We are always inspired by other like-minded, sustainable businesses who are doing their best to create innovative solutions for people like you, who care deeply about the planet. Our local business community here in Byron is thriving with change-makers and creatives, and today we’re introducing you to Craig of Sunglasses Fix who took a simple problem and created a solution that’s literally saved 300,000 pairs of sunglasses from being dumped in landfill.
Every year literally hundreds of millions of sunglasses end up in landfill. The waste produced by the sunnies industry includes plastics, glass and metals, not to mention the water used during the manufacturing process. And this is where Sunglsses Fix comes to the rescue, offering a solution to reuse scratched sunglasses by replacing the lenses!
So let's meet the innovator behind the brand below & at the bottom find out more about the exciting offer we have for you in collaboration with Sunglasses Fix to celebrate Plastic Free July!
CRAIG, PLEASE INTRODUCE YOURSELF…
I’m Craig Anderson, the CEO and founder of Sunglass Fix. I grew up in Southern California and after school ended up working in the San Francisco area. When I was in my mid-twenties I was sent to Melbourne on a consulting job where I met the girl of my dreams, Lainie. After two and a half years in Australia the job ended and we both returned to San Francisco, got married and worked through the dot.com boom in Silicon Valley. However, when it came time to start a family, we decided that the best place to raise them would be in Australia. About 4 years after returning to Australia I took a redundancy rather than relocating our new family to China for work and decided to start a business. We’ve been living up in the Byron Shire for about 12 years now, have two children, and couldn’t think of a better place to live. Life is great.
WHAT WAS THE CATALYST FOR STARTING SUNGLASS FIX?
As mentioned, when leaving the corporate world, I was set on starting a business. I spent almost 5 months researching what sort of business I wanted to start. After 20 years in the technology sector I felt I had to leverage my skills. However, after years of travel and a young family most of the business seemed to involve me being away from home. In the later parts of writing multiple business plans, I opened a drawer in my desk to discover three pairs of sunglasses. All of them had scratched lenses. I started taking out the lenses, putting them back in, researching if they could be repaired, only to find out there wasn’t any economically viable options to repair sunglasses with lens damage. Being in the business mindset I was in, I started to see if others were in my situation and if I could solve the problem. I felt I could. The numbers added up, and I thought if I could reach a global audience through technology it would work. Thus Sunglass Fix was born. Mind you, most people thought the idea was crazy and that I would fail.
TELL US ABOUT THE DARK SIDE OF THE SUNGLASSES INDUSTRY WHEN IT COMES TO THE ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABILITY…
I’ve always been frugal. I think it came from my dad, who grew up on a small farm in Nebraska. We always fixed things and I find great satisfaction in making things last. Therefore, when I did research for Sunglass Fix and found that a Billion pairs of sunglasses are sold each year, (that was in 2005 mind you), I was alarmed that almost all manufactures didn’t supply repair parts or made the process so complex and costly that you might as well buy another pair. I just felt it was corporate obsolescence in play…big time. I was well aware that many companies design products to have a limited life. I felt the lenses in sunglasses scratched too easily and then being irreplaceable it would drive people to throw away perfectly good frames and buy a new pair. I also felt this was leading to consumers buying very low-quality products after finding that a 300 dollar pair didn’t last as long as they hoped. I’ve also seen over the years how sunglass manufacturers move from releasing certain styles then making them obsolete and then releasing them. In my opinion, cheap, poorly made sunglasses, built to last a very short time; combined with rapid style changes, falls into the definition of Fast Fashion.
YOU WON THE APAC EXCELLENCE AWARD IN ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY - TELL US ABOUT THIS…
To be honest I was both surprised and honoured when we won this award. While we’ve always tried to explain the importance or repairing perfectly good products and have supported groups like the Repair Cafe, it was the APAC group that read our submission and felt what we were doing was incredibly sustainable. In some ways they pointed out how the industry could be changed if we are successful at letting people all over the world know that their sunglasses can be easily repaired at a fraction of the cost of buying a new pair. While we have a long way to go to make replacing lenses common knowledge, I do feel strongly that we will make a good dent and a good portion of those Billion sunglasses will be repaired rather than disposed of. Since I started the business we’ve seen two large companies start up in the USA, doing what we are doing. And there are many more smaller players out there trying to get into the Replacement Lens industry we pioneered.
While we are a long way from reaching all sunglass users I think the industry is hear to last and we are positioned to continue to play an important role in it.
HOW MANY FRAMES HAVE YOU SAVED FROM LANDFILL SINCE SUNGLASS FIX BEGAN?
At present we have saved well over 300,000 pairs of sunglasses from going into landfill. It has been a long journey over the past 16 years. Initially we only performed custom lens replacement for customers, in order to grow our CAD database with the designs for each model of sunglass. It was just me, and I’d be lucky to sell 5,000 pairs in a year. This year we are on track to repair over 70,000 pairs and our goal in 2022 is repair over 100,000. We now have the largest database of replacement lenses in the world, and with our streamlined, dynamic manufacturing process, can make over 300,000 different sunglass models.
YOU’RE LEADING THE WAY WHEN IT COMES TO SUSTAINABLE INNOVATION: WHAT’S NEXT ON THE RADAR?
I think the biggest impact we can make is to reach more sunglass users. I still feel that over 99% of people don’t realise there’s a high quality, easy and cost effective way to repair their sunglasses. Reaching more people is probably the most important thing we can do to help the environment. At present we have 25KW of solar. Last I looked we were producing more energy than we used. However, as we grow I think we will have to continue to add more renewable energy. We are also continually looking at power efficiencies in our manufacturing processes as well as how we can better utilise or even reuse our lens off-cuts. We are also working with Childe, a local sunglass manufacturer of sustainable sunglasses, to gain a better idea of what innovations are taking place in the industry that we may be able to adopt. Lastly, while most of our packaging is recyclable and biodegradable, I think we will be working further with our customers about how they can recycle their old lenses and even sunglasses at the end of their lives.
WHAT PLEDGE ARE YOU TAKING FOR PLASTIC FREE JULY THIS YEAR?
As a company we are totally against single use plastic. We have worked with Kate Nelson, also known as Plastic Free Mermaid, on reducing and even eliminating single use plastic. Kate is one of our ambassadors and we totally agree with her mission. I think one thing we could look at is eliminating the use of some Australia Post’s plastic packaging. While we use very little of it, I do feel we could eliminate the use express post and post parcel satchels and instead print our postage directly on our larger boxes when we custom make lenses. While we do this for 90% of our packages, we should build the technology required for this last 10%. I think that’s a great goal for us to start implementing in Plastic Free July.
Just For You ✨
With every purchase made from our Plastic Free July Collection until the 31st of July 2021 you will receive a $20 Gift Voucher from Sunglasses Fix included with your purchase.
And, stay tuned to our Instagram account this week for an incredible giveaway with our zero-waste friends Raie Eyewear and Sunglasses Fix.... it will be something wonderful to get you ready for brighter days ahead!