While backpacks are essential to anyone’s closet – they are versatile, can be dressed up or down- not all are free of animal components or respectful of animal welfare.
Fortunately, you don’t have to compromise on ethics just to get your hands on high-quality, ethically made vegan backpacks. There are now countless brands that offer vegan backpacks in different sustainably sourced fabrics such as apple skin, cork, and much more.
As usual, we can only recommend that you pick your new backpack from your local second-hand or vintage shop. Doing so is one of the best choices you can make for the planet, as explained repeatedly on our platform.
However, we understand that you might want to buy new from time to time, hence the importance to buy new items responsibly. Remember that together, as eco-conscious customers, we can cast a vote by buying from brands that design durable, cruelty-free, and nontoxic products.
Here are some of our top suggestions that embody more sustainable options within the vegan fashion industry today.
Terra Thread - USA
From organic farms to your arms, Terra Thread brings a unique value into the bag industry by doing things differently.
Founded by a dad and daughter duo, this brand seeks to shake things up and revolutionize the way we make bags from conventional petroleum-based production to more vegan, eco friendly, and sustainable options.
About The Bag
Terra Thread has two primary vegan backpack options in their collection. One for an everyday school backpack, and a smaller one fit for kids or casual use.
Although there are only two primary designs, these backpacks come in a wide variety of colors!
If you are buying a bag for school use, we would recommend the larger one as it has a laptop compartment—perfect for high school and college students. That said, the mini backpack isn’t much smaller. You can easily fit all your books and notebooks with some room to spare.
All Terra Thread backpacks are carbon neutral and you can even see which projects the carbon offsets are funding! Each backpack also saves hundreds of liters of water and avoids a significant amount of emissions.
These backpacks are made of heavy-duty 14 oz organic cotton canvas. Terra opts only for fair trade and organic cotton farmed ethically and sustainably by small-scale farmers. And by purchasing this bag, you are helping the cotton industry become more sustainable by opting for items with better environmental and social outcomes.
If you’re interested in learning more about Terra’s partnership with Fair Trade, everything you need to know is right here.
What’s more is that all of the brand’s products are made abiding by GOTS standards. Their bags are made with excellent quality certified organic cotton farmed in accordance with the strictest regulations. Read more about GOTS here.
All Terra products are 100% vegan and contain no animal or animal by-products.
Apart from the materials themselves, Terra also ensures that their products are made ethically and sustainably. Their bags are produced in a Fair Trade factory where all workers are given fair, living wages and work under safe and healthy working conditions.
Workers in the factory receive benefits such as (but not limited to) childcare facilities, medical programs, insurance policies, among many others.
Terra also makes sure to give back to the community by supporting hunger relief operations. Each backpack purchase is equivalent to 40 meals donated to American families through nationwide food bank networks.
Luxtra - London
This London-based business has been committed to making a positive change in fashion since 2018. They produce luxury items that don’t come at the high price of animal lives.
They are a B-certified corporation. Luxtra promotes responsible production and consumption by making sustainable luxury treasures that stand the test of time.
About The Bag
Their Farrell backpacks come in four distinct colors. Silver, black and blue, burgundy, and black, all elegantly assembled.
We personally adore the backpack in its burgundy shade. You can wear this backpack to work, school, or any casual day out.
It can fit a 13″ laptop along with A4-sized documents, so there’s enough room for all your essentials.
The backpack features a main compartment and a smaller zippered pocket in front. Inside the main compartment are further pockets that you can use to compartmentalize your belongings. There is an additional zippered pocket inside as well.
The laptop sleeve and pocket sliders are perfect for storing all your electronic accessories. As for the hardware part, it is made of brass.
Overall, the sleek design of this backpack is what makes it so great. The style is simple, yet you can see its elegance.
Farrel is yet another backpack that is made from AppleSkin. This Italian leather is a lovely sustainable alternative to conventional leather.
The AppleSkin used in this backpack is approximately 20-30% apple waste. Using this bio-based fabric is a great way to reduce food waste and use fewer virgin materials. Even better, the manufacturer of AppleSkin targets to be fully circular in the near future!
However, although it is bio-based, AppleSkin is still not fully biodegradable due to the other materials used to finalize the fabric.
The inner lining is made from deadstock fabrics. This allows Luxtra to upcycle fabrics that would have otherwise been discarded.
They are very transparent about how they source their Italian apple leather and even disclose prices. A way of conducting business that we appreciate reading here.
One of the best things about using AppleSkin is that it’s made in Italian workshops that are only around 6 km away from where Luxtra produces its bags. This reduces the carbon footprint of their production process, making it overall more eco friendly.
