Top 10 Eco-Friendly Bags - Stylish & Ethical

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A good quality handbag, purse, tote, etc., is a crucial wardrobe staple. Only the best eco-friendly bags should be entrusted with carrying all of your essentials.

However, we don’t want our fashion and convenience choices to harm the planet of the people in the supply chain.

Mrs. M and I have searched high and low to find the best bags from sustainable brands for daily use and nights on the tiles!

You could say Mrs. M has this in the bag.

As mentioned in my Best Eco-Friendly Clothing Brands article, Mrs. M has a thing for bags. So it made absolute sense to revive our writing partnership once more.

I’ll cover the eco-credentials of each brand, and Mrs. M will cover the rest.

10 Sustainable Bag To Keep Your Essentials Safe All Day (Or Night) Long

Later in this article, I’ll discuss exactly what makes a sustainable bag sustainable.

But for now, I’ll jump to the good stuff!

Eco-Credentials

Leather Working Group
Fair labor practices
B Corp

They Say: The everyday crossbody reimagined. The Nara Crossbody is a miniature version of the Nara Tote, but with all the same elevated features. The snap closure keeps everything secure and the crossbody strap makes hands free living a breeze. Made in Brazil, helping women transform their communities.

We Say: Able is a brand we’ve recommended in the past for its eco-friendly clothes and shoes.

They’re a women-led company with their roots firmly in leather…so it stands to reason that they know a thing or two about eco-friendly leather bags.

They produce a wide range of sustainable bags. All made to Able’s exacting sustainability ethics.

Every hide used by Able would otherwise have gone to waste. They’re also regularly audited by the Leather Working Group.

Mrs. M Says: In James’ eco-friendly clothing article, I went slightly rouge and recommended a lovely leather tote bag from Able. I couldn’t help myself. Able makes some amazing handmade leather totes!

However, they do so many fantastic pieces that I had no trouble choosing another for this article.

The Nara Crossbody is a mini tote. Perfect when you’re traveling light or just popping out for a coffee for a few hours.

The cognac color is nice. But the deep richness of the whisky color gets the nod for me. It’s divine!

I also love the thin adjustable strap. It makes the bag so versatile. You can wear it over the shoulder or across the body.

Eco-Credentials

Fair wage
OEKO-TEX

They Say: A 21st century much-needed piece, the Phone Crossbody bag is comfortable and perfectly roomy. Adjustable strap, made with a folded feature and lined with pockets for your cards. When dirty, give it a quick wipe with a soft dry cloth; with it you can use some leather cleansing cream or a small amount of water; let water spills dry naturally.

We Say: Quince only partners with factories that have committed to responsible production. All workers are paid a fair wage, and all production processes are kept under constant review to reduce damage to the environment.

Quince can control every aspect of the supply chain by cutting out all middlemen. This helps keep costs low and sustainability standards high.

Mrs. M Says: Quince does some amazing things with sustainable Italian leather at incredibly budget-friendly prices.

This Italian Pebbled Leather Phone Crossbody is perfect when you’re in a pocketless outfit and just need enough bag room for your phone and credit card.

Under $50 too! For high-quality sustainable Italian! MADNESS!

To sweeten the deal even further, you also get free returns for an entire year!

Eco-Credentials

Vegan
PETA-approved
Carbon-offsetting

They Say: The Didi clutch mini is a structured purse that can be used as a clutch or a shoulder bag by adding the detachable silver chain strap. Handcrafted from luxurious vegan metallic silver Piñatex®. Dress it up or down, your way. Piñatex® fabric, made from pineapple leaf fiber gathered by partner farming cooperatives in the Philippines. Piñatex® fibres are the by-product of the pineapple harvest. No extra land, water, fertiliser or pesticides are required to produce the raw material.

We Say:  Svala specializes in 100% vegan handbags made from sustainable materials such as Italian PU (polyurethane), Pinatex® (made from pineapple leaf fiber), and cork.

In 2019, Svala was a nominee for the Eluxe Magazine sustainable luxury Eluxe Awards.

In 2020,  Svala was awarded Best Vegan Brand of the Year.

Svala calculates its monthly shipping carbon footprint and buys carbon offsets.

They also donate 10% of profits to numerous charities and organizations. One charity to benefit from Svala’s donations is Wild Aid, which aims to stop the illegal wildlife trade.

Mrs. M Says: In a previous article for James, I shared my love of all things Svala…and their range of clutch bags in particular.

I recommended the Didi Clutch Mini - Gold Speckled Cork, but it’s currently on a waiting list. Well worth the wait if you can bear it…but why torture yourself like that?!

My recommendation for this article is the stunning Didi Clutch Mini - Metallic Silver Piñatex®. Available right now!

