11 Best Recycled, Sustainable Backpacks of 2022

The school year is back in full swing, and many students are returning to in-person classrooms for the first time in a year and a half, so why not give them a fresh start with one of 2022’s best sustainable backpacks?

In 2018 alone, 11.3 million tons of textiles wound up in U.S. landfills. Those fabrics account for 7.7% of all municipal landfill waste.1 Making matters worse, many textiles, including backpacks, are produced with unethical labor practices using materials that harm people and the planet.

Choosing consciously-made goods that last longer without going to the dump is a great way to start reversing that waste.

Two people using sustainable backpacks in 2021.

Best Recycled Sustainable Backpacks Reviewed

1

Best Recycled Backpack: Dakine

Not only are these backpacks recycled, they’re made without harmful PFC chemical treatments.

2

Best Sustainable Backpacks and Sustainable Laptop Bag: Solo New York

Beautiful style and eco-conscious materials make this combo unbeatable.

3

Best Eco-Friendly Backpack for Kids: State

The coolest colors and styles from a certified B Corporation

4

Best Sustainable Backpacks and Environmentally Friendly Backpack Accessories (Cool Stuff): Solgaard

Incredible versatility and travel essentials that will last for decades.

5

Best Ethical Backpacks and Fair Trade Backpacks: Terra Thread

Organic materials and carbon Neutrality make this sustainable backpack brand a winner!

6

Best Organic Backpack Options: United By Blue

Completely organic certified combined with gorgeous looks.

7

Best Outdoor Backpack: Fjallraven

Designed for any adventure, this backpack is made for equipment.

8

Best Recycled Material Backpack: Patagonia

Recycled nylon and polyester is a staple for day hikers.

9

Best Climate Neutral Backpack: Cotopaxi

Certified climate neutral across the entire supply chain.

10

Best Locking Backpack: Kathmandu

Initiatives that are designed to eliminate waste.

11

Best Zero Waste Backpack: grünBAG

Initiatives that are designed to eliminate waste by using recycled materials.

Top Sustainable Backpack Brands and Backpacks Made from Recycled Material

With tons of plastic and textiles going to waste, why not put some of that material to good use? Brands are discovering inventive ways to transform old polyester, cotton/canvas, leather, and nylon into recycled backpacks. These sustainable backpacks help people and the environment with resourcefulness and style.

1
Dakine: Best Recycled Backpack

Dakine sustainable backpack floral print.
Name: Campus 25L
Price: $$
Eco-Friendly Sustainable Backpack Material: No PFCs, recycled materials
Rating: 5 out of 5

Why We Love These Sustainable Backpacks

For every person and occasion, Dakine offers a range of backpacks made from recycled materials. They are a trusted brand for both casual and specialized sustainable gear.

The Campus backpack comes in a wide selection of colors and modern designs. The 25L bag is perfect for school and travel and affordable at just $55. Keep everything organized in the Campus’s many compartments, including a laptop sleeve and an insulated pocket for food and drink. A water repellant finish keeps all your belongings dry without the worry of PFCs.

What are PFCs?

Most water repellent products use a coating of surfactants called perfluorinated compounds or PFCs. These nasty surfactants get into water supplies and build up in the human body, causing a host of serious health problems.2

But Dakine customers can rest assured that the company uses safe and bluesign® approved PFC-free materials.

2
Solo New York: Best Sustainable Backpacks and Sustainable Laptop Bag

Solo New York sustianable backpacks, grey.
Name: Re:solve
Price: $$
Eco-Friendly Sustainable Backpack Material: 100% Recycled and Biodegradable
Rating: 5 out of 5

Why We Love These Sustainable Backpacks

From products and packaging to sustainability initiatives, Solo New York goes the extra mile in environmentally friendly backpacks and more. Everything is 100% recycled and biodegradable, and every purchase plants a tree through the National Forest Foundation.

The Re:solve recycled backpack made from recycled PET bottles uses 50% less energy, 20% less water, and causes 60% less air pollution than the average backpack. The $46.99 Re:solve is fashionable, affordable, and sustainable. It fits 11’’x15’’ Macbooks and other laptops up to 11’’x15.6.”

