Whatever your opinion regarding our dependence on technology and the modern obsession with connectivity, it’s clear we’re immersed in a new era of access to information. The exact details on how we’re sabotaging our planet have never been more available, despite the efforts of climate change deniers. But thanks to dedicated scientists, conservationists and everyone who loves clean water, air and wild places, sustainability is now a major subject of cultural conversation. While we’ve long focused on identifying corporate polluters or changing our daily habits, experts are broaching a newer strategy to tackle the crushing amount of plastic waste we generate daily, traces of which can be found in honey, sea salt, beer and our own bloodstreams.
During a recent trip to California’s Channel Islands organized by Costa Sunglasses, known for its color-enhancing lens technology in partnership with Bureo, pioneers in recycled fishing net products, I had the opportunity to meet two of these forward-thinking experts from the 5Gyres Institute for a truly eye-opening microplastics demonstration. Pausing on the open water halfway into our journey, co-founders Anna Cummins and Marcus Eriksen prepared a specially-designed trawl device to capture some of the estimated 269,000 tons of microplastics currently floating on the ocean’s surface. After 20 minutes of skimming, Cummins and Eriksen had gathered a tiny portion of the 3,000 to 9,000 particles that exist in every cubic meter of ocean on the planet, the bodies of one in four fish, and 100 percent of washing machines after laundering a synthetic fleece.
Sailing onwards to the islands, it was clear to me this is a mess we can’t simply “clean up,” no matter how many trawling devices we deploy across the globe. Using a commonly cited analogy, we need to figure out how to turn off the tap. Targeting consumption of single-use items has been an excellent first step, addressed by programs like Costa’s ongoing Kick Plastic reduction initiative, which eliminates plastic bottles from guide boats around the country, but authorities like 5Gyres see our only chance for salvation in innovative, design solutions that avoid creating harmful plastic products in the first place.
Costa has welcomed this challenge, leading to the creation of its new Untangled Collection of frames developed with Bureo and made entirely from recycled fishing nets, resulting in some of the most sustainably-made sunglasses available on the market today. Todd Barker, Coastal Marketing Manager at Costa, told us the brand first reached out to Bureo because “we were all intrigued by the products they were making out of recycled fishing nets and the recycling process to upcycle what would be discarded nets. We didn’t see any reason why we couldn’t make a responsible line of sunglasses, avoiding the use of any new plastic materials while still providing superior lens quality, durability and clarity.”
All four frame styles in the Untangled Collection represent an emerging movement toward options for “better alternatives now,” a directive 5Gyres is seeking from products in all industries. We’re all familiar with the three “R’s” of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” but companies like Costa and Bureo are proving we shouldn’t forget about “Redesign” as we strive for a plastic-free future.
For more information on the new frames and Costa’s full line of sunglasses, visit www.costadelmar.com/untangleouroceans.
Images courtesy of Costa Sunglasses.
This article was originally published in RANGE Magazine Issue Nine.