Main image courtesy of Very Well Health.
In addition to being incredibly useful, backpacks can be great accessories. But it can be pretty hard to find a nice, durable backpack that suits your style and your needs, since there are so many on the market.
It can be even more difficult to find a bag that, besides looking great, lines up with your beliefs. Most backpacks are produced using methods and materials that wreak havoc on the environment, with high carbon emissions, water pollution, and microplastic waste running rampant in the industry. Even worse, a lot of the bags produced using those methods have low durability-- not as useful as you might hope.
Thankfully, there are lots of brands out there making the effort to produce cute or classy backpacks using more sustainable methods and materials. If you’re looking for a new backpack to carry to work or school-- or just to accessorize with-- try looking at some of the options on this list!
The Kånken Backpack from Fjallraven is a great, durable bag to have on hand if you need to carry things around for school or work. In order to accomplish its goal of creating sustainable products, Fjallraven prioritizes using durable materials that will not need to be thrown away for a very, very long time. This backpack is made of Vinylon F, which is a synthetic material-- but it does not fall apart or tear easily, so you won’t need to worry about your backpack wearing down and needing to be thrown out. Vinylon F is also naturally water-resistant, with fibers that pull together when they get wet, tightening the weave of the fabric-- which naturally protects the backpack’s contents without the use of a water-repellent treatment.
If you’re looking for a more functional backpack-- one with plenty of space for your busier class days-- the Mobius backpack from Tentree is an excellent choice. The Mobius backpack features several interior pockets, an optional roll-top closure, and has a 35L capacity, making it the bag to go for if you have to carry around lots of folders or books on the daily. This backpack is made entirely from recycled polyester-- which Tentree manufactures from recycled water bottles-- so it’s doing its part to clean up the environment. Tentree doesn’t stop there, though-- in its commitment to help beautify the earth in addition to removing plastic waste from the environment, the company plants ten trees for every one of their products sold.
The Office Pack from QWSTION is a nice, classy option if you’re looking for something to bring to work everyday. This bag features several interior compartments as well as a padded external compartment to fit up to a 14” laptop. It’s also convertible-- you can carry it as a shoulder bag or backpack, and its straps can be modified to fit around the top of your luggage, too. It’s an example of QWSTION’s efforts to create eco-friendly products, as well. The main fabric is cotton canvas, and all leather used in the bag is vegetable-tanned, not traditionally tanned.
The Airbag backpack by Rewilder is an extremely durable backpack, a great example of creative manufacturing that helps fix problems in the textile industry. The bag is made of waste materials from airbag and seatbelt production, preventing environmentally harmful textiles from ending up in the landfill. Needless to say, airbags and seatbelts are incredibly durable, so the Airbag backpack is sure to hold up, even if it gets a lot of heavy use during your daily commute.
The Everyday Backpack from 8000Kicks is the world’s first weatherproof hemp backpack-- made of durable hemp and coated with a PFC-free water-resistant treatment. As such, it’s definitely a good sustainable backpack to keep in mind if you need lots of carrying space. This backpack features plenty of packing space with several internal pockets and compartments, and it’s adaptable and versatile-- you can keep it at its more compact 18L capacity for a normal workday or expand it to a 30L capacity while you’re traveling.
The ReNew Transit Backpack from Everlane, featuring a laptop pocket, several zip pockets, and a magnetic closure, is made entirely of recycled polyester-- proof of Everlane’s commitment to stop using newly-manufactured plastic in its products. The company has so far managed to replace 90% of the new plastics in their supply chain with recycled materials, and they are always working to improve on the sustainability of their production methods, as well.
The Circular Backpack from Solgaard is made entirely of ocean-bound plastic waste, like all of the company’s products-- each purchase of this backpack saves 6lb of plastic from winding up in the ocean, so supporting the company is a great way to help clean up the environment. Featuring a laptop and tablet sleeve as well as several organizational pockets, this bag is a great choice if you’re looking for a somewhat sleek, streamlined design to carry around with you. The Circular Backpack also lives up to its name-- it is part of Solgaard’s efforts to create products that are 100% recyclable, or circular, in order to make them even more sustainable.
This cute backpack-- convertible from a backpack to a shoulder bag-- should be on your radar if you love the look of leather but don’t need something too bulky. This backpack features three interior pockets, a zip closure at the top, and a foldover flap at the top with a magnetic closure, so in addition to being cute and not too bulky, it’ll also keep your belongings organized and secure. It’s made out of ethical vegan leather and lined with materials made from recycled plastic bottles, too-- so it’s eco-friendly as well as vegan friendly.
Price: $76 (Regular Price $120)
The Abera Convertible Backpack, which can convert to a handbag, is an excellent one to keep in mind if you want something that’ll fit in both at work and out on the town with friends. The company is also one that you’ll want to support-- ABLE, which is almost entirely made up of women, seeks to empower women in the textile industry by guaranteeing living wages and safe working conditions to all of their partners worldwide. In addition to all of this, the company also tries to keep things sustainable-- their bags are made out of handcrafted leather, which both cuts down on synthetic material production and on non-eco-friendly manufacturing methods.
If you’re looking for a simple, sleek-looking sustainable backpack, the Day Owl backpack might be right up your alley. This backpack looks simple, but it has a capacity of 18L and includes a handful of extra pockets, giving you plenty of room to organize your belongings. The canvas that makes up the body of the bag is manufactured entirely from recycled water bottles, and it’s treated with a water-resistant finish to keep your valuables safe on a rainy day.
The Miramar Leather Backpack from Parker Clay is one of our favorites on this list-- with its simple, but chic, look and plenty of inside storage space in addition to the outside pocket, it’s a great accessory that can double as a functional backpack. This bag can be carried as either a backpack or a tote, and fits up to a 13” computer in case you need to keep your work with you. Each bag is also unique-- Parker Clay products are made out of Ethiopian full-grain leather, making them more sustainable than synthetic alternatives, but this also means that the exact color and texture of each bag varies.
Price: $186 (Regular Price $248)
Looking for the right backpack-- either for school, for travel, or just as an alternative to a purse-- can be difficult, especially when you want to buy from a company that shares your values and you don’t know where to start. Fortunately, plenty of companies and brands have come to realize that the textile and bag industry needs to adapt in order to keep the environment safe, and these companies have really stepped up to the plate-- altering their supplies and manufacturing methods in order to keep their products in line with what you, the consumer, value. All of the companies on this list are excellent places to look if you’re in the market for a nice backpack-- and there are plenty more out there!