A pocket with handles? Not quite. A handbag can serve a multitude of purposes and personalities. From everyday workwear to a night on the town, a gorgeous bag is more than just an accessory: it can enliven and bolden, at times showing another part of our inner selves. 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 what camp you fall in, we’ve compiled a list of 20 of our favourite sustainable handbags and totes that are kind to people, animals, and the planet, not to mention really, really, ridiculously good looking.
20 Sustainable Handbags and Totes We Know You’ll Love
Kayu is an American brand that creates gorgeous, handcrafted boho sustainable bags for the modern free spirit. Each bag is crafted by women in the Philippines, who weave and embroider the bags by hand. Most of these women are mothers, and making Kayu bags allows them to earn a living as well as look after their children. Aside from looking out for its people, Kayu is also dedicated to preserving our planet. Its bags and hats are made from natural straw that has been harvested, stripped, and dyed by hand. This kind of straw fades with time, eventually biodegrading and returning to the earth. The brand does use leather in some designs.
BEEN London is a London-based brand turning waste into timeless accessories you’ll want to use every day. All its products are made of materials that have been something else in a previous life, including recycled leather offcuts and plastic bottles, diverting waste from landfills to help our environment heal. This well-sized classic ethical tote is made from soft, recycled leather. Versatile and chic, it will take you to work everyday or for a stroll at the market on the weekend!
Interested in ditching the dirty? O My Bag is the brand for you. The Dutch label merges style and a responsible approach, creating vintage inspired, rugged-chic sustainable handbags made from sustainable materials, including its high quality, eco-friendly leather. Although some with animal welfare front of mind may favour a vegan leather approach, O My Bag believes that eco-friendly leather is the way to go.
Designed by Angela Roi, this taupe sustainable satchel is sure to turn heads. This 100% vegan leather alternative is designed with impeccable detail, featuring a trapezoidal shape with micro-pebble texture and antique gold hardware. The interior includes slip pockets and 100% vegan suede lining. Not your style? No worries! Amour Vert carries other beautiful sustainable staples, including everyday totes and other must-haves.
A pioneer of independent Australian design, Elk was founded in Melbourne in 2004. The brand creates bi-annual collections that are informed by a design ethos where simplicity and sustainability meet innovation. The ideal size for everyday use, the Orsa Bag is crafted from soft cow leather, designed to look neat and clean. All leather at Elk is sourced from LWG tanneries, which is an association that sets high industry standards and audits tanneries for environmental performance. Additionally, all products are passed by REACH standard regulations, meaning they are made with restricted levels of specific chemical substances in their goods.
Like a peach bellini, but better! Handcrafted in Greece and designed in London, the Amaryllis is a great day to night eco-friendly bag, perfectly sized for your cell, wallet, and a few beauty essentials. Mashu’s environmental rating is ‘Good,’ crafting its exterior with vegan leather and recycled polyester, while its interiors feature vegan suede made from recycled polyester, ensuring you never have to sacrifice your morals for style again!
Sometimes you just need a tote that fits everything. Graine is a family operated leather label based in Melbourne, Australia. The brand features beautiful everyday sustainable totes in a range of colours such as the Little Lonsdale Street bag. This bag was made with care in Graine’s Brunswick East workshop from high quality, full grain, vegetable tanned, Australian bovine leather, which is sourced from a gold-rated tannery certified by the Leather Working Group within Australia.
A bag that saves people’s lives? You got it. Parker Clay is an American-based brand looking to create a future without exploitation by bettering lives and communities in Ethiopia. The brand has partnered with Ellilta Women at Risk program, fighting to bring women out of prostitution by providing a more stable income and safe working environment. Parker Clay also helps preserve traditional Ethiopian techniques, materials, and styles, ensuring that this fast growing country is able to remain close to its beautiful roots. Note that the brand does use leather, so is not vegan-friendly.
V By Townsley’s cruelty free vegan bags, handcrafted in Italy, look, feel, and perform like leather without causing harm to animals. The Laura Tote is made from cruelty-free Japanese vegan leather, which replicates the look and feel of the finest leather without harming animals. The bag is lined with organic, sustainable linen made in Belgium. What’s more, the brand’s efficient manufacturing process prioritises the conservation of raw materials, with minimal dependency on natural resources, and meets GREENGUARD Gold Certification.
Elvis & Kresse is a British brand that is truly changing the game in eco material innovation. Once used to fight fires, the sustainable Post Bag is made from genuine decommissioned fire-hose, previously deployed in active duty, fighting fires around the UK. A great all day bag designed to be held in hand, over the shoulder, or across the body, this bag is the epitome of versatility. The innovation doesn’t stop there: the lining is made from reclaimed parachute silk… Neat!
Spacious, practical, and PETA approved vegan, the Recca Tote is perfect for work and everyday wear. Based in India, Funky Kalakar brings alive the stories of ancient craft in the form of contemporary designs by handcrafting them using natural materials. The Recca Tote is no exception. Made from highly durable faux leather, this tote can be recycled up to 8 times!
Mini, but mighty! If you’re looking for an edgy, timeless piece look no further. Although many luxury brands have been criticised for their wasteful and harmful practices, British designer Stella McCartney has been committed to operating a modern and responsible business for almost two decades. In line with the brand’s cruelty free ethos, the Falabella is gorgeously crafted from a non-leather alternative. 100% polyester and lined with ECONYL® recycled nylon, this sustainable handbag is sure to dress up any look!
Indego Africa believes that women and youth around the globe have the capacity, creativity, and determination to achieve economic independence—all they need are the resources. That’s why the brand invests 100% of its profits into the education of the women it employs. Since 2007, it has provided over 1,100 artisans and 250 young people in Rwanda and Ghana with employment opportunities, entrepreneurship training, and consistent access to the global export market. In fact, this half-shell sustainable tote was made with love by artisans in Rwanda who make handwoven baskets and bags using raffia: a straw-like fibre that can be stripped from the inside of palm tree leaves. Love!
BOTTLETOP is a first-class sustainable fashion innovator! All of the brand’s bags incorporate upcycled metal ring pulls in their design, which are sourced and cleaned in Brazil. The metal rings are used to create BOTTLETOP’s signature chain mail fabric. The beautiful Bellani is the brand’s signature sustainable handbag with its timeless shape and colour. Stylish and capacious, this classic bag has a useful large interior pocket, and its adjustable strap means you can wear it either over the shoulder or across the body. And it makes a real style statement, too! Animal lovers note that leather is used in some products, sourced from Zero Deforestation Leather.
Sweden’s Sandqvist makes a range of stylish, everyday sustainable bags from backpacks to handbags. The Cecilia is a contemporary handbag from the brand’s ‘Tomorrow’ series, but FYI Vegans, the bags are crafted from full grain aniline-dyed Scandinavian leather. Sandqvist utilises leather from Scandinavian cattle, originally bred for food production; this allows full traceability, ensures good animal husbandry, and minimises environmental impact. Moreover, the brand’s tanneries are rated Gold or Silver by LWG. Aside from caring for our Earth, Sandqvist also cares for our people, securing safe and fair working conditions audited by the Fair Wear Foundation.
Damaged or done with an item? Bring your item to a Sandqvist workshop for repairs or upcycling.
The Halfmoon Maxi Bag is the ultimate sustainable statement bag. It is made from the pineapple leaf based material Piñatex, which is eco-friendly, PETA approved vegan, and just as beautiful as leather. Wear it as a shoulder bag with an added strap or as a giant feature clutch with an upper handle. Regardless of how you style it, this bag is sure to be a guilt-free addition to your closet!
Svala creates luxury designer vegan handbags, purses, bags, and totes. Each bag is handcrafted sustainably and ethically in LA with high-quality, premium vegan leather PU, cork, and Piñatex. The Didi Clutch is the perfect accessory for a night out with your girls or a lovely dinner date!
Tired of your worn out tote? No problem. Deux Mains is a Haitian owned fashion company producing high quality, long-lasting products while employing and empowering marginalised Haitian communities. The brand uses high-quality, long-lasting materials including upcycled tires, and it is a leading advocate for better labour rights. Sophisticated and timeless, the City Tote is perfect for any outfit. The bottom panel, made from repurposed inner-tube, increases this tote’s durability and charm, making our inner eco-friendly hearts beat a little faster! Note that leather is used in some products.
Tuck all your essentials into this triangle tote bag. The clever design can hold phone, wallet, keys, and more. Sling the sustainable tote over your shoulder or carry it down by your side. As part of tonlé’s zero waste process, the body of the bag is made from a reclaimed textile, the vegan leather strap is made from reclaimed upholstery fabric, and the wooden button was hand-carved from reclaimed wood. Amazing!
Towels? Check. Sunglasses? Check. Everything else you possibly could fit in a tote so you are comfortable on the beach? Check! When we first came across these guys a few years ago, we knew they’d hit the nail on the head when it came to functional bags for travelling, active ocean women. Made from coated Tyvek®, a functional and lightweight waterproof fabric, these multifunctional tote bags are the best for beach days…and they are so cute too.
So, there you have it! A wonderful compilation of the coolest, most innovative sustainable handbags and totes that hopefully brings your interior ever closer to your exterior.
Feature image via Mashu, 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. Use our Directory to search more than 2,000 brands. We may earn a commission on sales made using our offer codes or affiliate links.