Specs appeal: the eco-friendly glasses you’ll want to wear

| 17th May 2011
Specs might be the accessory du jour but metal and plastic glasses come at a heavy cost to the planet. Luckily, Herrlicht’s chic wooden frames are the perfect alternative

Glasses never used to be cool. At school, they were the mark of the nerd, the geek and the swot. But thanks to the likes of Vogue photographer Terry Jones – a man rarely seen without his trademark aviator specs – and London’s club kids, things have changed. According to Bupa, only five million people in the UK are actually short sighted, but a recent study by the British College of Optometrists found that 40 percent of adults with 20:20 vision would think about wearing clear frames in pursuit of the geeky trend. Perhaps this is because, as the study also found, glasses wearers are perceived to be more intelligent by 43 percent of us. The main reason for the boom in frames though, says Jaana Jatryi, CEO of trend forecaster, Trendstop, is fashion. ‘We started seeing glasses making an impact on street style quite a while ago,’ she comments. ‘Since then they’ve been adopted by cool bands and singers like Lady Gaga. She’s played a big part in bringing glasses to the mass market.’

And it doesn’t end there. According to market research company, GfK, sales of women’s glasses increased by 3.9 per cent last year, while figures for men’s specs are similarly buoyant, with a 2.8 per cent increase in sales during 2010. While rocketing sales are good news for the opticians, with three out of every four pairs of glasses sold being metal-framed ones, it’s not so good for the environment. Silver, stainless steel and titanium are three of the most commonly used materials and all of them come with severe consequences for the planet. Titanium production is so toxic that getting permission for new sites has become almost impossible, while manufacturing it produces huge quantities of chlorine gas – a common nerve agent. Only 30 per cent of silver comes from dedicated silver mines; the rest produced as a byproduct of copper, gold and nickel mining. But mining is one of the world’s worst polluters, with Oxfam America and Earthworks’ joint 2010 report Dirty Metals: Mining, Communities and the Environment, pointing out that mining uses almost 10 per cent of the world’s energy output and is responsible for arsenic emissions and mercury poisoning. Clearly metal frames aren’t the answer, so what’s the alternative? Enter German label, Herrlicht, purveyor of frames made from wood.

‘I worked with wood long before I started my wooden frames collection,’ says Andreas Licht, the Herr behind Herrlicht. ‘I was always drawn to it as it’s a wonderful material which is warm, individual and natural so for me, it was an obvious choice to try and invent the first frames made 100 per cent from wood. I never use metal or plastic parts in the glasses.’ Twice winner of the Silmo D’Or, the optical industry’s certificate of excellence, Licht’s unique wooden frames have become cult items in their own right. ‘It’s not just people who need glasses for their sight anymore,’ he says. ‘People are looking for different ways to express themselves and the huge variety of glasses out there makes them ideal for this.’ While Herrlicht frames aren’t cheap, they come at a much lower cost to the planet than traditional metal and plastic frames.

More information: www.herrlicht.de

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