio-based acetate. I didn’t want to get into a discussion about M49 being around for over a decade (released in 2011), but I did ask if the Renew acetate Mazzucchelli and Eastman was on the agenda, the individual said it was unlikely because the feel and performance of the material wasn’t the same as M49. Given that I had spent much of the night before talking to Mykita’s head of design Martin Guentert about just how good the Eastman acetate was, and that Mykita had recently switched all of its acetate use to the new material, I thought it was best to politely move on.

With so many practices looking to improve their sustainability credentials by stocking ‘eco-friendly’ brands, it’s more important than ever that buyers do proper due diligence on unfamiliar names, because it’s an incredibly crowded space at the moment.

This bustling segment was noted by Austrian producer Rolf Spectacles. Its Substance collection represents the absolute zenith of sustainable eyewear at present. The material is derived from locally grown castor beans, using inherently less wasteful 3D printing in its on-site factory that’s well on its way to being self-sufficient in terms of energy. The carbon footprint of each frame is tiny compared to other recycled materials.

There are genuinely sustainable companies, like Rolf, but more like the aforementioned M49 brand will grow like mushrooms in the near future, so it’s important to ask the right questions to all of your suppliers.