The Coolest Eco-Friendly Backpacks Made of Recycled, Renewable, and Surplus Materials

These eco-friendly backpacks are made of recycled plastic, renewable hemp, surplus fabric, and more ethically sourced materials.


May 8 2024, Published 11:56 a.m. ET

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Call it a knapsack, rucksack, or book bag—there are as many names for a backpack as there are ways that eco-friendly brands are reinventing the backpack.

Today's product designers are using all avenues available to reimagine this schoolyard staple, sourcing surplus fabric from factories, commissioning hemp artisans in the Himalayas, and even pulling plastic pollution from the oceans and transforming it all into very chic and ergonomic bags that are ideal for commuters, college students, campers, and beyond.

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6 Best Eco-Friendly Backpacks

Best for Work: Tiradia Cork Contemporary Commuter Cork Backpack ($180)

Best for School: Jansport Restore Pack ($55)

Best for Everyday: Targus 15-16" Zero Waste EcoSmart Backpack ($60)

Best for Hiking: Cotopaxi Batac 24L Backpack Del Dia Backpack ($90)

Best Compact: GOT BAG Daypack ($89)

Best for Back Pain: Ruana Hemp Backpack ($50 at Amazon)

There are pioneering brands like GOT BAG and even icons like Jansport getting into the game. A lot of eco-friendly backpacks are handmade and sold by brands that ensure fair labor conditions, and these same brands are involved in initiatives to help clean up the planet while responsibly producing stuff we all use and need. In tracking down these backpacks, we ended up getting an education on the impressive, evolving bag-making industry. Check out our top picks below.

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Tiradia Cork Contemporary Commuter Cork Backpack

Did you know that Portugal is the largest producer of cork in the world? This vegan commuter backpack is handmade by Portuguese artisans using this 100 percent renewable material that's naturally waterproof, antimicrobial, and biodegradable. It's also pretty strong, so go ahead and back up this bag with everything you need for the work day, including sliding a 15-inch laptop into the sleeve inside. EarthHero ensures fair labor practices and ships its products in recycled packaging.

$180 at EarthHero

Jansport Restore Pack

Remember this throwback? Jansport hasn't gone anywhere; they've only gotten better, incorporating sustainable practices and eco-friendly materials into their famous backpacks. Students can set off in this pack from the Restore line, which is made using recycled waste fabric, 100 percent surplus webbing and cording, and 100% recycled polyester labels. There's a sleeve inside that fits a 15-inch backpack, a side pocket for a water bottle, and partially EVA foam for comfort.

$55 at Jansport
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Targus 15-16" Zero Waste EcoSmart Backpack

Looks like your typical, everyday backpack, huh? Surprise: it's made of 20 recycled plastic bottles! The Targus ZeroWaste EcoSmart Backpack also has two side pockets to stash your water bottles (the reusable kind, of course). Outer pockets and an inner sleeve that fits a 16-inch laptop round out this spacious bag made entirely from recycled materials.

$60 at Targus

Cotopaxi Batac 24L Backpack Del Dia

Hikers, here's an eco-friendly backpack made entirely of excess rip-proof nylon fabric proudly handpicked by Cotopaxi factory workers in the Philippines, meaning each handcrafted bag is one of a kind. The bright, lightweight pack is perfect for hikes, camping trips, waterparks, and any kind of active excursion.

$90 at Cotopaxi
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GOT BAG Daypack

If you're looking for a sleeker, more compact backpack, strap on the space-saving GOT BAG Daypack, a structured, five-inch-deep pack that weighs a little more than a pound. The vegan bag is made top-to-bottom of recycled materials, including plastic waste retrieved from the ocean. It's water-repellent, padded for comfort, and it's the ultimate city-chic look. Just wipe off the grime with a damp cloth, and you're good to go.

$89 at GOT BAG

Ruana Hemp Backpack

Real talk: if you love the convenience of a backpack but chronic back pain has you thinking twice, pick up this pack made entirely of hemp, a renewable fabric known for being incredibly lightweight. Ruana uses hemp sourced directly from the Himalayas in Nepal, and your purchase of this hand-stitched, boho beauty helps create jobs for Nepalese artisans.

$50 at Amazon
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