There’s no denying that backpacks have become an essential accessory for people at every stage of life – from elementary school students to college professors. In fact, the sales of backpacks is expected to generate more than $20 billion dollars by the year 2024.
However, many common backpacks are not very eco-friendly because they are manufactured using materials that are not sustainable or they don’t last very long. It’s easy to understand why. Backpacks generally aren’t seen as an article of clothing but rather a utility item, like a hat or gloves. In other words, most people don’t pay much attention to their backpack unless they need to use it.
What is a sustainable backpack?
Sustainable backpacks are made using materials that are either recycled or made of natural fibers. They are also designed to last longer than most standard backpacks so that you will not need to replace them as often.
While buying sustainable backpacks will not eliminate the problem of over-production and growing landfill waste, it will help reduce the overall negative impact on the environment. With more businesses producing sustainable backpacks, buyers now have a wider selection of options and designs to pick from.
We’ve compiled a selection of the best stylish sustainable backpacks that are designed to last for many years and made from recycled and/or natural materials.
The best sustainable backpacks made from recycled materials
The REI Co-op Recycled Ruckpack 60+ pack consists of a 60-liter backpack and a 20-liter daypack that can be attached to the main bag for a total capacity of 80 liters. The shell is constructed of tough, recycled ripstop nylon.
The shoulder straps are lightly cushioned for extra comfort, with a strap harness that is adjustable to accommodate your upper body length. The rucksack includes a detachable rain cover, lockable zippers, and space for a tube from a hydration reservoir.
The REI Co-Op rucksack is the perfect sustainable backpack for school, work or outdoor adventures.
Activities: Daily Use, Travel
Capacity: 28 liters
Materials: Recycled nylon
Fabric is heavy-duty, rip-resistant recycled nylon
bluesign®-approved to be free of toxic chemicals
Ample storage and organization pockets
Easy-access side panels
Hydration system compatible
Daisy chain to attach gear
Load-lifters to securely position the backpack
Includes a rain cover so that you’re always prepared for unexpected bad weather
Looking for a pack that can tackle your daily grind? Look no further than the Osprey Archeon 24 Pack. This top-notch pack is built to traverse trails, streets, offices and everything in between.
Made from recycled nylon canvas with a PFC-free durable water repellent (DWR) coating that sheds moisture and stains, this pack is tough yet lightweight, making it perfect for daily use.
The wide-mouth, bucket-style main compartment opening with internal zippered mesh pocket provides plenty of storage for your daily essentials, and the internal padded laptop sleeve with organization and key clip ensures that your tech stays safe and secure.
Activities: Backpacking, Daily Use, Travel, Hiking
Capacity: 30 liters
Materials: Recycled fabrics
Sustainably crafted using Global Recycle Standard (GRS)-certified recycled materials
Made with high-performance, technical materials with the lowest environmental impact
bluesign®-approved free from toxic chemicals, verified by third-party labs
Clean, simple design that is adaptable to a wide variety of environments
Well-suited for hiking, traveling, and city commuting among other activities.
Fjallraven is devoted to sustainability, from initial product design to manufacturing and production. The company prioritizes lifespan, recyclability, utility, and simplicity while using natural and recycled materials. The Fjallraven code of conduct encompasses human rights, animal welfare, environmental protection, sustainable development, and anti-corruption.
Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering
Capacity: 38 liters
Material: Recycled Nylon
Made with high-performance, rip-resistant, waterproof Bergshell fabric
Optimized for mountain climbing
To date, Peak Design has sourced approximately 3 million water bottles of recycled plastic to be used for their outer backpack fabric with their partners at Repreve.
Activities: Daily Use, Travel, Photography
Capacity: 30 liters
Materials: Recycled polyester, Recycled nylon
Polyester and nylon fabric blend provides the best of both fabrics – durable, rip proof and water-resistant
Designed for ease of access, organization, expansion
bluesign® certified free of dangerous chemicals
Cotopaxi is committed to sustainability across all of its sustainable backpacks, and sources non-virgin and alternative materials for a large number of products. In addition, the company is transitioning to using 100% reused, recycled, and ethical materials by 2025.
Activities: Backpacking, Air Travel
Capacity: 35 liters
Material: Recycled fabrics
Includes a backpacking-style low-profile harness suspension system
Contoured shoulder straps
Air mesh back panel for ventilation
Adjustable sternum strap
Cushioned hip belt to evenly distribute weight and keep you comfortable
One-of-a-kind color combinations
Plenty of storage pockets
Perfect size for carry-on convenience
Activities: Hiking, Trail Running
Capacity: 17 liters
Materials: Recycled nylon, Recycled polyester
Lightweight, optimized for lengthy hikes and climbs
Includes a ventilated back panel and shoulder straps
Activities: Daily Use, Hiking, Fishing, Travel
Capacity: 29 liters
Materials: Recycled nylon
100 percent waterproof and submersible
Back panel and shoulder straps constructed with hydrophobic textiles that do not absorb or retain water
Sustainable Backpacks FAQs
How are backpacks recycled?
If your old backpack is still in usable condition, it can be donated to local charities like Out of the Closet or Goodwill.
If the backpack is not in working condition, it may be accepted at a local municipal or private recycling facility. Once delivered to the recycling station, the various parts of the backpacks are manually or mechanically separated. If possible, the cotton, fiber, plastics, and metals will be collected, separated and melted to produce other useful items.
What are eco friendly backpacks made of?
Eco-friendly backpacks are produced from renewable, biodegradable, and non-toxic materials. This includes both recycled and natural fabrics, including polyester, nylon, organic cotton canvas, and hemp. Sustainable backpacks are often of better quality and greater durability.
How many plastic bottles are used to make a sustainable backpack?
The number of recycled plastic bottles needed to created a new backpack depends on the size and capacity of the backpack. On average, 10 – 20 recycled plastic bottles are needed to produce a 15 liter – 17 liter capacity backpack.
How are sustainable backpacks made from plastic bottles?
The clear plastic PET bottles are collected and cleaned in the recycling sorting plant. The bottles are also soaked in acid to erase the labels.
The plastic bottles are crushed into little plastic flakes. The plastic flakes are melted into microscopic pellets.
The pellets are heated again, then extruded and spun into thread. The thread is woven into cloth and dyed. The cloth is sewn together to create a new backpack.
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