Dragon E.C.O. Experience Sunglasses

Dragon E.C.O. Experience Sunglasses

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Functionality often triumphs over style when it comes to outdoors gear. But sunglasses have a special license to get funky. The E.C.O. Experience from Dragon ($99.95 to $139.95, www.dragonalliance.com) aims to bridge the gap between style and performance — all while exploring environmentally sustainable manufacturing techniques.

The Experience is a new addition to Dragon’s line of sunglasses this spring, but I tried out an advance pair last month to see how they perform.

E.C.O. (Environmentally Conscious Optics) is the initiative of surfer and environmental activist Rob Machado, and his old-school style is instantly evident in the Experience glasses. They’re a throwback, and these babies are big. The Grilamid nylon frame is supposed to be proportionate to Machado’s ever-expanding ‘fro (seriously, I’m not making that up), so the sheer size of the frames could be a drawback for some.

Dragon E.C.O. Experience Sunglasses

But when it comes to shielding your eyes from the sun, they’re great — a classic teardrop shape gives terrific field of vision, and a subtle curve fights side glare. The Experience is available with regular or polarized lenses in gray and bronze tints, and my gray pair delivered solid clarity in conditions from blazing sun on the beach to cloudy glare in the woods. Durability was good, and the frames and polycarbonate lenses held up fine under normal use.

The real innovation in the E.C.O. glasses is the manufacturing process. Dragon has produced the E.C.O.s from completely renewable origin, which means all-natural source materials that are replenished as quickly as they are consumed. This even extends to the box they come in: Forest Stewardship Council certified packaging, and an organic cotton bag printed with water-based ink.

Admittedly, the manufacture of your sunglasses is certainly not a huge part of your environmental footprint. But that’s missing the point: the E.C.O.s are an experiment to investigate earth-friendly methods and materials for producing all sorts of gear, and anyone who appreciates the great outdoors can get on board with that.

The bottom line: Throwback style and a large-size fit offer good sun protection, with the added benefit of environmentally sustainable manufacturing.

—Contributor Benjamin Roman is a writer and design consultant from Venice, Calif.

Stephen Regenold
Stephen Regenold is Founder of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of five, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.