Choose Sustainable Backpacks for an Eco-Friendly School Year

Have you considered a sustainable backpack?

It’s back to school time so it may also be new backpack time. But backpacks can be made from many materials, not all of which support a healthy planet and a healthy lifestyle. Consider that backpacks can be created from cotton, canvas, nylons (rip-stop, ballistic, and Kodra), leather, denim, PVC, polyester, polypropylene, and Cordura (which is made with recycled consumer products). And plastic. And many of these materials are virgin in nature which means they are extracted from the earth and then even more energy is used to turn raw materials into those suitable for a backpack.

That is why it is better to invest in a backpack that uses sustainably sourced materials, like recycled plastic, organic cotton, repurposed nylon and denim, and upcycled rubber. And a number of the companies give back to the earth by planting trees, giving to 1% for the Planet, removing single-use plastics from waterways, and/or funding renewable energy. We can’t think of a better way to practice your and your child’s eco-friendly lifestyle than with a sustainable backpack.

11 Sustainable Backpack Brands (in alphabetical order)

Alchemy Goods is a Certified B Corporation that upcycles old materials like bicycle tubes and advertising banners from around the United States into bags and accessories. The company makes all of its products in Seattle, Washington.

Another Certified B Corporation, Day Owl claims to be the first completely circular bag company. Their website says, “Most bags end up in a landfill. Ours start there and never go back.”  Their products are built from recycled plastic and other waste that is then repaired or refurbished. They give customers the option of shopping new or shopping secondhand, and if you have an old bag you’d like to recycle, they will send you a free recycle kit so you can send them any brand of backpack that they will then make like new for someone else.

sustainable backpack
Source: Fluf

Fluf is a Canadian company that makes organic cotton lunch bags, snack bags, and backpacks that are sustainable and machine washable and “respect the people who make them, the people who use them, and the planet we all share.” All bags are ethically made by hand at a small, family run factory in India.

Fjällräven is a Swedish company that develops functional, durable, and timeless outdoor gear in a way that acts responsibly towards nature, animals, and people. They consider sustainability in their designs, in their materials (such as recycled wool, organic hemp, and recycled polyester, for example), and in their production. They offer a range of backpacks and laptop bags in a wide variety of colors. And these bags are built to last a lifetime.

Patagonia sells sustainable backpacks using recycled nylon and recycled polyester that were manufactured using fair trade practices in Vietnam and Taiwan. And for every backpack (and every item) Patagonia makes, you can easily see the items impact on the environment and humans, where it was made, and what is made from on the Patagonia website. You can also order previously used items from the Worn Wear section on the company’s website, which keeps sustainably made things from ending up in landfills.

Recover manufactures a drawstring backpack from recycled polyester and cotton (a 50/50 blend). This sustainable backpack is sleek and comes with black cording and the back in either tan, grey, black, or off-white in color. The company explains their process this way: “Recycled plastic is collected and sorted. Plastic is cleaned and chopped into flakes. Flakes are pelletized into chips and extruded into polyester. Polyester is blended with upcycled cotton fibers and spun into yarn. Yarn is knitted into fabric and then sewn…” in their manufacturing facility in North Carolina. Any apparel or accessories that are purchased from Recover contribute to their donation to 1% for the Planet.

Solgaard makes its sustainable backpacks from either upcycled ocean plastic or excessive fabric from a French luxury brand. The company is “plastic negative and carbon neutral” and they partner with projects that restore mangrove health, build eco-brick facilities in Indonesia, and by repairing and donating returned inventory to lengthen the lifecycle of their products.

Tentree is a Canadian-based company that combines repurposed factory waste, recycled bottles, and organic cotton to make their bags and backpacks durable as well as sustainable. The laptop sleeve in the backpack is made with repurposed algae foam. And for every product sold, Tentree plants ten mangrove trees.

sustainable backpack from Terra Thread
sustainable backpack from Terra Thread

Terra Thread’s website says their bags are “made with rain-fed organic cotton not fossil fuel-based polyester or nylon.” Their sustainable backpacks come in two sizes—regular and mini—and a range of gorgeous colors and fun patterns (bees and butterflies, anyone?)  Their backpacks are handmade in a fair trade certified factory in India and are shipped without plastic or excessive packaging. Their parent company (Gallant International) is a Certified B Corporation.)

Tiradia’s vegan and sustainable backpacks are made in Portugal from high-quality natural cork converted into fabric. Their backpacks come in a range of sizes and shapes, from streamlined to contemporary to smaller for “brunch”.  The company stresses that no trees are hurt in the process of extracting the cork for their products and that any plastic in their packaging is recycled in its origin. Their products may be better suited to older children than younger ones.

United by Blue says its products are “made of trash and fits everything.” Each Deadstock 9L Sidekick saves eight plastic water bottles from landfills and comes with a lifetime guarantee. It is made in Vietnam with a recycled polyester body and recycled nylon webbing and has a water-resistant finish. The backpack comes in beautiful color combinations and is an ideal size for most children except the smallest.

While this list of manufacturers of sustainable backpacks may not be exhaustive, it should point you in the right direction if you are exploring what to get your child this school year and how to support your values as well as show your love to your child and the environment. (And if you missed our blog about back to school shopping for sustainable shoes for children, it can be found here.)

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