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Why and How Yair Neuman Decided To Change Our World

I create independently, and I also collaborate with brands to try and improve pollutive processes. Wherever possible, I try to salvage things and rework them into new pieces. With my Lens Lights collection the focus in on informing people about the environmental problem of lens waste that is usually hidden from us as consumers. I […]

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I create independently, and I also collaborate with brands to try and improve pollutive processes. Wherever possible, I try to salvage things and rework them into new pieces. With my Lens Lights collection the focus in on informing people about the environmental problem of lens waste that is usually hidden from us as consumers. I try to do this through the work itself, a bit like physical story telling.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Yair Neuman.

Yair Neuman is a London-based designer and entrepreneur. He explores the opportunities of sustainable design and works towards minimum environmental impact solutions in product and conceptual design. Yair Neuman conceived eyewear brand Wires Glasses and has produced work for notable brands including Samsung and LG, alongside his self-initiated projects. He studied at the Design Academy Eindhoven, Netherlands, and Ravensbourne University, London. He is currently working on new editions of objects made of recycled waste from the eyewear industry.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?

I grew up in a house with an interesting balance between practicality and creativity. My Jeweller mother with her artistic view and my surgeon father with his practical precision created an environment that was beautiful and yet functional. My siblings are either in the arts or medicine which is a little boring and obvious given our parents’ paths but at least we always have someone to complain to when projects don’t work so well.

You are currently leading a social impact organization that is making a difference for our planet. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?

I create independently, and I also collaborate with brands to try and improve pollutive processes. Wherever possible, I try to salvage things and rework them into new pieces. With my Lens Lights collection the focus in on informing people about the environmental problem of lens waste that is usually hidden from us as consumers. I try to do this through the work itself, a bit like physical story telling.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

When we buy a pair of new spectacles the demo clear lenses (‘plano’ lenses) in them are removed to be replaced with our specific prescription lenses. When I found out that all these demo lenses are just sent to the landfill I realised there was an opportunity to use the waste, a free high-quality material, and at the same time save it from reaching the incinerator.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

The reoccurring “Aha Moment” I always have is that I will never be a great doctor (blood phobia) or a successful musician (stage phobia) so I might as well just realize the ideas I have in my head.

Many people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?

A new project usually starts with a new idea. Hearing as many opinions as possible about a concept helps me a lot. I can then see my own idea through the eyes of who would eventually appreciate it or use it once created.

People often fear disclosing their ideas which doesn’t let ideas grow and keeps them shallow. I find it odd when people see ideas as property and are possessive about them.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

My collaboration with Cubitts happened in a very natural way which I find interesting, as from my experience to date it’s untypical to the industry. Near the end of my experimentation processes, creating the new material using the salvaged demo lenses, I showed it to Cubitts’ founder Tom Broughton. Without hesitation he decided to support the project. Cubitts are willing to take action and improve their environmental impact in a unique and transparent way that I think is just brilliant.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

When I sold my first piece I was so excited someone wanted to buy it that I skipped a couple of zeros when processing the payment using an online service. I guess both me and the buyer only noticed it days after, neither of us did anything about it!

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

A bit of a cliché, perhaps, but for me age and experience does it. The more someone has gone through in life the more I feel confident to take their advice, even if their experience seems somehow to relate to a different era. My best advice-giver is my 89 year old Gramma and I wish I listened to her more in the very beginning of my career.

Are there three things the community, society, or politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Yes, In the scheme of things, I think the power is with us, the consumers. The choices we make have a direct effect on industries and the structure of society. We should all probably be more aware of what we buy. Governments from their side must ban disposing of plastic which will force the industry to come up with creative solutions. This collaboration with Cubitts is a great example of how a community of spectacle makers can come together and realize an eco-concept that benefits all.

How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?

In my case with the Lens Light collection using reclaimed lenses as my raw material means free raw material. When creating something from scratch, the material cost has a huge impact on the business. Once this cost is eliminated it frees up resources for profit or other needs within the business. Imagine you never had to buy ingredients to cook at home. Big saving, right? What’s more, this stops the material from being binned, which is the biggest saving.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

It is not about who did it first.

Novelty in itself is sometimes meaningless and only produces more junk. Adding value to the existing could be smarter.

Working a lot doesn’t necessarily mean work is better.
I find that the best ideas and solutions come to me when I’m far away from my desk.

Be prepared to stick to your guns.

If you think that something is not right do not compromise and move on. In the long run problems don’t disappear, they can just be invisible for some time and then come back bigger.

When asking for feedback on your work, instead of ‘what do you think?’, ask ‘what do you think can be improved?’

It took me years to realize it is extremely difficult for people who are close to me to tell me what was wrong in my work.

Take everything with a pinch of salt.

Experiences and processes, in the end of the day, are individual and there’s only so much one can learn from interviews with other people.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

I think I’d ask them how the air smelled when they got out into the street this morning, or how they enjoyed the temperatures last summer.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If you build it, they will come” from the film Field of Dreams.

The idea for the Lens Light collection was in my head for some time before I made it. It was difficult for me to even buy into the idea of valuable pieces made of waste myself, let alone convince others in conversation. It was only when I created the first prototypes that I was able to prove the concept and get such interest from the public.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I’m hoping to finish reading all of Walter Isaacson’s biographies about the most creative people of this world before I die. But they are as long as they are brilliant. Maybe he could bring me up to speed over a nice breakfast?

How can our readers follow you online?

I’m a social media outsider but please go to @yair_neuman to see some more of the Lens Light collection.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Thank you.

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