Escape your life for a little while — come play in mine.

Donating my glasses did pretty much no good

Posted by Lissa on June 18, 2012

Damn. Remember the picture at the end of this post? I was so pleased and happy to have good vision and to send my glasses off to some needy and deserving person! Yay vision! Yay donation!

Yeah, that was pretty much worthless.

But such efforts turn out to be a terrible waste, for reasons that are completely logical once you think about them. The case of recycled eyeglasses illustrates how easy it is to fool ourselves when we think about thrift, waste and charity. We overestimate the importance of the physical things we can see and forget about the real costs of time and attention, as well as the importance of intangible values like aesthetics to the people we’re trying to help.

Twice the Cost

In a paper published in March in the journal Optometry and Vision Science, four researchers compare the full costs of delivering used glasses to the costs of instead delivering ready-made glasses in standard powers (like my drugstore readers, but for myopia as well). The authors find that recycled glasses cost nearly twice as much per usable pair.

Read the whole thing. It makes an awful lot of sense – glasses are both personalized (can you just pick up and use a stranger’s glasses, even if you’re both myopic?) and often dinged up, scratched, or otherwise not in good condition. Brand-new glasses, on the other hand, will be, well, new – and even if they’re not J.Crew or Gucci glasses, they’ll do someone in the third world a helluva lot more good if they’re 1) in mint condition, 2) an identifiable prescription.

…… Still. I like the picture from the Lasik post. But what they should really do is have a donation cash box on the side so you can pose with your old glasses and then slip them a $10. That would make a lot more sense.

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