Companion Laptop Sleeve

Solo New York covers sleek and sustainable laptop bags, too. The popular Re: focus recycled PET padded laptop sleeve comes in 11.6’’ for just $26.99 and 13.3’’-15.6’’ for $28.99.

3
State: Best Eco-Friendly Backpacks for Kids

State Bags sustainable backpacks, tie-dye print.
Name: Mini Kane
Price: $$$
Eco-Friendly Sustainable Backpack Material: Certified B Corporation, 90% Recycled polyester, Non toxic
Rating: 5 out of 5

Why We Love These Sustainable Backpacks

Sending the kids to school with eco-friendly backpacks by State also sends school supplies to families in need. A certified B Corporation, State crafts ethical backpacks in countless whimsical designs to make any kid excited for the new school year.

Their Mini Kane eco-friendly backpacks for kids are made from non-toxic materials and 90% recycled polyester. Inevitable messes are no problem. Mini Kane’s exterior and lining are both easy to wipe clean. A convenient front compartment fits keys, pencils, and more. Adjustable straps make the bag small enough for little ones yet big enough to store an 11’’ laptop.

All the fun colors and patterns make each Mini Kane bag look one of a kind already, but State provides an extra personalized touch. Customize it with initials and adorable graphics. The $75 price tag might be a bit more than most people anticipate spending for back-to-school. But it helps to know that each purchase sends a child in need to school with a backpack and supplies.

What is a B Corporation?

A certified B Corporation is a ‘benefit’ designated corporation with legally defined goals to help communities, workers, and the environment.3

4
Solgaard: Best Sustainable Backpacks and Environmentally Friendly Backpack Accessories (Cool Stuff)

Solgaard sustainable backpacks green.
Name: Lifepack Endeavor
Price: $$$$
Eco-Friendly Sustainable Backpack Material: Shore-Tex
Rating: 5 out of 5

Why We Love These Sustainable Backpacks

Solgaard works alongside The Plastic Bank to remove five pounds of plastic from the ocean for every purchase. They make their backpacks entirely out of ocean-bound plastic.

Meet the perfect travel companion. The Lifepack Endeavor made of Solgaard’s unique Shore-Tex™ fabric comes with an award-winning travel accessory. To effortlessly organize a week’s worth of clothes, an ingenious portable closet folds inside the backpack and expands to hang up at the destination. Four secret pockets hold cards or a passport for safekeeping, and the bottom of the bag is water-resistant.

The Workzone section features drop-proof laptop storage, anti-wrinkle paper storage, and cable space. The Endeavor also has a side strap, so it can optionally carry like a suitcase. Its size is adjustable as well. At 30L compacted, this nifty sustainable backpack expands to a roomy 35L. The $225 might sound like a lot before realizing that the revolutionary Lifepack Endeavor may be the last backpack you ever need.

More from Solgaard

Unstoppable versatility from Solgaard goes far beyond backpacks. Explore exciting eco-friendly accessories, including a sharp-looking wallet, flexible hanging toiletry kit, and an everyday Dopp kit that holds toothbrushes upright on the bathroom counter.

The 3-in-1 Solarbank Boombox made with Shore-Plast is a game-changing Bluetooth speaker/power bank. It supplies devices with multiple charges, all in a drop-resistant, waterproof package. Some of Solgaard’s other bags fit the Solarbank Boombox flush into the outside of the bag to charge the solar power along your journey.

5
Terra Thread: Best Ethical Backpacks and Fair Trade Backpacks

Terra Thread sustainbale backpacks bright organe.
Name: Earth Backpack
Price: $$
Eco-Friendly Sustainable Backpack Material: Organic Cotton, Carbon neutral, plus eco-friendly packaging
Rating: 5 out of 5

Why We Love These Sustainable Backpacks

Another certified B Corporation, Terra Thread creates ethical backpacks that are colorful, multipurpose, and green. Their certified fair trade backpacks are also organic and carbon-neutral with eco-friendly packaging.