Luxtra is dedicated to providing its customer base with quality luxury options that do not harm animals as well as the earth.
This practice is apparent in their variety of materials that include pineapple, mango, corn, apple, and cactus.
Their supply chain transparency is close to impeccable. You can read the full details here, and here are the highlights;
All their accessories are made in Italian workshops that they visit regularly. They source their raw materials from all over the world, such as the Philippines and Mexico.
They have taken the necessary due diligence to ensure that their supply chain is free from modern slavery. They especially focus on building relationships with brands that also align with their core values.
Luxtra also gives back to the community, which led them to donate over 3% of their revenues in 2020 to various environmental and social causes, such Color Of Race – one of the largest Americam racial justice organisations
Von Holzhausen - USA
A vegan lifestyle brand from an award-winning designer, von Holzhausen creates beautiful pieces that come at no ethical cost or compromise.
With the focus on adding value to the world, all their items are vegan, ethically made, eco-conscious, low waste, non-toxic, among many other qualities.
About The Bag
Holzhausen offers bags in plenty of categories. Among those, they have a vegan backpack selection with three designs you can choose from and plenty of color variation.
Their Mini Backpack in Cherry Red is a personal favorite. The simple and streamlined design paired with the pop of luscious red is perfect for making an impression.
The main compartment has a snap closure for easy access. There is also a large front pocket and a small compartment at the back of the bag. The interior has a zipper closure as well.
It is lightweight, and the straps are adjustable so the bag can rest comfortably on your shoulders, depending on your preference.
The entire bag stands at 11″ tall and 9″ and is also available in other colors like caramel brown, stone grey, and black.
The price of these bags is quite high, so they’re not the most budget-friendly vegan backpack. But if you have the wiggle room for it, the quality is really worth the cost.
The main material of this vegan backpack is Technik leather. It is a special kind of vegan leather that is derived from recycled plastic bottles.
The fabric itself is scratch, stain, and water-resistant, which is incredibly helpful, especially if you’re using it as an everyday backpack.
This particular leather has a significantly lower environmental footprint than conventional animal leather and even some low-quality vegan leather options like PVC.
Technik leather feels like real leather, just without the price of life. It even becomes softer overtime, just like the real thing.
It’s also half the weight of conventional leather, and it’s fairly easy to clean.
Von Holzhausen relies on their Conscious Code to guide them in making products that last and are good for the planet. Here’s a quick rundown of the standards they follow:
- Vegan & Animal-Friendly
- Low Carbon Footprint
- Fair Wages & Transparent Pricing
- Minimum Waste
- Recycled & Up-cycled
It might seem like a long list, but they have done an excellent job of putting out products that match their expectations.
However, the company does not disclose a very detailed list of where their bags are made – they simply indicate that their core collection is made in the U.S. and Italy.
Additionally, they give back 10% of their proceeds to a non-profit organization of their choice. Most of their partners are within their community.
Corkor - Portugal
Making bags and accessories specifically from cork, Corkor is a fully vegan brand that aims to create quality vegan accessories.
Handmade in small batches right in their Portugal workshop, the owners get to oversee the entire production process and guarantee top quality bags.
About The Bag
While Corkor has plenty of accessories and wallets, they only have one backpack style. The design is quite feminine and not targeted towards men. When saying this, we try to describe products as best we can, even though what matters is that you feel comfortable wearing fashion accessories that match your identity regardless of who it is ‘made for’ on paper.
Their Cork Backpacks come in various colors, but our pick is the backpack in Zebra. It has a flap to access the main compartment and features an interior pocket and adjustable shoulder straps.
It’s a pretty standard product design with not much room for organization. However, the size should be able to fit everything you’d need for a day out.
The Zebra style almost gives the cork backpack a bit of a rattan effect. While that isn’t the intention, we think looks perfectly natural.
Since these vegan backpacks are made from cork, they aren’t colored uniformly, which gives the backpacks additional uniqueness and personality.
As is obvious at this point, the main material in this backpack is cork! Specifically, cork that is intended to be a sustainable vegan leather alternative.
Using cork is one of the best alternatives to leather because harvesting it does NOT require felling a tree. Once the outer bark of the cork oak tree is harvested, it grows back again. Making the harvest completely renewable and sustainable.
Of course, there are some people who are bound to abuse this. In that regard, Corkor ensures that their cork is certified. This means that the cork materials they use in production are sustainably and ethically sourced.
Corkor embodies what a vegan, sustainable, and environmentally responsible brand should look like. The material itself is already a major pro, but they’re also taking additional steps to become more eco friendly.
