Boulder-based Zeal Optics offers the world’s first and only plant-based lens for superior clarity and minimal environmental impact.
We tend to think of sunglasses as a fashion accessory, something to be coordinated with outfits, but they’re actually quite important for maintaining healthy eyes. Long hours of unprotected exposure increases eye stress (and squinting), which can lead to headaches. A lifetime of unprotected exposure to the sun’s harsh rays can even contribute to cataracts and growths on the eye, including cancer.
In the past, my clumsiness has prevented me from investing in high-quality sunglasses. What’s the use if I’m just going to forget, sit on, or scratch them within the first 3 days of ownership? A recent chance to test drive some fancy shades from Colorado’s own Zeal Optics changed my mind, however.
Located in Boulder, this boutique eyewear company recently debuted the world’s first and only plant-based, bioplastic lens, called e-llume. Combined with their with Z-resin frames, made from a castor oil-based material, Zeal hopes to lead the way towards completely removing crude oil from sunglass production.
To see how well all that fancy technology compared to my $60 conventional sunglasses, Zeal sent over two of their most popular styles: the Kennedy and the Felicity. After a few weeks of swapping back and forth between them and my usual pair, here are my thoughts:
The Kennedy – This is one of Zeal Optics’ many unisex styles, and the pair I tested came in Reflection Blue/Dark Grey (see above). The fit was a little wide, but not so loose that I felt they were in danger of falling off. I found the lens size and shape to be a little smaller than what I was used to, and upon trying them on, my boyfriend agreed. He also noted that the bright blue of the frame was a little distracting when seen out of the corner of the eye, but I found it kind of fun to get that flash of occasional color! The e-llume bioplastic lenses of the Kennedy style were a dark grey color that I absolutely loved. They also featured Hyperion polarization, a feature that protects your eyes from UVA, B, and C while also blocking a negative light range called High Energy Visible (HEV) light. According to Zeal Optics, it’s HEV that’s been cited as a possible cause of cataracts and macular degeneration.
The Felicity – This is one of Zeal Optics’ many women’s styles, and the pair I tested came in Demi Tortoise/Copper (above); they came in a medium fit that was perfect for my head and face. I loved the tight, hidden action of the frame hinges, something that’s normally missing from my (gas-station!) sunglasses. The e-llume lenses of the Felicity style were a copper color, something I didn’t like as well as the dark grey lenses of the Kennedys. Still, they too offered Hyperion polarization, which rendered a crystal clear perception of the world and almost no color distortion.
A favorite feature of both pairs of Zeal Optics glasses was the hypoallergenic ProFlex Rubber placed on the nosepad and stem areas. My previous sunglasses were always sliding down my face when I exercised outdoors. I wore the Zeal Optics glasses while running, on a long road trip, and at a 4th of July concert, and the rubber pads kept them in place–not a single sweaty slip!
Zeal Optics are available from $79, and can be found in their Boulder retail store, online, and at authorized dealers around the world.