Terra Thread’s simple fair trade Earth backpack is a reliable staple. The standard size measures 16’’x12’’x5’’, and the mini version can double as a sustainable backpack purse. The brand’s heavy-duty cotton is GOTS certified and durable enough to hold up under daily use. The $65 price tag is small to pay for a quality fair trade backpack that saves considerable water and emissions while reducing pesticide use. Plus, for each purchase, Terra Thread donates 40 meals to families.

What Is Ethical and Fair Trade?

Labor is incredibly cheap in many developing countries due to economic factors and lack of regulation or human rights protections. So it is prevalent for companies to grow, manufacture, package, and handle products using unfair labor practices, including child labor. Ethical and certified fair trade companies commit to providing ethical working conditions, guidelines, and wages to their workers.4

6
United by Blue: Best Organic Backpack Options

United by Blue sustainable backpacks, yellow.
Name: 13 L Workwear Knapsack
Price: $$$
Eco-Friendly Sustainable Backpack Material: 100% Organic cotton, Recycled polyester
Rating: 5 out of 5

Why We Love These Sustainable Backpacks

United by Blue uses ethical manufacturing and sustainable materials such as recycled polyester, organic cotton, and vegetable-dyed leather. Their Waterway Cleanup Program removes one pound of trash from the ocean for every product bought.

Functional and chemical-free, the 13L Workwear Knapsack comes from a certified organic factory in India. The $128 organic bag brings practicality, looks, and value with brass hardware and vegetable-tanned leather zipper pulls.

United by Blue builds this organic backpack to last and secures it with a lifetime guarantee. So it won’t let you down and lead to extra purchases later on. Conserving water and energy, the GOTS certified 100% organic cotton originates from a gentle growing process that preserves the integrity of the soil and air. Cotton also makes the Workwear Knapsack easy to clean and impressively durable.

What Is GOTS Organic Certification?

Organic certification for textiles strictly ensures that growing the fibers does not involve genetically modified seeds or synthetic chemicals such as fertilizer and pesticides. Endorsed by the USDA and used in 68+ countries, GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) is a private standard for organic textiles. It specifies post-harvest processes from spinning, knitting, and weaving, to dyeing and manufacturing.5

More Sustainable Hiking Backpacks and Zero Waste Backpacks

7
Best Outdoor Backpack: Fjallraven

Fjallraven sustainable backpacks blue.
Name: Kajka 65 (65L)
Price: $$$$$
Eco-Friendly Sustainable Backpack Material: 100% Organic cotton, Recycled polyester
Rating: 5 out of 5

Why We Love These Sustainable Backpacks

The sustainable hiking backpack brand Fjallraven delivers premium outdoor gear. Fjallraven has a proud focus on ethical labor practices and sustainability through highly durable products that stand up to intense wear and tear. The $375 price tag is pretty expensive, but experienced adventurers know the importance of carrying heavy equipment comfortably. Kajka 65 (65L) has an adjustable, supportive ergonomic design for peak functionality on trails. Free from fluorocarbons, this hiking pack is still water-resistant and quick-drying.

8
Best Recycled Material Backpack: Patagonia

Patagonia sustainable backpacks yellow and blue.
Name: 30L Snowdrifter
Price: $$$
Eco-Friendly Sustainable Backpack Material: 100% recycled polyester and nylon
Rating: 5 out of 5

Why We Love These Sustainable Backpacks

It’s no wonder that fans of the outdoors are looking for sustainable hiking backpacks. Patagonia actively works towards more sustainable practices by minimizing water, energy, and trash, and donating to natural preservation and restoration. Additionally, they aim to eliminate PFCs, and their Worn Wear program handles repairs, trade-ins, and used gear. The 30L Snowdrifter pack is 100% recycled polyester and nylon and a good deal for $169.

9
Best Climate Neutral Backpack: Cotopaxi

Cotopaxi sustainable backpacks green, red.
Name: 20L Tarak
Price: $$$
Eco-Friendly Sustainable Backpack Material: Repurposed materials
Rating: 5 out of 5

Why We Love These Sustainable Backpacks

Certified B Corporation Cotopaxi has achieved climate-neutral certification by offsetting all carbon emissions across its supply chain. The sustainable brand also offers used gear trade-ins and repurposed products. At just $100, their 20L Tarak is multi-functional and lightweight.

