The Ultimate Guide to Sustainable Backpacks - Good On You
black leather purse backpack by Elk
26 Apr
black leather purse backpack by Elk

The Ultimate Guide to Sustainable Backpacks

For many of us, the backpack has been a part of our lives since we were kids, accompanying us on our worst and best days. While some argued that this student staple would soon be a thing of the past with the dawn of iPads and electronic textbooks, the global backpack market has continued to grow and is forecast to reach a value of 20.4 billion US dollars by 2024! While some students and workers have ditched this familiar must-have for a street-style tote bag, others just can’t seem to find an accessory as ubiquitous or useful.

Aside from fulfilling our scholarly or office needs, backpacks also make great companions for hiking, as well as other outdoor activities, carrying snacks, water, and other gear. Now more than ever, this once solely practical accessory has proven its versatility in the midst of the pandemic, accompanying folks as they (safely) venture outdoors. But finding the perfect bag that meets all of our needs can be a challenge. For some, the costs of leather are not worth it, demonstrating the need for better, more sustainable alternatives. Regardless of how you see it, we’ve compiled a list of 21 of our favourite sustainable backpacks that are kind to people and the planet, with plenty of vegan options too!

Below you can see these eco-friendly finds separated into technical and casual wear. Happily browse between minimal and PETA-approved vegan backpacks by Ucon Acrobatics (Germany), cool and innovative everyday cactus leather daypacks by A_C (Australia), and if you’re looking for something futuristic, RÆBURN’s (UK) rucksack is effortless, cool, and made from recovered nylon parachute canopies. With that, we hope you enjoy!

Technical ware

GROUNDTRUTH

Rated: Good
black sustainable backpack by GROUNDTRUTH

Sustainable RIKR 24L Backpack – Ships internationally from the UK

People. Planet. Performance. GROUNDTRUTH is a British brand that is all about being 100% climate positive, harnessing new technologies to create a range of 100% recycled products. The award winning sustainable RIKR 24L recycled backpack is designed for contemporary travel and tailored as an everyday backpack for both city life and the great outdoors. With a clamshell opening, a separate laptop compartment, side access, and a trolley sleeve, this versatile and eco-friendly backpack is airport security appropriate and adapts to meet the challenges of every journey.

See the rating.

Shop GROUNDTRUTH.

Sandqvist

Rated: Good
cream and orange sustainable backpacks by Sandqvist

BERNT – Ships internationally from Sweden

Sweden’s Sandqvist embodies contemporary form and innovation. A member of the Fair Wear Foundation, the brand makes a range of stylish, everyday bags from backpacks to handbags. BERNT is a water-resistant and functional backpack from Sandqvist’s Urban Outdoor series. Constructed with Cordura® EcoMade polyester and leather patch details, this bag is versatile, sustainable, and can carry up to 20L! While this option does include animal products, the brand carries a great vegan bags range as well.

See the rating.

Shop Sandqvist.

Shop Sandqvist Pre-Owned @ Vestiaire Collective.

Sealand

Rated: Good
white eco-friendly backpack by Sealand

Roamer Retro – Ships internationally from South Africa

Rooted in Cape Town’s southern peninsula, Sealand is a brand that believes in smart material selection, compelling functionality, and product durability. In line with the brand’s ethos, the Roamer Retro is gorgeously handcrafted in the brand’s Cape Town workshop from upcycled yacht and sail canvas. Not a fan of the one we picked out? Choose from any of the roamer styles, which feature generous space and multiple storage compartments, including an easy-access padded laptop pocket, as well as a durable ripstop material shell base for daily use or full day adventures.

See the rating.

Shop Sealand.

Ucon Acrobatics

Rated: Good
minimalist forest green backpack by Ucon Acrobatics

Hajo Backpack – Ships internationally from Germany

Minimalist sustainable backpacks suitable for any occasion. Waterproof, PETA-approved vegan, and PVF/PVC free, this recycled backpack is the epitome of nature-inspired practicality. The fluorocarbon-free PU outer coating makes the material waterproof and gives the product a modern and contemporary aesthetic. What’s more, its roll-top system and Velcro strap closing allows for scaled capacity.

Want more space? Check out the brand’s Hajo Pro collection that carries up to 22L!

See the rating.

Shop Ucon Acrobatics.

pinqponq

Rated: Great
white technical backpack made by PinqPonq

Komut Medium Bike Pack – Ships within Europe from Germany

pinqponq is a German brand that makes stylish and functional bags out of recycled plastic. It sources materials under the Fair Wear Foundation Code of Conduct and traces all of its supply chain. 100% vegan, the Komut Medium is the one of the most ideal sustainable backpacks for bike commuters. Those who pack minimally can also use the backpack in form of a hand luggage, which can be expanded to a capacity of 37 litres for short city trips. The ripstop fabric is tear-resistant and ultra-durable. Neat!

See the rating.

Shop pinqponq @ thegreenlabels.

Shop pinqponq.