They source and manufacture all of their products locally in an attempt to become more environmentally efficient. On top of that, they use non-toxic inks, minimize the use of polyester, and use water re-utilization systems.
Best of all, their bags are meant to last. If you buy a backpack from them, they have a warranty of up to two years from purchase. But they’ll likely last for much longer than that.
All their bags are made in their Portugal workshops, where expert artisans work on them. They only produce handmade, small batches.
Nuuwaï - Germany
The ‘new way’ of fashion – nuuwaï believes that products can be even more beautiful if they are created ethically and consciously.
With the utmost respect for animals, humans, and nature, they only produce bags that are vegan, cruelty-free, earth-friendly, and crafted responsibly.
About The Bag
There are only two backpack designs available in Nuuwai. Both of them are chic and feminine, both functional and great for daily use.
But we think that Kim in Midnight Blue is our to-go pick. Kim is a medium-sized vegan backpack that is designed for everyday comfort. It can house all of your daily essentials and more, with its roomy compartments and versatile shape.
The backpack comes with gold hardware details that contrast beautifully with the dark blue color. There is one outer pocket and one inner, both of which have zippers.
The straps are adjustable to facilitate maximum comfort.
If you are looking for a backpack that you can use every day, then this one is a great choice. It’s comfortable, elegant, and is the perfect moderate size. Whether you are on your way to work or to school, this vegan backpack has you covered.
The main component of nuuwaï’s backpacks is apple leather. As described above, AppleSkin is an Italian plant-based leather alternative that is made from 50% apple waste and 50% polyurethane. Unfortunately, the PU parts make it not biodegradable.
AppleSkin is soft and imitates the look and feel of leather. For that reason, you should care for it properly. When you aren’t using it, make sure to stuff it to help retain shape. You also shouldn’t hang it by its straps to avoid damage.
The inner lining is composed of upcycled plastic bottles and fishing nets taken from the ocean. These plastics are then processed to a polyester yarn and then used for the inner lining.
All of these materials are vegan and cruelty-free. The AppleSkin is made in Italy and is Ökotex-100 certified.
There are four main values that nuuwaï’s stands by:
- responsible manufacturing
- recycled fabrics
As far as our analysis goes, they have been able to deliver well on their values and promises. All their products are vegan and cruelty-free, they use a variety of recycled plastics to make their bags, and they also help the oceans by doing so.
In terms of production, they work with a small family-run factory in India. They firmly believe that cruelty-free should mean that an item was made in a safe place that pays good wages.
The building where production occurs was built in the last two years and has all the necessary safety precautions. The production is also SMETA 6.0 certified, which indicates adherence to social standards like not using forced or child labor and implementing proper work hours.
This ensures that the environment is not only tolerable but is a good place for the factory workers to make a living in.
Ucon Acrobatics - Germany
Minimalism, innovation, and functionality are the three core approaches that Ucon Acrobatics has towards their product designs.
Designed in their Berlin studio, all of their products are intended to look amazing while adding value to your life and making the everyday experience just a little bit easier.
About The Bag
All of Ucon’s vegan backpacks were clearly created for optimum functionality. Their designs are great for men and women who want bags that will add convenience to their day.
They have several categories to choose from, but the emphasis on function is clearly there.
The Hajo Backpack in Metallic Dark Navy is our top pick. The dark blue metallic sheen of the fabric just adds a layer of intrigue and mysteriousness to the otherwise practical design.
While these vegan backpacks may be utilitarian, that doesn’t mean you don’t get to choose fun colors!
We love it because it’s not over the top, but it’s also in a shade that you can play around with. Plus, the dark color makes it easier to keep clean.
The Hajo can house up to 16L of your stuff and 20L once the expansion flap is rolled out.
The back and shoulder straps of this backpack are well-padded to provide you optimum comfort. There are three outer pockets for essentials you might want to stash and grab in a hurry.
You can access the main compartment by rolling up the top or by opening it through the zipper pocket on the side.
Inside, there is a neoprene laptop compartment within the main compartment, plus two mesh pockets to keep your accessories organized. Lastly, there’s also a water bottle holder and a key strap.
The main components of Ucon’s vegan backpacks are PU and PET. They use recycled PET water bottles in the highest ratio they can.
They used to pick cotton for their bags, but as we often heavily emphasize on Puratium, conventionally harvested cotton is very resource-intensive and is not sustainable at all.
While synthetic fabrics are not the most ideal, Ucon develops theirs from recycled materials, so that’s a little bit better. Vegan fabrics are not all equal in terms of their impact on the environment – a topic that we cover extensively here.