10
Best Locking Backpack: Kathmandu

Kathmandu sustainable backpacks green.
Name: 28L Litehaul
Price: $$$
Eco-Friendly Sustainable Backpack Material: Blusesign approved nylon and polyester
Rating: 5 out of 5

Why We Love These Sustainable Backpacks

Kathmandu is a B Corporation using mindful materials and moving towards a zero-waste goal by 2025. Their 28L cushioned Litehaul pack is air travel friendly and made of bluesign® approved nylon and polyester. A lock on the main zipper safeguards any valuables.

11
Best Zero Waste Backpack: grünBAG

Grunbag sustainable backpacks red.
Name: 18L Liv
Price: $$$
Eco-Friendly Sustainable Backpack Material: Recycled materials, Zero waste
Rating: 5 out of 5

Why We Love These Sustainable Backpacks

A fully zero-waste philosophy guides this brand’s environmentally friendly bags that make a statement. grünBAG creatively transforms remnants of seatbelts, lifeboats, and advertising banners into eye-catching recycled and zero-waste backpacks. The 18L Liv is a fashionable and weatherproof bag for about $147.76.

Everything Else About Sustainable Backpacks

Don’t get overwhelmed with the sheer amount of options. Each environmentally friendly backpack brand has its own style, materials, and sustainability mission. Eco-friendly shopping means you want to find the perfect item for you and hang onto it as long as you can. So take your time, and consider what matters to you in a sustainable backpack before making up your mind.

What Is the Most Eco-Friendly Backpack Material?

That depends on what you mean by eco-friendly.

Synthetic materials like plastic, polyester, and nylon take a long time to degrade. There is so much of this type of waste accumulating, especially plastic. So recycling these synthetic materials into backpacks is a responsible move.

Buying new leather is not very sustainable. Processing and dying leather traditionally requires harsh chemicals. However, some brands use 100% recycled leather and non-metal or vegetable-based dyes. And leather degrades much faster than synthetic materials. Since leather is so durable when maintained, recycled, carbon-neutral leather-made backpacks can be quite sustainable.

Natural fibers like cotton/canvas, hemp, and banana fiber are biodegradable, so they do not disrupt the environment too much when thrown out. The brand Osprey integrates hemp blends into highly dependable sustainable backpacks. Unfortunately, plenty of natural materials are grown and manufactured using chemicals and shipped long distances. But backpacks made of organically grown, chemical- and PFC-free cotton, hemp, and banana fiber are easier on the environment over time, especially if they come from a carbon-neutral company.

Two people using sustainable backpacks in 2021.

How Big Should a Sustainable Backpack Be?

To be eco-friendly, it is best to buy something that will cover as many needs as possible. How big your backpack should be depends on your needs.

  • Do you need a sustainable backpack purse that will last? The Zem Mini by Terra Thread is 13″x 10.5’’x 4″, so any bag that size or smaller should do.
  • Do you need something casual for walking around or packing for a weekend? A backpack between 10 and 20 liters should do.
  • Are you carrying books, papers, binders, and a laptop around when commuting to school and work? Make sure you find something that matches the dimensions of your computer.
  • Are you traveling for longer trips? Know what size bag you are allowed to carry on to a flight. Other than that, shoot for at least 25-30L.
  • If you’re hiking or backpacking, the size you need for a sustainable backpack depends on the trip and all the equipment you need. Technical packs can be 60L and beyond. Fold-down bags and other backpacks with adjustable sizes can be like buying two bags in one. A backpack that compacts and expands to suit more functions is a smart choice

Can I Wash My Organic Backpack?

Always check any customer care tags or check with the brand itself for care instructions. Every product is different. Some organic backpacks are machine washable, and some are not. For a backpack that cannot go in the washing machine, you may be able to spot-clean it with a damp cloth.

