Whether commuting to work or exploring the outdoors, pack up these sustainable backpacks and get going.
Got a case of wanderlust? Whether you’re pining for an excursion into the great outdoors or a jet-setting adventure to a destination vacation, a durable backpack is a must. And for those keen on exploring the world sustainably, there is now a myriad of brands offering rucksacks made from eco-friendly and recycled materials.
Sustainable backpack materials to look for
For those looking to leave no trace, the average backpack — which typically features pollutive and energy-intensive materials like PVC, polyester, and nylon — just won’t cut it.
So what should an eco-conscious shopper look for when shopping for sustainable packs? Considering that 85 percent of used packs wind up in landfills, it’s best to avoid backpacks that are made from synthetic materials like plastic and their derivatives such as nylon and polyester. Instead, opt for non-toxic and biodegradable backpacks made with natural materials like organic cotton and hemp are a more favorable option.
And while post-consumer materials like plastic still have an environmental impact—for example, recycled polyester can still shed in the washer — packs made with recycled materials do help minimize the resources required to make new packs.
Not sure what to do with an old backpack? Consider donating it to your local youth center or thrift store. There are also a number of backpack recycling programs that you can send in your old packs to, including TerraCycle and Patagonia’s Worn Wear initiative. The latter aims to reduce the carbon, waste, and water footprint of recycled products by 82 percent.
Sustainable backpacks to shop
Whether you’re looking for a knapsack to get you through your hiking adventures or a pack to hold all of your daily essentials, these sustainable backpacks are equal parts functional and fashionable. And be sure you know the ten essentials to take with you on any hike.
1. Nike Energy Backpack
It has plenty of pockets, need we say more? Made in part with recycled materials generated from production waste, this pack comes in six different colors. Throw in your water jug and energy bars for an outdoor trek or use it to carry all of your gym sesh essentials.
2. Everlane ReNew Transit Backpack
You’ll want to ditch your purse for this sleek pack. The travel-friendly backpack is made from 100 percent recycled polyester and plastic bottles. Dyed with Bluesign®-approved dyes, it’s water-resistant for all of your outdoor adventures.
3. Cariuma JJ Backpack
Known for its sustainable sneakers, this brand’s JJ Backpack will help you get from class to work and everywhere in between. (And if you’re in the market for new kicks, the company plants two trees for every pair of shoes sold.)
According to the company, it’s “your everyday bag, reimagined consciously.” Large enough to fit a 13 to 17-inch laptop, the backpack is made with recycled materials, including recycled nylon, post-consumer plastics, and recycled production plastic waste, from Global Recycled Standard-certified sources. Pack it, zip it closed, and go.
4. Terra Thread
Vegan, Fair Trade certified, and carbon neutral, this company has just about any bag of your fancy, from duffel bags and tote bags to pencil cases and fanny packs. The brand’s collection of backpacks features a number of styles—including the Semi Mini Backpack and the Zem Mini Backpack, which are made from organic cotton canvas.
For a sleek carry-on or a pack to get you through a busy school day, shop the Earth Backpack. Ethically made in a Fair Trade-certified factory, the pack features two water bottle sleeves and a large compartment to store all of your essentials.
5. Topo Designs Classic Daypack
For a classic pack, shop Topo Designs. Stylish yet functional, the everyday backpack is made with 100 percent recycled nylon. Topo’s timeless styling and durable build makes packs like the Rover Pack Classic iconic.
6. Patagonia Refugio Daypack
Made with 87 percent recycled materials, including recycled polyester and nylon, this Fair Trade-certified daypack is great for any outdoor adventure. Plus, it’s available in a variety of colors—green, classic navy, red, teal, black, and more. And there’s more reason than ever to support Patagonia following the announcement that the company is now owned by an environment-focused trust.
7. REI Co-op Ruckpack
Founded in 1938, outdoor gear brand REI has prioritized sustainability in recent years, committing to going zero-waste and sourcing more eco-friendly materials, including recycled fabrics, organic cotton, and modal. (Although the company does use leather and wool sourced from responsibly managed farms, it does not use alpaca wool, angora, mohair, exotic leathers, and fur. The brand has also eschewed unsustainable materials like PVC from its apparel and camping products.)
REI’s own brand of outdoor gear, REI Co-op, allows customers to trade in gently used gear in exchange for store credit, keeping products out of landfills. For all of your hiking needs, shop the brand’s ruckpack, which features recycled ripstop nylon and polyester.
Looking for more sustainable hiking essentials? Click here for more eco-friendly products to shop, from hiking boots and navigation tools to water bottles and headlamps.
Related on Ethos: