Rowena Beckenham on Sustainability in Small Business

Small businesses have an opportunity to be thought leaders and influencers in communities, and I believe have a social responsibility to make the environment a key factor in decision making.

“Sustainability is just an abstract construct until you look closely at what your business is doing daily to operate in a more socially and environmentally responsible manner” – Tony Jones, ProVision

Some of the ways small businesses can begin to look at sustainability is by engaging in eco-friendly practices and holding the businesses they partner with accountable for their environmental impacts. At Beckenham Optometrist, how we engage in sustainable practices can be broken down into several compartments, firstly our in-store practices, and secondly the suppliers we partner with.

In store, we recycle, reuse and refill everything we can from our packaging to suppliers to old spectacle cases. We don’t brand our packaging for our customers so they can re-use our carry bags and we refill cleaning sprays and encourage microfiber cleaning cloths are washed and reused.

We recycle spectacles patients no longer need by donating them to Lions Club who put them to good use in developing countries; we are a drop site for disposable contact lenses and blister packs, which are recycled with TerraCycle; and we have a Covid-19 initiative with a mask recycling service for patients and staff, ensuring a large quantity of disposable facemasks are kept out of landfill.

We value our contact lens supplier CooperVision who take pride in their sustainability practices. With water recycling and rain water collecting efforts, CooperVision have reduced the demand on water by 35%; utilizing wind based renewable energy to power 100% of operations in their New York facility; and 95% of materials in their production process are recycled.

CR Surfacing, our Australian made spectacle lens supplier, has committed to sustainability initiatives in lens manufacturing. Their water waste management system saves over 500,000L of water per year, they use recycling waste bins for by-products of production and they’re implementing a program using recyclable packaging materials.

We are actively partnering with frame brands with sustainable credentials, such as Garret Leight, Otis, and Zeal. Garret Leight’s frames are made from an innovative sustainable eco-acetate, M49. The M49 is both biodegradable (in fact it’s compostable!) and bio-based. Otis is a frame brand from Western Australia, and takes pride in providing “style with substance”. Their sunglass lenses are made from mineral glass – sourced from natural elements, are non-toxic, and recyclable. And Zeal have committed to renewable resources in the manufacturing of sunglass frames and lenses and contribute 1% of their gross sales to environmental causes.

Fast fashion and disposable frequent replacement of frames and sunglasses is a by-product of the past decade of two-for-one and cheaper disposable manufacturing. At Beckenham Optometrist we are asking the question – what is better for the world we live in?

Sustainability issues may seem confronting because they are numerous and complex, however the journey of transforming our business has evolved slowly over-time through incremental changes. The process is a rewarding one that provides for greater opportunities for collaboration and new avenues of growth with the overarching aim of minimizing our impact on the world we live in.