Ecoalf

Rated: Good
block colour sustainable backpacks by Ecoalf

Wild Sherpa Backpack – Ships internationally from Spain

Thanks to recycled materials like rescued ocean plastic, Ecoalf creates sustainable fashion with the same quality, design, and technical properties as the best non-recycled ones. Vegan and PFC free, the Wild Sherpa recycled backpack is designed to be your travel companion while you explore and look after nature. Made from 100% recycled nylon, these sustainable backpacks offer large storage space and easy-access side pockets for all your travel needs!

See the rating.

Shop Ecoalf.

Shop Ecoalf @ Farfetch.

Shop Ecoalf @ Labell-D.

tentree

Rated: Good
black vegan and earth-friendly backpacks by tentree

Mobius 35L Backpack – Ships internationally from Canada

tentree is a Canadian sustainable lifestyle brand that plants 10 trees for every item purchased. The certified B-Corp has already helped to remove tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere and reforested over 5,000 hectares of land (that’s equal to 12,000 football fields). But its commitment to sustainability extends way beyond trees. This 4-in-1 backpack is packed with sustainably sourced materials, making it one of the most eco-progressive backpack in the world. From the main body’s 100% recycled polyester fabric to the zippers and trims, this multi-liter backpack is supremely kind to the environment while functioning for everyday life!

See the rating.

Shop tentree.

The Level Collective

Rated: Good
green explorer backpack by Level Collective

Winnats Roll Top – Ships internationally from the UK

Aiming to live level. The Level Collective is a British lifestyle brand that seeks a balanced life by being fair to others and to our planet—where freedom meets responsibility. The brand’s roll top sustainable backpacks do just that, combining elevated form and function to create an everyday backpack for the commute and wildness pursuit. Each roll top is handmade in the UK and features weatherproof Halley Stevensons waxed organic cotton outer shells.

See the rating.

Shop The Level Collective.

VAUDE

Rated: Good
green hiking backpacks by Vaude brand

Magus 20 Hiking Backpack– Ships internationally from Germany

Vaude is a European, family-run outdoor wear brand that sustainably produces clothes and materials for the outdoors, using eco-friendly materials, like recycled fabrics. It is also a member of the Fair Wear Foundation and has a Code of Conduct which covers all of the ILO Four Fundamental Freedom principles. The Magus 20 is perfect for hikers, featuring a new, innovative Aeroflex 3D suspension that helps the pack sit comfortably on your hips with optimal ventilation for strenuous tours. Better yet, this eco-friendly backpack is beautifully constructed from sustainable and bluesign® certified materials.

See the rating.

Shop VAUDE.

Adidas

Rated: Good
black sustainable athletes backpacks by Adidas

Adidas 4 Athlts Backpack – Ships internationally from Germany

The epitome of performance-based, the Adidas 4 Athlts backpack is spacious and made with recycled materials. Made with Primegreen, or a series of high-performance recycled materials, this eco-friendly backpack holds work and workout gear alike, so you can go straight to the gym after your last email. Stash your trainers in the designated shoe compartment, and slide your laptop into the padded sleeve. Cool!

See the rating.

Shop Adidas @ LVR Sustainable.

Shop Adidas Pre-Owned @ Vestiaire Collective.

Shop Adidas.

Casual ware

Svala

Rated: Good
cream vegan purse backpack by Svala

Gemma Backpack Purse in Cream – Ships internationally from the US

The Gemma backpack purse is an elegant and versatile bag that can be worn as a backpack or handbag by adjusting the removable straps. This convertible bag is polished enough to be dressed up or down and is handcrafted with high-quality, luxurious Italian vegan leather. Love!

See the rating.

Shop Svala.

Shop Svala @ Immaculate Vegan.

NAE

Rated: Good
green minimalist vegan backpack by nae

Oslo Green Laptop Recycled PET Backpack – Ships internationally from Portugal

NAE is a Portuguese footwear and accessories brand that uses innovative materials to create goods with “No Animal Exploitation.” The Oslo backpack is a minimalist vegan bag made of recycled PET bottles that is GRS certified. Its lasting design offers a convenient padded organizer compartment for a laptop and a second organizer pocket for your smartphone, wallet, or keys so you can stay organized without sacrificing your ethics!

See the rating.

Shop NAE.

Shop NAE @ Staiy.

A_C

Rated: Great
stylish black backpack by A_C

Darcy Daypack in Cactus Leather – Ships internationally from Australia

Cool, eco-friendly, and convenient. The Darcy Daypack is hand-crafted using soft pebbled Desserto Cactus Leather with 100% GOTS certified Organic Cotton in the inner shell. It fits a 13″ laptop in the back with internal private pockets for spare keys and any other belongings, making it the stylish and sustainable backpack you always dreamed of.

See the rating.

Shop A_C.

Funky Kalakar

Rated: Good
eco-friendly cylinder backpacks by Funky Kalakar

Cycle Backpack – Ships internationally from India

Funky Kalakar is an Indian brand that brings alive the stories of ancient craft in the form of contemporary vegan shoe and handbag designs by fusing them using natural materials. The Cycle sustainable backpacks are for those that choose to sport unconventional yet elegant style, featuring a unique semi-cylindrical shape with spacious compartments.

See the rating.

Shop Funky Kalakar.