It’s less ‘shouty’ than the gold speckled cork. A real timeless, classy clutch that will go with most party outfits.

Eco-Credentials

Vegan
PETA-approved
Carbon-offsetting

They Say: This zippered jewelry case is the perfect place to store all of your favorite accessories. Say “goodbye” to tangled necklaces and misplaced rings and “hello” to effortless jewelry storage!

The best part? For every Blake purchased, Pixie Mood, in collaboration with One Tree Planted, will plant a tree in British Columbia, Canada.

We Say: Pixie Mood is dedicated to sourcing sustainable materials and is 100% transparent and responsible with every action they take.

They’re proud to be:

  • Using 100% vegan materials
  • Using biodegradable packaging
  • Climate positive
  • Kind for the animals, the people, and our planet

Mrs. M Says: The Pixie Mood - Blake Jewelry Case is pixie-sized.

It might be small, but it packs a real functional storage punch.

It’s perfect for keeping your eco-friendly jewelry tangle-free and secure when traveling.

Eco-Credentials

Climate Neutral Certified
1% For The Planet
Natural dyes
Living wage

They Say: Brightly colored bands of raffia adorn each handwoven AAKS bag. Through the creation of each bag, AAKS is creating valuable, sustainable jobs for Ghanaian women, who use traditional African heritage weaving techniques that are passed down through generations. Each bag is woven with sustainably sourced natural raffia and straw from farmers in Ghana and accented with leather. AAKS’ incredible array of colors are achieved with natural dyes. The weaving process is labor intensive and meticulous, taking at least a week to create each bag.

We Say: Made Trade is one of my favorite eco-friendly retailers. They use their platform to help small artisan producers sell their wares to a global market.

The Made Trade / AAKS partnership is the real deal in terms of sustainability and high-quality artisan products.

Made Trade is Climate Neutral Certified and a member of 1% For The Planet.

AAKS is a women-owned brand committed to paying its entire supply chain a fair living wage.

Mrs. M Says: I mean. COME ON! How frickin’ cute is the Hana PomPom Bag from AAKS?

A baby sleeping in a bed of puppies cute…X10! 😍

Ok. I’ll calm down now. BUT, this really is one helluva cute bag!

It’s playful and sustainable. The weave quality is incredible. I’ve no doubt this bag will last me many years!

Eco-Credentials

Recycled materials
Upcycled materials
Carbon-offsetting

They Say: A piece of aviation history – this tote is handmade in Canada from repurposed aircraft life jackets. We tried to incorporate all features of the life jackets, such as the pull strap to inflate, the safety clip and the material of the jackets including the instructional images. Five percent of the funds generated from this line will make the return flight back into the Air Canada Foundation whose mission focuses on the health and well being of children and youth.

We Say: MARICLARO is doing super cool things with upcycled and recycled materials.

As a kid, I was a model plane builder and collector, so MARICLARO’s range of products made from upcycled aircraft materials stood out for me instantly.

I love that MARICLARO has committed to donating 5% of sales of their aviation range to help young people with mental health issues.

Etsy offsets carbon emissions from shipping and packaging on purchases from MARICLARO.

Mrs. M Says: I don’t quite share James’ love of planes (except when they’re taking me somewhere hot for the summer), but I do also love what MARICLARO is doing with upcycled and recycled materials from planes.

Their Upcycled Aircraft Life Jackets Tote is a unique take on the classic tote bag.

It’s functional as well as quirky. The capacity is enormous, and there are plenty of internal pockets to help you find exactly what you’re looking for without having to rummage around for ages.

Eco-Credentials

Lots. See timeline below.

They Say: We strive to create the most beautiful, desirable products with the least impact on our environment. Our conscious values are also the inspiration behind our innovation. As industry leaders, we endeavour to create the most cutting-edge materials and animal alternatives, continuing to push towards circularity and being fully transparent by developing tools to measure and report our impact.

We Say: From day one of launching her fashion brand in 2001, Stella McCartney has been committed to being kinder to the planet, animals, and people.

The timeline of the brand makes interesting sustainability reading.

  • 2001: No leather, feathers, fur, or skin.
  • 2008: Started using organic cotton.
  • 2010: Stopped using PVC.
  • 2012: Started using recycled polyester. Banned plastic water bottles. All wood sustainably certified. Joined the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI).
  • 2013: Solar panels and LEDs installed in stores.
  • 2014: All paper and cardboard packaging certified sustainable.
  • 2016: Achieved 100% sustainable viscose. Stopped all use of virgin cashmere.
  • 2017: Introduced Econyl® regenerated nylon.
  • 2018: Banned the use of mohair. Committed to going plastic-free. Created the first handbag made by Bold Thread's Mylo™ mushroom leather.
  • 2019: Adidas by Stella McCartney launched the first-ever garments made with Evrnu's NuCycle™ yarn and KOBA® Fur Free Fur.
  • 2020: Debuted Coreva™ biodegradable stretched denim.