The material is water-repellent, but the backpack is not waterproof as water could seep in through the zippers during heavy weather.
Ucon Acrobatics believes in sustainable entrepreneurship. This entails creating good quality and long-lasting products without inflicting unnecessary damage. It also means transparent business operations and being accountable for producer effects on the environment and people.
Ucon makes their products in China under ethical and decent working conditions. Their choice of factories was not driven by the low production costs in the country. Instead, it was actually the most strategic choice for them, considering where they source their materials.
You can read a detailed account of their manufacturing ethics here – a transparent practice that we hope will soon become the standard in the fashion industry.
Overall, this company provides excellent cruelty-free and quality vegan backpacks for a relatively affordable price.
Doshi - USA
Doshi is a California-based brand that creates bags on the premise that what they sell must be durable, eco-friendly, and last long. Yes, they are 100% vegan.
At its core, Doshi is all about practicality. Their collections house bags that hold up to the test of time and daily use.
About The Bag
Doshi offers a lot of vegan backpacks, most of them made of vegan leather. They have a variety of sizes that can fit any of your practical backpack needs.
Our personal choice from their selection is the Doshi Lux Ribbed Backpack. It’s a medium-sized vegan backpack that’s built for practical use. You can use it for the office, school, or getting work done outside.
The design is simple and straightforward. The black ribbed design offers texture yet retains a timeless quality to it.
As it’s a practical backpack, it also features a laptop sleeve and has enough room to fit your belongings—an umbrella, water bottles, notebooks, and more. It’s also comfortable enough to wear all day without straining your shoulders too much.
If you want a smaller and more colorful backpack, we recommend their Debut Slim Backpack in Turquoise.
The backpack itself is a pretty blue with metallic pink marble accents. If you are in the market for a backpack with bold colors and makes a statement, this is the way to go.
The main material used in making the backpack is microfiber polyurethane (PU) leather. While PU leather may be good at imitating real animal leather, it is not the most sustainable material.
Polyurethane is still a petroleum-based material, so it’s not biodegradable, plus the process requires the extraction of natural resources – in order words, not part of the concept of a sustainable, linear economy.
Nevertheless, this type of synthetic vegan leather is still better than using conventionally processed animal skin (animal cruelty, toxic dyes, to name a few questionable practices). We talk more about vegan leather options in a separate article.
Some of you might not like to buy PU and prefer plant-based leather. But if you choose to buy this bag, the great news is that it’s durable and will last you years. And if there’s one thing we’ve learned over time, it’s that durability is often not given enough recognition in the realm of sustainability.
All that said, we still highly recommend Doshi because they are trying—which is more than we can say for other brands. They’re constantly branching out, and the forward-looking future is to no longer use petroleum-based materials.
They have already started production with pineapple leather and even have items that use Kraft Paper – a lightweight and durable material.
The company values using sustainable materials while also providing quality and durable items to its customers.
They believe that eco-friendliness and sustainability are not only a function of the materials used but also how long it lasts. Touching on longevity is something we appreciate.
A slight hitch is that they don’t disclose where they make the bags, only that they regularly visit their factories and are pushing for each of their factories to be BSCI-audited.
Their give back program is called First Five For the World, aiming to give 5% of net sales to non-profits. This 5% of net sales is quite a high margin, so it’s excellent that such a portion goes toward the environment, animals, and people.
Sans Beast - Australia
Making quality and aesthetic fashion since 2018, Sans Beast has a heart for animal welfare and creating bags and accessories that are beautiful and responsibly made.
Part of their manifesto is that there should be more options in the fashion industry for those who want quality, functional, and collectible items that are made ethically.
About The Bag
At the moment, Sans Beast only has one backpack design. But they’ve got plenty of other bags and accessories—special mention to their tote/shoulder bag collection, which houses super cute yet functional totes.
The Noir + Silver Liaison Backpack is a large backpack clearly built for functionality. Some of you might find it a bit bulky, but it’s a great choice for those who constantly bring a bulk of items daily. It can even be a great travel backpack if you want.
As far as vegan backpacks go, this option yet remains an aesthetically pleasing backpack.
The main compartment can house a 13″ laptop, books, water bottles, personal care items, and much more with room to spare. There’s also a padded tech section so you can keep your electronics safe.
The front has a zippered pocket that has plenty of compartments for you to maximize your organizational skills. There is a zip area and multiple slider pockets for your keys, phone, or other accessories you want quick access to.
Overall, this boxy backpack is a great functional and all-around carry-on.
The outer components of this backpack are mainly made from Eco PU. This type of vegan leather is a higher quality version of polyurethane, but it is still PU. We put this company a little low on the list even if the backpack is of great quality for this reason.
