The Ultimate Guide to Ethical and Eco-Friendly Work and School Backpacks and Rucksacks

The Ultimate Guide to Ethical and Eco-Friendly Work and School Backpacks and Rucksacks

You’re here because you’re looking to beat the back to school rush and want to get super organised for the year ahead. Whether you’re after a stylish backpack for work or college, or a school bag for your kid(s), here is a comprehensive list of ethical and eco-friendly backpacks for school and work that we hope makes shopping that much easier.

1. Bellroy Classic Backpacks

Bellroy is a certified B Corporation that responsibly produces minimalist backpacks that are designed to be loved and to last. Made from high-quality materials such as premium leather (that is gold-rated by the Leather Working Group) and other durable materials, Bellroy’s backpacks are ethically manufactured using sustainability Cradle-to-Cradle design principles. Each backpack is available in classic and appealing colour combinations and comes with a three-year warranty for customer peace of mind.

These backpacks are for the design-conscious or fashion-conscious. Price starts at US$119. Browse their backpack range here.

2. tentree Eco-Friendly Backpacks

This sustainable apparel brand is kicking goals on many fronts: tentree holds a B Corp certification which is evidence of the brand’s high standards of social and environmental performance; it plants ten trees for every item purchased and aims to plant 1 billion trees by 2030 (so far 25,357,890 have been planted) uses eco materials such as REPREVE® fabric which is made from recycled plastics and to top it off, the brand ethically manufactures its products.

Its range of backpacks are hardwearing, affordable and ideal for students. Price starts at US$65. Browse their backpack range here.

3. Tale of the Future Rolltop Backpack

Handcrafted by artisans in Nepal, this vegan Tale of the Future Rolltop Backpack is made of 100% canvas and is lined and filled with completely natural fibres such as cotton and jute. It is also coloured with AZO-free dyes and features adjustable shoulder straps, internal and external pockets and a 6″ compartment for your laptop. This eco backpack contains zero materials derived from animals.

Price £118.00. Get this stylish backpack from Mamoq here.

Tale of the Future Black Vegan Rolltop Ethical Backpack

4. United By Blue Backpacks

Creating a broad range of beautiful, practical and responsibly-made backpacks, United By Blue also holds a B Corp certification so customers can be confident that the brand meets high standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.

Many of the backpacks feature a laptop sleeve and different sized compartments and are versatile enough to use for school, work or weekend getaways.

Our picks? The Hudderton Canvas Backpack (pictured below) is a sleek, sturdy but not bulky backpack, ideal for those who prefer to travel in style. It features 100% organic waxed cotton canvas, padded straps for comfort, vegetable tanned leather bottom to withstand wear and tear, and a water bottle sleeve. The 30L Base Backpack (also pictured below) is another just-right design that comes in a wide range of designs and colours, and is made from 100% recycled REPREVE polyester.

Priced from US $128. Browse the entire range of ethical backpacks here.

5. Timbuk2 Backpacks and Knapsacks

This San Francisco-based bag company has been making backpacks fit for cyclists and active individuals since 1989. Timbuk2 produces backpacks that are made of high-quality durable materials so they’re built to last. That the bags come with a lifestyle warranty is testament to the brand’s legendary craftsmanship and their faith in the longevity of their product.

These ethical backpacks are produced in the USA. We’re especially loving that the company offers a Bag Recycling Program so in the unlikely event that you want to part ways with your bag, don’t ditch it, hand it into them and they’ll even give you a discount for your next purchase!

Price starts at $129. Check out all the Timbuk2 backpacks here.

6. EST WST Ethical Backpacks

As its name suggests, EST WST is a brand that values cultures and the interconnectedness of the planet. Its fun and quirky backpacks are handcrafted by skilled artisans in Nepal, India and the United States, and designed for the modern consumer. The sustainably-made backpacks feature chemical and pesticide free materials such as organic canvas and organic cotton lining, recycled waterproof lining, vegetable-tanned leather, and incorporates expert techniques from artisan weavers and American garment workers.

Prices start from US$125. Click here to view their entire range of eco-friendly backpacks.

7. Kathmandu Eco-Friendly Backpacks

At the forefront of sustainability, Kathmandu has implemented a wide range of initiatives to minimise its environmental impact. From investment in research and development in microfibre pollutions, the use of innovative eco-friendly fabrics such as REPREVE a material made from recycled plastic content, through to shifting to a circular economy to minimise unnecessary waste, Kathmandu is a sustainable brand widely trusted.

The Cotinga 25L Pack pictured below is ideal for school, hiking and travel purposes, and made from recycled plastic too. Available in four colours: black, chilli pepper red, blue and moss.

Price A$53.98. Browse Kathmandu’s broad range of backpacks here.

Kathmandu Eco-Friendly Backpack for School and Travel

8. Terra Thread Organic, Fairtrade Backpack

This super affordable, casual backpack from Terra Thread is responsibly produced under Fair Trade certified conditions and is made of GOTS certified organic cotton. The company also uses GOTS certified dyes and the zippers and fasteners are lead-free.Comes in nine colours: cobalt blue, denim, espresso brown, charcoal grey, red, turquoise, olive green, sunshine yellow, and sand. The backpack measures H:17″ x W12″ x D:5″ and is ideal for school

Price US $26. Purchase it here.

