The Plant-Based Eyewear Company That’s Quintessentially Colorado

This article originally appeared in the October, 2016 issue of Yellow Scene Magazine.

Mike Lewis at the Zeal Optics counter. Photo courtesy of Zeal Optics.

Plenty of Colorado-based companies commit to some sort of environmental philanthropy and community giving — it’s almost a requirement in a state that adores its wild spaces so much. But if any local company embodies environmental stewardship from the inside out, it’s Zeal Optics. The sunglasses and goggle company created the first technologically-advanced, 100 percent plant-based sports-eyewear — and it’s completely biodegradable.

According to Mike Lewis, the company’s brand activation and digital strategy director, Zeal’s dual commitment to high-quality optical design and low-impact materials make it a perfect fit for Boulder’s conscious consumerism. “There’s a chance to do well by doing good — people are rallying around brands that are responsible and it’s a good opportunity to reach people and inspire them,” he explained.

And there’s no doubt that Zeal has already done well: the company was acquired by the brand Maui Jim 5 years ago. Acquisition by a profitable company is certainly a sign of prosperity, but it can sometimes leave mission-driven businesses struggling to maintain their goals and value systems.

Luckily for Zeal, this has never been a problem.

“Maui Jim acquired Zeal based on values and products, so they are supportive of continuing to keep Zeal in Boulder and rallying around the messaging” Lewis said. In fact, working with Maui Jim offers critical resources and knowledge that give Zeal the upper hand while allowing them to remain small and mission-driven.

“Maui Jim is known for having one of the best products on the market. Zeal is able to capitalize on that knowledge base, access a large research and development center, and work with factories outside economies of scale for a company our size.”

Having a strong relationship with its parent company helps Zeal focus on key components of its mission, such as using eco-friendly materials. While this requires the company to work with different suppliers around the world and vet its partners very strongly, Lewis notes Zeal’s dedication to all-natural materials as a key point of differentiation. The companies Zeal works with certainly are unique — among its suppliers are a group in Switzerland that provides raw materials for lenses and frames, and the Mazzucchelli family in Italy, which provides biodegradable wood pulp used in a certain line of sunglasses.

Zeal optics doesn’t just incorporate its eco-friendly mission into its products; they also play a part in preserving the shared outdoor spaces that make Boulder a great place to live. “We work with Boulder County Parks and Open Space to sponsor Betasso Preserve on a quarterly basis, and we also work with the climbing community to support trail maintenance around the flatirons.”

When asked what plans Zeal has for future growth, Lewis explained that the company has its sights set on further improving the transparency of its products. “We’re always looking for ways to improve our commitment to the quality of our product and find ways to reduce our impact.”

Photo courtesy of Zeal Optics