So, as you can see, Stella McCartney by name, Stellar eco-credentials by nature!

Mrs. M Says: When I first started dating James, he would make me mixtapes of his favorite Beatles songs. I soon fell in love with him AND the genius that is Paul McCartney.

The Get Back Canvas Tote Bag is a lovely nod by Stella to her dad’s music career.

I love the contrast of the Beatles collage on one side and the clean, simple, classy stitched logo panel on the other side.

It’s a pretty pricey tote bag. But…it is Stella McCartney! Treat it as an investment, but don’t be afraid to use it.

The Beatles not your thing? Stella McCartney also does some stunning vegan leather totes.

Eco-Credentials

Carbon-offsetting
Fair wages

They Say: Darzah began with one goal in mind, empowering women in the West Bank. In 2021, shoppers like you will contribute directly into the Palestine economy providing salaries for our 26 female artisans as well as our Palestinian partners. For every dollar you spend, 80% will go to providing for the 17,000 hours our artisans dedicate to creating our high quality products each year.

We Say: Janette Habashi, the brains behind Darzah, uses artisan producers in the West Bank, Palestine, to make her sustainable range of embroidered products.

Everything in the Darzah range is fairly traded. Everyone in the supply chain gets a fair wage for their efforts.

It’s fair to the planet as well because Etsy will offset the carbon emissions from the shipping and packaging of your Darzah order.

Mrs. M Says: I’m really into authentic embroidery at the moment, and it doesn’t get much more authentic than Darzah.

I love that they’re a women-owned brand empowering women in Palestine to work their way to a better life.

They also make kick-ass bags. Win-Win!

My favorite is the Red Handmade Clutch With Embroidery, made from locally sourced cotton-blend fabric and locally handcrafted wooden handles.

It’s the perfect size for midweek top-up shop runs to the local zero-waste food store.

Eco-Credentials

Climate Neutral Certified
B Corp

They Say: Meeting the highest standards of verified social and environmental responsibility, your support has enabled Nisolo to become one of the world’s top rated footwear and accessories brands among all Certified B Corporations. Every Nisolo purchase ensures a living wage to 100% of the people creating products in our factory and enables us to pursue living wages throughout the rest of our supply chain. From raw materials to your doorstep, we’re combating climate change by reducing and offsetting 100% of our carbon emissions, verified by Climate Neutral Certification.

We Say: Nisolo is blazing a trail in terms of sustainable fashion.

They produce a ‘Sustainability Facts’ sheet for each of their products.

These sheets help Nisolo hold itself accountable by comparing each product across 200 sustainability metrics to help clarify social and environmental impact.

This is currently a self-managed scheme, but I like what Nisolo is trying to do. Hopefully, the fashion industry will take note and develop a similar standard in the future that makes it easy to compare all brands.

Mrs. M Says: When recommending Nisolo for James’ Eco-Friendly Jewelry guide, my eye was also drawn to a lovely purse that I ordered as a treat for myself…just because!

The Classic Wallet (Woven Almond version) is a little gem!

It’s just the right size to take my credit card, a handful of loyalty cards, and a couple of folded notes.

Perfect for when I’m hitting the mall for just a couple of hours and don’t want to haul around my big tote or shoulder bag.

Eco-Credentials

Carbon-offsetting
B Corp
1% For The Planet
Recycled plastic bottles

They Say: With EarthHero, you can pick from products that are sourced, manufactured, and shipped in a way that protects our planet’s future. Each of the brands we’ve partnered with has been chosen because they’re taking the right steps to create a more sustainable future for everyone. We’re on a mission to make it normal to consume in a way that’s easier on the environment, while meeting the convenience we’ve come to expect. Our brands use better materials, from renewable and organic resources–not fossil fuels. After we thoroughly vet every aspect of a brand using our five-step methodology, we ship it straight to you in a post-consumer shipping box whose emissions have been offset with Carbonfund.

We Say: I Love EarthHero. They thoroughly research and audit every brand they sell on their platform, so you don’t have to.

You can just browse their wide selection of goods safe in the knowledge that you’re getting high-quality, sustainable products shipped in recycled/recyclable/biodegradable packaging, with the carbon emission offset.

For even greater control over the supply chain from start to finish, EarthHero has also started making its own brand products.

In my article Why Are Plastic Bags Bad & Should They Be Banned, I highlighted the harm a standard plastic grocery bag can do to the environment.

So, when I saw EarthHero did their own brand of shopping bag made from 100% recycled PET, I had to include it on the list.

Mrs. M Says: Not much I can add here. It’s a strong, reusable, eco-friendly shopping bag made from recycled materials.