9. TUMI Recycled Capsule Backpacks

Debuting its first ever sustainable luxury collection of backpacks last year, high end travel and accessories company TUMI launched its Recycled Capsule collection which features backpacks that are exceptionally designed, externally and internally. Featuring post-consumer recycled bottles and post-industrial recycled nylon, these stylish backpacks are ideal for work, school, travel and everywhere in between. Carry them around and you’re guaranteed to have people asking you, “Where’d you get your backpack from?”

Priced from A$650. Browse the Recycled Capsule collection here.

10. WAYKS Day Backpacks

For sophisticated, modular and functional backpacks that can transition from school/work to travel/play, the WAYKS Day Backpack is for you. Impeccably designed, the backpacks are made from polyester fabric derived from recycled PET bottles and manufactured in a Fair Wair Foundation recognised factory in Vietnam.

The Day Backpack is weatherproof, hidden bottle bocks, has a padded laptop compartment, internal organiser for documents and has removal back padding (if you prefer a sleeker, less bulky style).

Price starts at €189.00 (US$216). Purchase the backpack from the WAYKS website here.

11. Baggu Drawstring Backpacks

American owned, designed in California, ethically made in China, Baggu‘s canvas drawstring backpacks are cruelty-free and made from 65% recycled canvas. The brand audits the factories each year to ensure it complies with high labour standards. If you’re seeking a stylish, durable, cruelty-free multipurpose ethically-made backpack, Baggu is for you.

Price US $42. Available in a variety of patterns and colours. Browse the range here.

12. Fjallraven Backpacks

Swedish brand Fjallraven is an outdoor apparel company producing hardwearing, functional and stylish adventure clothing, outdoor equipment and travel accessories for men and women. Designed with nature and sustainability in mind, its range of backpacks are built to last, made of high-quality such as G-1000 HeavyDuty Eco a specially-made fabric blend of 65% polyester, 35% cotton that is durable. All materials used are stress-tested for climactic elements, environmental impacts and wear and tear.

The company is also a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and the Fair Labor Association and regularly visits our suppliers to ensure they are sticking to the brand’s strict code of conduct.

Backpack prices start from € 129.95 (US $148). Styles are available in a wide range of colours. Browse the entire backpack collection here.

13. Utility Canvas Classic Backpack

If you’re after a classic, cruelty-free backpack, this one by Utility Canvas will suit your day-to-day needs. Featuring 18 ounce canvas, a main compartment and front pocket, this simple school backpack is also ethically made in the USA. Dimensions 16″ x 13″ x 5″. Available in a variety of colours including navy, tan, white, orange and black.

Priced at US $108. Purchase at utilitycanvas.com.

14. Freitag Unique Backpacks

Since 1993, Freitag has been creating one-of-a-kind bags and travel accessories made from old truck tarp and used seat belts. The brainchild of brothers Markus and Daniel Freitag, both brothers and graphic designers who needed water-resistant backpacks that could withstand the Swiss climate and heavy rains, they came up with unique designs that were an instant hit with customers. Ideal for creatives and fashion lovers who prefer to stand out as bag is the same given the used materials it works with. In addition, the business only uses resources available within 2,500 kilometers of their factory.

There’s a variety of eco-friendly backpack styles to choose from. Prices start at CHF 203.70 (US $207). Browse the range: freitag.ch.

15. Patagonia Backpacks

This outdoor apparel company has been leading the way when it comes to the triple bottom line since 1984, prioritising people and planet before it became cool to do so. From its development of innovative eco-friendly materials, to its anti-consumerism ad campaigns, and ongoing donations to environmental projects, Patagonia‘s ability to put its strong ethics and values first has reshaped the way modern business has been done.

Consistently achieving awards and accolades for its progressive sustainability initiatives and its supply chain transparency, purchasing a Patagonia sustainable backpack is a no-brainer. Made to withstand sun, rain, hail or shine, the water-resistant backpacks are made from eco-friendly fabrics such as recycled nylon and manufactured responsibly.

Prices start at US$89. Check out Patagonia’s vast backpack collection here.

16. Millican Sustainable Backpacks

For minimalistic backpacks and rucksacks for your everyday needs, Millican‘s responsibly-made sustainable backpacks are the way to go. Made from a hardy material called Bionic, a fabric blend featuring 38% cotton, 57% recycled polyester, 5% high-tenacity polyester, 100% paraffin wax impregnated, lined with 100% recycled polyester and leather trim, this backpack can go from weekday to weekend in a beat. Designed for a lifetime of adventure, the backpacks are ethically made by skilled garment specialists both in the UK and in Vietnam.

Backpacks come in a range of classic and trendy colours. Price starts £115.00 (US$147). Browse the entire Millican ethical backpack range here.

Millican eco friendly backpacks

17. House of Marley Backpacks

Known for their eco-friendly earphones, headphones and audio systems made with sustainable materials such as FSC™certified wood (from sustainably-managed forests), organic cork, recycled PET (from plastic bottles), House of Marley now produces a range of cool backpacks too.

Their eco-friendly backpacks come in a variety of styles and features REWIND™ fabric which is a durable material blend consisting of 30% reclaimed organic cotton, 30% reclaimed hemp and 40% recycled PET.

Price starts at just A$29.95. Backpacks come in a range of staple colours midnight, military or grey. Browse their entire collection of backpacks here.

House of Marley Lively Up Scout Eco-Friendly Backpack laptop

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Disclosure: All prices are correct at time of publishing. This curated list does not fully take into account all the ethical considerations that are unique to each individual. Before making a purchase, we encourage you to do your own research paying special attention to the supply chain and your own particular set of ethics. This list also includes affiliate links. Click here to read more about our policies.

Title image credit: Baggu

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