PU is vegan leather, but it isn’t the best available. However, the PU they use adheres to REACH + Prop65 standards and guarantee that they do not use toxic chemicals during production.
The inner lining is made from faux suede crafted from polyester. Sans Beast is working on using an increasing amount of recycled polyester in 2021. We see this as a first step towards becoming a more sustainable business.
While we would prefer vegan backpacks that use plant-based fabrics, that’s not always possible for all brands. We still chose to feature them since the backpack design is pretty great.
The core of Sans Beast is really to avoid animal cruelty in fashion. The accessories we wear don’t have to involve the suffering of animals. They are PETA-approved vegan, and they donate $1 of every purchase to animal welfare causes.
Their bags are made in Southern China in a factory that the brand’s founder has worked with for 14 years. They pay the workers more than average wages, and they visit the factory regularly pre COVID-19.
They also make contributions to the planet through reforestation programs and donations to ocean conservation initiatives. Find more about how they give back here.
Gunas - USA
Creating luxury vegan handbags since 2009, Gunas operates as a high fashion label with a cause. They produce items that scream luxury but are also mindfully and ethically made.
Their selection of handbags, backpacks, satchels, crossbody bags, and so much more is wide and diverse. Here, you will most likely find designs that will suit your style.
About The Bag
All of the backpacks in the Gunas directory are pretty and elegant – a tough choice to choose from! But we think Livia in Purple takes the cake.
With a soft lavender tone, this backpack provides the exact balance between elegant and pretty. You can wear it to work and still look professional, but it still has that note of fun and youthfulness with the playful shade.
The bag’s form is also worth noticing; it’s a sturdy, geometric backpack with gold hardware that gives contrast to its otherwise monochromatic appearance.
The shoulder straps are detachable and adjustable, so there are plenty of ways you can wear the backpack. There are no outer pockets, but there is an internal zipper pocket.
This backpack might not store the most items since it is made of quite a firm material. Still, it’s enough for the essentials.
The main component of this backpack is Eco-Pelle, which is a trademarked term for vegan PU leather. There is no inner lining to make the product easier to clean.
Again, we would not highly recommend PU as a textile because it is still manufactured from petrochemicals. However, it does remain a viable vegan and cruelty-free leather alternative, albeit not exactly sustainable.
In this regard, Gunas is exploring more sustainable fabrics and has begun to integrate Mulbtex into some of their items.
Gunas maintains that no animal lives must be harmed in making their accessories. All of their bags and accessories are completely vegan and cruelty-free.
They began manufacturing in New York’s fashion district, but they are now operating out of factories in Seoul. They pay their workers above-average wages, and ensure ethical working conditions.
As per the brand’s motto, there should be no life that’s harmed during the process, including human life.
Choosing Great Vegan Backpacks
Let’s tie all of those suggestions together. As much as we’d love to only feature brands that check all of our boxes, that is not always possible.
There are some features that would not work best with plant-based and fully biodegradable fabrics. And since durability is also a huge factor we consider, it’s important that the bags last a long time.
The following is a hierarchy of material groups we recommend:
Materials made from plants are always the best option. They can be sourced sustainably (more easily) and are renewable resources. Common fabrics for bags are cotton and maybe hemp. Opt for organic options whenever possible as this ensures even higher environmentally friendly standards.
There are some bio-based fabrics that are integrated with synthetic components, and though these aren’t biodegradable, we’d still recommend them.
Many brands use recycled or upcycled fabric in their bags. These recycled components are still made from plastic, and there’s no guarantee where your bag is going to end up.
But we would maintain that it’s much better for the trash in landfills to be repurposed into something else that you can use for the years to come(you should also take a look at our guide on alternatives to trash bags).
Lastly, we have synthetic fabrics. Generally, these synthetic fabrics are not sustainable and are made from polymers (plastic). However, there are certain instances when it would be the best for your circumstances.
This is particularly true if you are looking for a waterproof bag or if you are on a budget and can’t afford the premium on bio-based leather.
Ultimately, textiles are not created equally. You have to choose the ones that suit your needs and match your expectations.
We know that looking for vegan backpacks can be a bit time-consuming, especially if you have specific details in mind and won’t stop until you get it right! Plus, they’re not cheap and are often quite an investment.
We do hope this list helped you find the perfect one for you. If you didn’t, then at least you’ll know what to look for and what to avoid in order to make the most eco-conscious fashion choices. Remember that educating yourself and being aware of your consumption habits are a crucial part of anyone’s eco-journey, whether in your kitchen, bathroom, or closet.