Clothing/Accessories Community Creative Reuse

Four Ways to Reuse Eyewear

Got any unused eyeglasses and/or sunglasses stashed away in drawers or lying around taking up space? Here are some ways to give them new life, keep them out of the trash, and in some instances, help others at the same time:

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  1. Drop them in a local eyewear donation box

Since 1925, Lions Clubs International has made advocating for the blind and visually impaired one of their organization’s five global causes, and as such, club members collect prescription and non-prescription eyeglasses, safety glasses and sunglasses, sort them and give them to eye clinics around the world where the need is greatest. Children and adults receive the glasses free of charge. In addition, Lions Clubs sell broken or otherwise unusable glasses for scrap, putting monies earned into local community programs. To make it easy for the public to donate glasses, Lions Clubs strive to put collection boxes in many places– churches, optometrist offices and eyewear shops are often locations. Walmart is a current national partner, with collection boxes at select Walmart Vision Centers.

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I called my nearest Walmart recenty and was happy to find out they participate–the collection bin was located right outside the door of their Vision Center–and I was happy to drop in three pairs in cases (though the “box” looked deep, it had a built-in tray in the upper part to catch the glasses, preventing damage). For other collection locations, go online and search for “Lions Club” along with your nearest city or town’s name; many individual clubs and state Lions organizations have websites and include information about eyewear donation/recycling in their areas. Note: nonprofit organization OneSight® says (on its website) that it offers drop boxes at Pearle Vision, LensCrafters and Target Optical locations; these glasses are given to Lions Clubs as well.

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2. Put them in the mail

The nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization ReSpectacle® accepts donations of gently-used prescription eyewear by mail, then cleans and categorizes them by prescription and redistributes them to people in need (currently in the U.S. only) through an online store, which is a God-send for those who do not have the means to obtain glasses. Only a shipping and handling fee is charged to the buyer. Check out the store here and the appreciative comments of people who have benefited from ReSpectacle®‘s glasses– quite humbling in light of the fact that, in the organization’s own words, “a pair of glasses from ReSpectacle is unlikely to give you the same quality of vision, comfort, and style that you can otherwise get with a pair of custom-made glasses fit by a certified optician.” Click here for the address of where to mail donated specs, how to pack them, and what qualifies as “gently used”. Donation shipping costs are paid by the donor.

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If you have vision insurance through VSP®, they operate a program called Eyes of Hope® that donates new and gently used eyewear to communities in need around the world, and offer a postage-paid mail-in option for members that wish to donate eyewear to the program.

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3. Sell them to a vintage store or reuse clothing retailer

Vintage stores love old glasses and sunglasses, both prescription and nonprescription, as retro fashion lovers and those putting together costumes seek frames of all kinds, popping out the prescription lenses as needed. Crafters (see below) and even those putting together a display in a home office/library or for a theater stage seek out old glasses at vintage stores, too (picture, if you will, a shelf with an old book topped with a pair of wire spectacles next to a small globe or hand-held telescope…).

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Brick-and-mortar resale clothing retailers such as Buffalo Exchange and Uptown Cheapskate buy used, nonprescription sunglasses depending on condition and brand; online thrift store ThredUp does, too. Some Goodwill thrift stores and the Salvation Army accept eyewear donations, both glasses and sunglasses, but it varies by location, so be sure to double-check before dropping a pair in with a clothing or housewares donation.

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4. Get crafty

It always amazes me how people can reuse everyday items with just a few tools– check out this post from Candace at The Refab Diaries blog that shows several options if you want to reuse your specs in a crafty way– such as necklaces and pins that use the lenses; big, dangling earrings that give new life to the “arms;” or even, if you’ve got a lot of glasses, a chandelier.