Have you got your eye out for a new stylish and eco friendly backpack? Maybe you’re in the research phase for a sustainable backpack?
You’ve made it to the right place.
Whether you’re looking for a more eco backpack that you can take to work, out on a nature walk or use everyday, I’ve found 15 ethical and sustainable rucksacks that will do just the job.
There are some great eco backpacks on the market covering a range of sizes that have been created with the world and environment in mind. Let’s see which one is best for you.
- Quick list of sustainable backpacks UK
- How to choose an eco friendly backpack?
- 15 Best Sustainable Backpacks UK
- Why are backpacks bad for the environment?
- Wrap up on most sustainable backpacks UK
Please note, this blog does contain a few affiliate links. This comes at no cost to you but helps to go towards the running costs of this site. You can trust that all backpacks listed are here on merit.
Quick list of sustainable backpacks UK
To get you started straight away, here’s my quick list of some of the most ethical and sustainable backpacks I’ve found on sale. I come across many of the brands below whilst researching for my own backpack.
Research has been done on each of the brands below to check their green credentials. The list below is in no particular order.
- Stubble & Co
- Roka London
- Matt and Nat
- Willow Earth
- Etsy Sustainable Backpacks
You can find more details about each company and their rucksacks below.
How to choose an eco friendly backpack?
There a number of things to look out for when shopping for an eco-friendly backpack. Let’s take a look at some of the main areas.
The type of materials used perhaps has the largest environmental impact on a backpack.
The majority of rucksacks will contain plastic and lots of virgin materials. Good eco options when choosing a backpack include those that are made from:
- Recycled and reused materials – such as recycled plastic bottles
- Natural and renewable materials – such as cork, sustainable hemp, organic cotton
- No virgin plastic
- Vegan eco leather – none plastic variety
Transparent supply chain
Where does the common source their materials from? Is everything made somewhere in China or can you find out the specific factory information?
Fair wages and working conditions
This touches on the above point, but how are the workers treated in the manufacturing factories? Do they have access to good working conditions, a safe environment and paid fair wages?
A good quality, durable backpack is one that will last a number of years, even decades.
Quality needs to be high as backpacks are going to be thrown around, put on the ground and shoved in small spaces. The longer an item is used for, the lower its carbon footprint becomes as it saves you from purchasing another item.
Repair or takeback recycling scheme
Does the company offer a repair scheme for backpacks that suffer minor issues along the way?
Repairing an item is a great way to prolong its life, rather than throwing it away and buying new again. It’s one of the easiest ways to go green.
Some companies listed below will offer a takeback scheme so they can reuse and recycle parts of the bag that are still in good order.
15 Best Sustainable Backpacks UK
BearMade are a highly transparent and personal business based out of Yorkshire. They offer a lifetime guarantee on their products – that’s how much they believe in their quality! If they do happen to break, they have a free repair service.
Contrary to many businesses, they’re not interested in big growth and prefer to operate responsibly. In fact, their business can only produce 25 bags a week and are hand-made by master bag maker Amy. This means they have a small but well-formed range of sustainable backpacks.
BearMade are responsible with their materials too, using a mixture of GOTS organic cotton canvas (grown in India and dyed and finished in Lancashire), organic hemp and recycled wool from West Yorkshire. They offset their carbon emissions by planting trees themselves and via Ecologi – check out my Ecologi review here.
Based in the north-east of England, Wave are an environmentally conscious business who first started out providing eco-friendly phone cases.
Since expanding, they have a 18L roll top backpack made from recycled plastic material (RPET). Around 40 plastic bottles are used to make each backpack.
Wave support Surfers Against Sewage, use recycled cardboard for delivery and offset the carbon dioxide produced from shipping.
Use the code IXMJYI1 to get 10% off all orders over £50.
3. Stubble & Co
A British brand producing high quality, built to last backpacks for all aspects of travel and everyday life.
Alongside incredible functionality and style, Stubble & Co wanted to create a brand that upholds sustainable and ethical practices at each stage of the process.
In reality this means using recycled plastics, offering an in-house repair service, offsetting the carbon footprint of delivery, setting up in a carbon zero warehouse, and using 100% recyclable packaging.
Their sustainable Adventure Bag which looks fantastic is made from recycled post-consumer plastic.
Millican weave the needs of the environment into the backpacks they produce. Millican sell a range of sustainable rucksacks, daypacks, hiking bags and accessories.
All of the Millican core collection backpacks are made from 100% recycled plastic. Even the lining they use on the inside is 100% RPET and all verified using the Global Recycled Standard. They’re also transparent about where the different parts of the backpacks initially come from.
I’ve been using the core zip 15L and I’ve been seriously impressed. Read my Millican core zip backpack review here.
Patagonia are a B-Corp certified company that care about the environment. They have an environmental and social responsibility programme, and carefully measure their carbon footprint. They admit that 95% of their emissions comes from their supply chain and material manufacturing, which they are trying to improve.
Most of the Patagonia backpacks and rucksacks have good eco-friendly credentials. In particular, the Black Hole backpack (available in 25L and 32L sizes) is highly durable and made with 100% recycled fabric, lining and webbing. The body is made with 100% post consumer recycled polyester. This backpack is also Fair Trade Certified sewn.
Patagonia have a free repairs policy and you can send all products back to them for recycling. They have a good rating from Ethical Consumer magazine.
