Whether you're 16, 36, or 56, you'll always find good use in a backpack — even if you aren't going back to school, you might be be embarking on a trip across the country, or simply downtown to your local coffee shop. And even though there are a handful companies out there that make cute backpacks, many are made cheaply, using unfair labor practices and unsustainable materials. That's why we've compiled a list of our favorite sustainable backpacks, so you can feel good about what you're schlepping.
Last year, Fjällräven debuted a brand new backpack called Tree-Kånken ($125). According to an exclusive press release sent to Green Matters, the new bag is made from Pine Weave, a bio-based material that comes from cultivated trees in Sweden. It's extremely durable (which means it's guaranteed to last you for years to come!) and it's designed like the company's other timeless-looking outdoor backpacks.
Adventurist Backpack Co.'s Adventurist Classic
Kelly Belknap founded Adventurist Backpack Co. with a mission to do good for families across the U.S. — for every backpack sold, according to a press release sent to Green Matters, the brand provides 25 meals to families in need nationwide, through Feeding America. The Adventurist Classic itself is super affordable, going for only $65, it's weather and water-resistant, and it's made with 1000D polyester and vegan leather.
Cotopaxi's colorful, light-weight backpacks are cute and eco-friendly — and while all of them are great, the Del Dia ($65) is our favorite. The company sources upcycled and alternative materials, and they pay close attention to every step in their supply chain, to ensure workers are treated and paid fairly. The company is also committed to making all products repurposed and recycled by 2025. The brand has so many awesome backpacks, and they're all incredible, so we highly suggest taking a look.
GOT BAG is an eco-friendly fashion company that's dedicated to making consumers aware of ocean plastic pollution. The company collects ocean plastic as bycatch, before cleaning it and processing it into a robust yarn, and eventually polyester. Each bag is estimated to recover about 9.9 pounds of ocean plastic, according to a press release sent to Green Matters, and the end product is super cool. For $99, the Daypack is where it's at.
tentree's Mobius 35L Backpack
Made from recycled polyester, tentree's Mobius 35L Backpack is made from very few virgin materials. The padding is made with BLOOM foam, which is harvested excess algae, and the zippers and buckles are made from upcycled factory waste — and as always, the company plants 10 trees for every purchase. It's $248 so the prices are steep, but it'll last you for years to come.
grünBAG's 18L Liv
grünBAG is a zero-waste Danish company that makes eco-friendly bags from upcycled seatbelts, lifeboats, and advertising banner. The 18L Liv is stylish and weatherproof, and although it's a little pricier than the other options on this list, going for about $147.76, it's totally worth it.
Osprey Fairview 40
The Osprey Fairview 40 pack is designed to fit a smaller person (fellow ladies, hollah!). It has an emergency whistle on the sternum strap, as well as a scratch-free pocket for glasses and phones. It's super lightweight, all the materials are vegan, and it's durable, which means you won't need to buy another one for a while.
Osprey is also good about helping with repairs and will send spare parts upon request, as the brand is all about maintaining the bag you already have. And it's on sale for $119 right now — a total steal.
Thrift a secondhand backpack
As always, we strongly suggest thrifting whenever you can. If you're lucky, you might find some high quality packs in the aisles of a Goodwill or Buffalo Exchange — if you need to find a thrift store near you, we have an ongoing list.