Must-Have Items to Include in Your Sustainable Backpack Purse

Be prepared for every situation. Build a collection of quality environmentally-friendly accessories for your sustainable backpack purse with these suggestions:

  • Visit Solsgaard and Got Bag for cool wallets from recycled ocean plastic, and don’t forget a solar power bank to charge devices. For cute and ethical leather clutches and pouches, check out Parker Clay.
  • Qwstion and grünBAG carry small organic pouches perfect for toiletries, makeup, or pens and pencils. For ethical stationery, key covers and folios, shop Bellroy’s selection.
  • Protect your tablet with the professional-looking tablet case by Solo New York.
  • Anyone who carries along their camera will be pleased with PeakDesign’s camera accessories.
  • Every pattern and color scheme under the sun can be found at Baggu. Before running errands, find a couple of reusable shopping totes with bold personalities.
  • United by Blue has you covered for everything else with eco-friendly facemasks, hats, sunglasses, water bottles, and a reusable straw kit.

Best Sustainable Backpack Brands of 2022

Environmentally-friendly textiles were a niche market until recently. Now, earth- and people-conscious brands are out in force. Sustainability is overhauling the products we use every day to make a big difference, one little step at a time.

The best sustainable backpack brands of 2022 are making names for themselves by delivering on versatility and durability. Because when consumers buy products that last longer, they consume less overall, and that benefits the planet.

Backpacks accompany us through daily life and some of the toughest conditions. We stuff our whole lives into backpacks- heavy books, food, and valuables. We expose backpacks to the elements, sling them onto chairs and hooks, dump them onto car seats or the ground. They see crowded airports, subways, and buses. Sometimes they carry survival gear through the elements and rough terrain.

And while we know that we’re going to use backpacks over and over again, choosing one that is friendly on the planet can help you lower your emissions (don’t know your emissions, measure them with an ecological footprint calculator in minutes). You can also completely erase your emissions every year using tree planting offsets delivered by one of the best carbon offset providers.

But, whatever the perfect, eco-friendly backpack looks like for you, and whatever it carries, it has to last. So for school, work, weekends, adventures, and every day, choose from among these strong and sustainable backpacks, and you’ll be able to use it for years.


References

1US EPA. “Textiles: Material-Specific Data | US EPA.” US EPA, 30 July 2018, www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/textiles-material-specific-data.

2“Perfluorinated Compound.” Wikipedia, 29 June 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perfluorinated_compound#Environmental_and_health_concerns.

3“Benefit Corporation.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 31 Oct. 2019. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benefit_corporation.

4“Fair Trade.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 26 Feb. 2019. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_trade.

5“Organic Certification.” Wikipedia. 23 Sept. 2021. Web. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_certification#Private_organic_certification.

6Image Source: Dakine. Web. https://www.dakine.com/products/campus-25l-backpack?variant=39434982359120

7Image Source: Solo New York. Web. https://solo-ny.com/collections/re-cycled/products/re-solve-backpack?variant=39463920894038

8Image Source: State Bags. Web. https://statebags.com/products/mini-kane-recycled-poly-canvas-indigo-patchwork

9Image Source: Solgaard. Web. https://solgaard.co/collections/bags/products/lifepack-endeavor-backpack-with-closet?variant=39402832494765

10Image Source: Terra Thread. Web. https://terrathread.com/products/sustainable-backpacks?variant=39298327150676

11Image Source: United By Blue. Web. https://unitedbyblue.com/products/workwear-knapsack?variant=36539160461384

12Image Source: Fjallraven. Web. https://www.fjallraven.com/us/en-us/bags-gear/backpacks-bags/trekking-backpacks/

13Image Source: Patagonia. Web. https://www.patagonia.com/product/snowdrifter-ski-touring-pack-30-liters/48197.html?dwvar_48197_color=BLK&cgid=luggage-backpacks-technical

14Image Source: Cotopaxi. Web. https://www.cotopaxi.com/products/tarak-20l-backpack-del-dia

15Image Source: Kathmandu. Web. https://www.kathmanduoutdoor.com/gear/packs-and-bags/packs/litehaul-pack-28l.html?colour=386

16Image Source: Grunbag. Web. https://www.grunbag.eco/red-backpack-liv