Hailing from Sweden, Fjallraven have become an iconic brand in the outdoor arena. They produce a wide range of sustainable backpacks using the eco version of their cornerstore material G-1000. This is a densely woven fabric using recycled polyester and organic cotton. Look out for their Vardag and Greenland backpacks, which use this material.
As a company they try to balance the functionality of a material with its environmental impact. Alongside recycled plastic, they also use recycled wool, organic hemp and Tencel. They don’t use PVC, angora wool and are fluorocarbon free.
7. Roka London
Headed up by founders Emma and Brett, Roka now operate a sustainable collection made from recycled plastic. Around 12-15 plastic bottles go into each of these bags.
These RPET bags – available as recycled nylon or recycled canvas – use 85% less energy, use 80% less water and 65% fewer emissions than traditional methods. The packaging is also biodegradable and made from a type of bioplastic.
As a company, their bags are ethically produced in socially compliant factories and are vegan friendly.
8. Matt and Nat
Matt and Nat aren’t two people – it stands for Material and Nature. Although starting in Canada, Matt and Nat are now available online and in boutiques in the UK.
They use different recycled materials in their eco backpacks, such as recycled nylon, cardboard, rubber and sustainable cork, and always use 100% recycled plastic bottles for the bag lining.
All of their backpacks are vegan and animal cruelty free.
9. Willow Earth
Willow Earth produce vegan friendly backpacks made from eco-friendly materials. The materials they use, such as cork, organic cotton and even Piñatex, are sustainable and ethical, and so is their treatment of workers and suppliers.
Willow Earth are based in East Sussex, with their backpacks made by sustainable trading partners in India. They use plastic-free packaging and also work with One Tree Planted to plant a tree for every rucksack sold.
As the name suggests, Corkor are experts in producing cork bags. From their workshop in the home of cork, Portugal, local artisans hand-craft the bags in small batches to then sell direct to consumer.
The company is run by couple Natalia and Vitor who were driven by a passion to create vegan products. I personally think cork oak is a phenomenal, renewable and highly sustainable material, which I discuss in great detail in this blog on is cork sustainable.
Tropicfeel situate themselves at the intersection of quality and sustainability. They ensure their suppliers are Bluesign certified, which means they’ve been vetted to provide safe and sustainable environments for workers.
In their sustainable backpacks they use recycled materials in the form of both pre and post consumer waste. This includes recycled nylon and polyester. Their bags look incredibly functional too, which is perfectly demonstrated with handy videos on their site.
GRÜNBAG are a Danish company producing green, sustainable rucksacks, sports bags and accessories. Their purpose is to create quality bags from environmentally friendly materials and waste products.
One of their most distinctive materials is tarpaulin, sourced from trucks and even used boat sails. GRÜNBAG also used recycled zippers from life rafts, seat belts from cars, recycled plastic and buckles. It really does show that there is so much value in waste and recycling.
Founded in California in the 1970s, Osprey are a global brand with a high reputation. They design and build fantastic, sustainable backpacks that last for decades.
Osprey use high end materials which are expensive, but for good reason. Because of this they also have an ‘All Mighty Guarantee’ to repair products rather than replace them. By Spring 2022, over 60% of their main body materials will use recycled content.
Where possible they use recyclable and recycled materials in packaging.
Tentree are a certified B corporation from Canada. They design and sell all sorts of apparel and outdoor gear, including eco-friendly backpacks.
The Tentree Mobius 35L backpack is made from 100% Repreve recycled polyester and produced in an ethically verified factory in Vietnam. For every item bought they plant 10 trees – yes, 10 trees – through tree planing partner Eden Reforestation.
15. Etsy Sustainable Backpacks
Marketplace Etsy have a great range of recycled and eco friendly backpacks available from independent sellers in the UK.
It’s definitely worth a look to see if anything takes your fancy.
Why are backpacks bad for the environment?
The majority of backpacks on the market are created using a mixture of different materials. As you know, this makes recycling efforts quite difficult as the different material types need to be separated out prior to recycling.
Not so environmentally friendly materials tend to include a mixture of non-organic cotton, nylon, leather, polyester, PVC and others.
What’s more, most of the materials used are virgin. This means they’re more energy intensive to create as they first need to be extracted from natural resources and manufactured.
A common part of the manufacturing process is to treat materials with chemicals, for things such as waterproofing, as well as synthetic dyes. Typical artificial waterproofing chemicals include PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances). These can also be known as PFC (polyfluorinated chemicals). There are thousands of these chemicals used on all sorts of products.
The bottom line is that PFAS are toxic to the environment and wildlife. They all contain carbon-fluorine bonds, which are incredibly strong. This means they resist degradation, don’t breakdown and persist in the environment. From here, they contaminate groundwater sources, as well as surface water and our all-important soil.
Wrap up on most sustainable backpacks UK
And there we have the best places to buy a sustainable backpack. As you can see, there’s plenty of choice!
It’s great to know that you can buy an ethical bag that has had minimal environmental and social impact. Yes most will come at a premium price, but it’s hoped they will last you for years and years.
Which one do you think you’ll go for?
Keeping reading more eco blogs …
I’m the Creator and Editor of Tiny Eco Home Life. I write and publish information about living a more sustainable, environmentally friendly life. Away from the laptop, I love spending time in nature and with my young family (plus Murphy the dog!). I write and send out the Eco Life Newsletter.