There are endless uses for a durable, ethical backpack, whether that’s camping, hiking, or simply trekking your work-from-home gear to the nearest coffee shop with an outdoor patio.
If you’re back at the office or returning to school soon, why not treat yourself to a cute, environmentally friendly bag that will hold all your essentials without adding any plastic to the planet.
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What are sustainable backpacks?
How are sustainable, ethically made backpacks any different from a normal bag or rucksack?
Regular backpacks are typically made from polyester, a petroleum-based plastic fabric that is heavily pollutive to produce and that sheds microplastics into waterways when washed or thrown away.
Bags are also often made as quickly and cheaply as possible, often overseas, in countries where labor laws could be lax or nonexistent.
Eco-friendly backpack brands on the other hand, typically use recycled or natural materials in their bags and compensate their workers fairly.
There is a wide range of sustainable materials used in ethical bag-making: recycled plastics, cotton canvas, and recycled leather are popular options.
These materials put significantly less of a burden on the environment, and they tend to be more durable – because one of the best ways to live sustainably is to use what you have for as long as you can.
Related Reading: Best Eco-Friendly Notebooks
Top Eco-Friendly Backpack Brands
Here are a few of our favorite sustainable, ethical, and eco backpacks for school, work, and travel that will keep you organized this year and beyond.
Bellroy is the tech kid of the ethical backpacks industry. Their designs are sleek, efficient, durable, and meticulously thought out. On top of that, they pride themselves on using sustainable materials like recycled polyester made from plastic water bottles, or recycled nylon made from nylon offcuts for their bag fabrics.
A certified B corporation, Bellroy gives back to social and environmental causes and facilitates an ethical workplace.
Our pick: Classic Backpack, Recycled in Navy
No doubt you’re already familiar with ethical fashion heavyweight, Everlane. Well, the good news is that you can now you can take your adoration one step further by wearing one of their stylish sustainable bags!
Made from recycled polyester and available in a range of different colors, there’s one to suit all styles.
Everlane monitors its supply chain to make sure workers’ rights are upheld, they are paid fairly, and the working conditions are safe.
Our Pick: The ReNew Transit Backpack
Sustainable brand Tentree have created the perfect travel backpack. Holding a whopping 35L it’s designed to take you anywhere and everywhere. It even has a roomy 15″ laptop sleeve.
Every inch of this stylish backpack is made from environmentally friendly materials. The body is made from recycled plastic bottles, the foam padding from excess algae bloom, and the buckles from recycled post-industrial factory waste.
It that wasn’t enough to sway you, Tentree are a certified B corp company, and every item purchased plants 10 trees! They also make some of our favorite ethical kid’s clothes.
Our Pick: Mobius 35L Backpack
Paravel specializes in eco-friendly travel backpacks and bags of all kinds. If you like monograms, then Paravel is the travel brand for you – nearly everything they make can be personalized to make it unique!
Their backpacks fold down and zip into a small pouch, so they’re a breeze to bring along on longer trips too.
Made from recycled plastic bottles, this carbon neutral company (that also makes some of our favorite sustainable luggage) also employ a traceable supply chain to track recycled materials.
Our pick: Fold-Up Backpack in Flatiron Grey
Horizn Studios range of backpacks are made for everyday use. Made to the highest standards, they perform just as good as a commuting backpack as they do out hiking.
Made from vegan fabrics such as recycled cotton canvas, or recycled nylon, their range is also PETA approved.
Your backpack will be shipped carbon-neutral, and in eco-friendly pacakaging.
Our Pick: SoFo Rolltop Backpack
STUBBLE & CO
Built tough, and created for adventure, Stubble & Co‘s ethically made backpacks are ideal for work, travel, and outdoor adventures.
Their Roll Top waterproof backpack and Adventure Bag are made from recycled PET. And you’ll rejoice at finally finding a backpack that can house your 16″ laptop with ease.
Stubble & Co’s commitment to sustainable business practices sees them operating out of a carbon zero warehouse and having their own in-house repair service. One to watch!
Our pick: The Roll Top Backpack
LO & SONS
Lo & Sons are a company on a mission to reverse environmental damage by creating innovative solutions.
To this end, their range of ethical backpacks are produced using eco-friendly materials such as recycled polyester and organic cotton, and shipped in sustainable packaging.
They also partner with the Yale Center for Business and the Environment to advise on how emerging technology can help to address environmental sustainability challenges.
Our Pick: The Hanover 2 in Deep Navy
Terra Thread gets an A+ in ethical and sustainable business practices. Their fair trade certified, ethically-sourced, organic cotton canvas backpacks have a sleek, minimal design for any occasion.
Each backpack purchased also contributes 20 meals to Feeding America and they’re a certified B Corp company.
Choosing a Terra Thread durable backpack means choosing sustainable practices over fast fashion.
Our pick: Zem Mini Backpack in Mustard
Peak Design makes high quality travel bags and on-the-go camera gear for the ethically conscious adventurer.
They offset their environmental impact by donating to social and environmental organizations and offsetting all carbon emissions.
Their eco-friendly laptop backpacks feature customizable organization and protective sleeves for all your gear, including a 15″ laptop compartment.
Our pick: Everyday Backpack Zip in Black
State is a certified B corp that focuses its philanthropic efforts on social justice.
For every backpack purchase, they donate packs and school supplies to children and families in need.
What’s more, their range of recycled polyester and canvas eco-friendly bags can be personalized. They’re perfect for the school year, come in a range of sizes, and you can even buy matching lunch boxes!
Our pick: Kane Kids Recycled Poly Canvas
Solgaard makes high-quality, sustainable travel gear from plastic waste found in the ocean.
Their upcycled backpacks are sleek and easily organized, with interior compartments and pouches, and even a solar-powered power bank and Bluetooth speaker!
As a company, Solgaard is climate neutral, and they have a goal to become climate positive. For every item sold, they save 229 plastic bottles from entering the ocean through their partnerships with groups in the Philippines, Indonesia, and China.
Our pick: Shore-Tex Lifepack in Granada Green
Certified B Corp Parker Clay uses its line of sustainable leather goods to support women and children in poverty in Ethiopia in order to secure them a better future.
Through their ethical and fair, living wage factories, they help women to become independent, and help them find empowerment and agency.
Their line of elegant totepacks make for elegant day bags for work or travel. Made from sustainable leather – that is, leather that’s a byproduct of the farming industry – their bags are unique, long-lasting and sophisticated.
Our pick: Miramar Leather Backpack in Bone
UNITED BY BLUE
United by Blue is the original outdoors brand committed to protecting our oceans and waterways. They use sustainable and recycled materials and ethical manufacturing to make their adventure-ready clothing and eco-friendly backpacks and use their profits to help remove trash from the ocean.
Their organic cotton and recycled polyester bags are the perfect combo of fun and functional, making them the best sustainable backpacks for the school year, for the office, or for traveling!
Our pick: Deadstock 15L Commuter Backpack
Swedish outdoor brand Fjallraven is committed to sustainable design, materials, and production at each stage of its manufacturing process.
You’re likely familiar with their very popular Kanken bag, but they have a whole collection of eco-friendly rucksacks in all shapes and sizes.
Their core fabric is G-1000 Eco, a recycled polyester and cotton blend that is highly durable and can be waterproofed with fabric wax.
Our pick: Foldsack No. 1 Backpack in Navy
Kathmandu is a New Zealand-based outdoor brand and B corporation that takes sustainability seriously: from using recycled materials, to reducing its environmental footprint and supporting the communities that supply its fabrics.
The Moana collection of eco-friendly backpacks made from recycled materials is their latest step toward their goal of producing completely sustainable outdoor gear.
Our pick: Moana Canvas Pack 18L in Pine
Osprey is known in the outdoor community for its sturdy backpacks that come with a lifetime warranty, and its commitment to excellence extends to their sustainable Arcane collection as well.
This collection of backpacks made from recycled plastic bottles or a recycled polyester/hemp blend make excellent work or travel bags and are designed to last a lifetime.
Osprey is a member of the European Outdoor Conservation Association, and its HQ is powered by solar power. P.S. – Check out Osprey’s collection of Renewed Packs.
Our pick: Arcane Large Day Pack in Dark Blue
Baggu is known for its reusable totes, but they also make a range of just-as-cute ethical rucksacks and vegan backpacks.
Made from recycled cotton canvas or recycled nylon, these bags are stylish, but also have laptop sleeves and internal pockets galore – making them practical too! Basically, they’re the only bag you need for any occasion.
Baggu was founded with the goal to eliminate single-use plastic bags, but its sustainability efforts have only expanded as the company has grown. As well as using sustainable materials, they employ ethical manufacturing partners and use recycled and biodegradable packaging materials.
Done with your bag? Send it back to them and they’ll recycle it for you.
Our pick: Drawstring Backpack in Brown Cow
Dakine’s eco-conscious line is made of recycled polyester with all the attention to detail and durability the bag and apparel brand is known for.
With lots of organization compartments and a back-friendly design, these backpacks are perfect for school, weekend adventures, or for keeping all your work-from-home supplies in one place.
Founded in Hawaii, Dakine are 1% for the Planet partners, and are members of several environmental initiatives. They also send their bags in plastic-free packaging.
Our pick: Campus M 25L Backpack in Pine Trees
Duluth is the oldest backpack maker in the US (est. 1882!), and they’re still making their vintage-looking classic canvas bags.
Their hand-constructed heavyweight canvas bags are durable, patchable, and eventually recyclable.
As repairable and durable as Duluth bags are, it’s likely to be a piece you can pass along to the next generation as they last more than one lifetime.
Our pick: Roll-Top Scout in Waxed Khaki
Patagonia backpacks are made from durable materials such as recycled polyester ripstop. They’re crafted using Fair Trade certified labor, and coated with a weather-resistant laminate.
This 32L backpack is the ideal travel companion. It’s versatile, has a padded 15″ laptop sleeve, and has many inner pockets for ease of organization.
Patagonia are also 1% for the Planet members, and they give back to countless environmental grants.
Our Pick: Black Hole 32L Backpack
Opus Mind founder Kathleen Kuo left the luxury fashion industry after seeing all the waste that was produced in the production of leather bags for Chanel.
She uses 100% recycled leather to make her chic, minimal bags and wallets – no plastic fillers or lining components.
Each design is meticulously engineered to generate as little waste as possible. Who says luxury can’t be eco friendly?
Our pick: Medium Backpack in Terracotta
Wayks’ do-it-all ethically made pack is the only travel bag you’ll ever need.
Made of recycled polyester, it comes in a variety of sizes and two neutral colors, with several possible add-ons so you can build your own perfect environmentally-friendly backpack – just how you like it!
Their versatile backpacks are made in factories where workers’ rights are held to high standards.
Our pick: The Day Pack Original
No matter your lifestyle or “new normal,” everyone can use a bit of organization in their lives these days.
Do yourself (and the planet) a favor and shop one of these ethical and sustainable backpacks for this year and beyond. You’re not only getting a durable, high-quality bag, but you’re also supporting small-scale makers, slow fashion, and social and environmental causes.
Did I miss one of your favorite eco-friendly backpack brands? Let me know in the comments!