NOAH

Rated: Good
brown chic backpack made by NOAH

Unisex Vegan Backpack – Ships internationally from Germany

NOAH creates cruelty-free and 100% vegan shoes and accessories. In line with the brand’s ethos is this super stylish, two-colour tote backpack made from a mix of micronappa, microsuede, and polytex mesh. Ideal for students, business trips, or as a smart accessory on your next city tour, this backpack will be sure to meet all your needs.

See the rating.

Shop NOAH.

O My Bag

Rated: Good
black leather backpack by O My Bag

John Backpack Maxi – Ships internationally from the Netherlands

Looking for a classic leather backpack, but with a sustainable ethos? Look no further. O My Bag’s John Backpack is gorgeously crafted in premium quality leather that is tanned without the use of harmful chemicals or synthetics. This kind of leather is sturdy and will age beautifully over time. Oh, and if your bag needs a little TLC, check out the brand’s care and repair program. Vegans and vegan fashion lovers should opt for another option on this list as O My Bag products are all made with animal leather.

See the rating.

Shop O My Bag.

Shop O My Bag @ thegreenlabels.

BEEN London

Rated: Great
recycled leather camel brown backpack by BEEN London

Islington Backpack – Ships internationally from the UK

If virgin leather isn’t your vibe, don’t fret! BEEN London creates gorgeous bags and sustainable backpacks from 100% recycled materials, including recycled leather. The Islington Backpack is a refined union of form and function, beautifully-made and unisex. Better yet, it comes with a padded laptop compartment made from recycled textiles and a hidden, zipped-back pocket for valuables.

See the rating.

Shop BEEN London.

Shop BEEN London @ Staiy.

Raven + Lily

Rated: Good

Addis Backpack – Ships internationally from the US

Offers

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leather handbag by Raven +Lily

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Raven + Lily supports local female artisans to create handmade jewellery, clothing, and accessories. This US brand's products are eco-friendly and empower communities through fair wages, healthcare, and education.

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Shop Raven + Lily.

Elk

Rated: Good
leather purse backpacks by Elk

Forde Backpack – Ships within Australia

Elk is an Australian brand that believes in quality leather goods. The brand utilises specialised tanning techniques using predominantly vegetable or semi-vegetable dyes to create what has become a signature Elk look. The finishes are natural, and colours and hues are inspired by nature. The Forde Leather Backpack follows this very ethos, created with versatility and functionality in mind. Crafted from cow leather, it is incredibly soft and sure to last a lifetime. There is also a vegan-friendly bag selection if you prefer your sustainable backpacks free from animal materials.

See the rating.

Shop Elk.

Stella McCartney

Rated: Good
fashionable vegan backpacks by Stella McCartney

Falabella Logo Go Backpack – Ships internationally from the UK

A member of the Ethical Trading Initiative and Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Stella McCartney has set some excellent environmental standards across the luxury fashion industry. This sleek backpack features the ‘Stella McCartney 2001’ logo and is catered towards the brand’s cruelty-free ethos. Made from 100% ECONYL® recycled nylon, this recycled beauty blends organization and style all in one place. Stella has also adopted the ETI Code of Conduct that includes a living wage definition!

See the rating.

Shop Stella McCartney @ LVR Sustainable.

Shop Stella McCartney Kids Pre-Owned @ Retykle.

Shop Stella McCartney Pre-Owned @ Vestiaire Collective.

Shop Stella McCartney.

RÆBURN

Rated: Good
black technical backpacks by RAEBURN

SI X RUCKSACK – Ships internationally from the UK

UK based RÆBURN is changing the world through responsible design. The brand’s philosophy has its origins in innovation with military materials and utilitarian clothing, geniously crafting pieces like wool field jackets from nylon parachute canopies. In line with this ethos is the Standard Issue X sustainable backpack that has been produced in 100% certified RÆCYCLED polyester made from RÆCYCLED PET plastic bottles.

See the rating.

Shop RÆBURN @ LVR Sustainable.

Shop RÆBURN @ Farfetch.

Shop RÆBURN.

Komodo

Rated: Good
navy roll top backpack by Komodo

Backpack Ansvar I Blue – Ships internationally from the UK

UK brand Komodo puts people and the planet first with its ethically-sourced and eco-friendly range of menswear and womenswear. The label uses some eco-friendly materials including GOTS-certified cotton and hemp, and ensures that most of its suppliers pay a living wage to their workers. This Melawear backpack is certified by both the Fairtrade Standard and the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).

See the rating.

Shop Komodo @ Staiy.

Shop Komodo.

Props to you for making it this far! Whether you are someone who seeks vegan alternatives to traditional cow leather or are simply looking for the next big eco-friendly innovation, we hope this guide will keep you feeling organized and confident in your purchases through the seasons ahead!

Editor's note

Feature image via Elk, all other images via brands mentioned. Good On You publishes the world’s most comprehensive ratings of fashion brands’ impact on people, the planet and animals. We love to recommend some of the best sustainable brands, rated ‘Good’ or ‘Great’. We also encourage shopping pre-owned as another great way to reduce the impact of our fashion choices. Use our Directory to search more than 3,000 brands. We may earn a commission on sales made using our offer codes or affiliate links.

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