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Photo courtesy Genusee Eyewear.

Photo courtesy Genusee Eyewear.

The Flint Water Crisis is regarded as one of the most pressing issues facing Michigan residents, and the greater United States population, today. At the severest peak of the water crisis, the city of Flint was reportedly using more than 20 million water bottles per day to meet their daily needs—this came as a result of the surplus in polluted water supplies, which the majority of residents are continuing to navigate to this day.


While the water crisis still persists, many residents are working to address the problem on their own terms—with Ali Rose VanOverbeke, the founder and CEO of Genusee, being one of the city’s key innovators today. Genusee Eyewear is turning plastic water bottles into stylish eyeglass frames that are as chic as they are sustainable.


The company achieves this through turning the surplus of Flint’s plastic waste into “closed loop eyewear.” Genusee’s frames are made from 100% post-consumer recycled water bottles—an especially impressive statistic, considering that only about 23% of single-use plastic water bottles are recycled nationally. 


VanOverbeke, a Michigan native and experienced professional with a specialization in design, saw the effects of the Flint water crisis first-hand, and knew she needed to step in to make an impact. And while she admits that she doesn’t quite know “how to solve the water crisis,” her extensive work in design and fashion is at least giving her the space to make an impactful difference.


With every purchase of a sunglass or optical product, Genusee is able to upcycle 15 water bottles. And beyond relying on sustainable, recycled materials to craft their specially-designed eye frames, the company’s greater mission focuses on giving back to Flint and investing in the city’s communities. 


At the heart of its work, Genusee’s founder and dedicated team ultimately want to “reduce the localized plastic waste, create jobs — living wage jobs — that anyone can be trained to do, as well as encourage a circular economy.”


And even as a fairly young brand, the company is already doing just that.


Genusee wants to make circularity as easy as possible and achieves this through offering a unique “Buy-Back Program” that will actually purchase back used pairs of the brands’ eyewear and will offer credit towards a customer’s next pair of frames. After evaluating the quality, Genusee will either recycle the materials back into the supply chain, refurbish and resell the product at a discount value, or will simply donate the eyewear to someone in need.


And per VanOverbeke’s commitment to “re-investing in Flint and other Michigan communities,” 1% of all of Genusee’s net profits are donated to the Community Fund of Greater Flint. All donations to the fund are distributed to two separate funds which work to address children’s education and health in Flint.


At the heart of the Genusee brand, the company is committed to making circular fashion approaches more of a norm, while also empowering Flint and its hard-working residents, in the process.


For more information on Genusee and its product offerings, visit