It won’t win any Vogue awards for style…but it will definitely get plenty of work over the next few years carrying the Miller family groceries.

What To Look For When Shopping For Sustainable Handbags

Eco-Friendly Materials

Leather is the most common material used for handbags. It’s durable and ages very well.

It does, however, come with several ethical issues that mean it’s not always the most sustainable option.

The environmental impact of leather production is also far from sustainable.

Other, more sustainable, natural materials currently being used in eco-friendly handbags, purses, totes, etc. include:

  • Vegan leather
  • Vegetable tanned leather (no chemicals used)
  • Recycled materials (recycled leather, recycled polyester, etc.)
  • Upcycled materials (materials given a new lease of life rather than being thrown away)
  • Organic cotton
  • Natural cork
  • Recycled PET
  • Recycled nylon
  • Pinatex®
  • Sustainable fabrics
  • Cork leather
  • Recycled ocean plastic

Check out my guide to sustainable fabrics for more details.

Timelessness

Steer clear of fast fashion and invest in quality timeless pieces that will last a lifetime.

Transparency

Shop with brands that are transparent and don’t employ greenwashing tactics.

From farmer to store, a sustainable brand will have nothing to hide when it comes to its supply chain and labor practices.

Brands that carry recognizable eco-labels are usually amongst the most transparent.

Social Impact

Genuinely sustainable products are produced by companies that care about their social impact.

For example, look for brands that give back to the local community by paying fair wages and employing local artisan producers.

Also, keep an eye out for the following:

  • Carbon offsetting
  • Green energy use
  • Closed-loop manufacturing processes
  • Recycling schemes
  • Sustainable shipping (biodegradable, compostable, plastic-free packaging materials)

Bag Types

Belt Bags

Belt bags (also known as fanny packs) are small pouch bags worn like a belt around your waist.

Shoulder Bags

Shoulder bags have a long strap that can be carried over your shoulder.

Crossbody Bags

A crossbody bag is usually smaller than a shoulder bag. It’s worn diagonally across the front of the body.

Messenger Bags

A messenger bag is similar to a cross body bag. The difference is they’re designed to be worn against the lower back (for ease of cycling or motorbike riding) and then moved to the front of the body when you need to access the contents.

Bucket Bags

A bucket bag is a style of travel bag. It’s usually a cylindrical shape (like a bucket) and has no pockets, etc. It’s a basic but functional bag that can hold a lot of stuff.

Tote Bags

A tote bag is a large bag suitable for carrying (or toting) all your stuff. They’re similar to bucket bags, but usually come in a more traditional shopping bag type design/style.

Yoga Bags

A yoga bag is usually a simple bag to carry a yoga mat, or a tote-style bag to carry more yoga accessories with an external clip or compartment to carry a yoga mat.

Laptop Sleeves

A laptop sleeve is a padded bag designed to carry and protect your laptop. It usually has handy carrying pouches for all your accessories.

The Problem With Vegan Leather

When you hear the term vegan leather, you’d be forgiven for immediately assuming that it’s fully eco-friendly and a non-brainer as an animal leather alternative.

However, that’s not always the case.

As mentioned in my Eco-Friendly Shoes from Ethical Brands article, some vegan leathers are an environmental disaster, made from toxic synthetic materials such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

Luckily for us as consumers (and members of the human race), more eco-friendly vegan leather options are coming to market at a rapid pace.

There are definitely eco-friendly vegan leathers to be found. Just ensure that you steer clear of vegan bags made from plastic being sold as vegan leather. Classic greenwashing!

Ethical Leather

Ethical leather is different from vegan leather. It’s leather that is obtained from an animal that has not been killed with the sole purpose of harvesting its skin (a byproduct of the meat industry, for example).

Some names to look out for when looking at ethical leather include:

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Reusable Ziploc Bags Better For The Environment?

Yes. Washing and reusing any type of bag is better for the environment than throwing it away and buying a new one.

Are Silicone Bags Eco friendly?

This depends on the use and what they’re being used to replace. What wrapping your lunch, for example, silicone bags are definitely more eco-friendly than plastic bags.

Are Paper Bags Really Better For The Planet?

When out grocery shopping, grabbing a paper bag is much better than grabbing a plastic bag. However, paper bags are not perfect. They have limited reuse potential and involve cutting down trees. A good quality organic cotton or recycled PET shopping bag is a much better option.

The Final Word

The takeaway from this article is similar (if not identical) to my Fast Fashion and Eco-Friendly Backpacks articles.

Don’t buy bags unnecessarily (are you reading this, Mrs. M? 😁). The most sustainable bag is the one you already own.

When you are in the market for a new bag, ensure that you go for a brand with high eco-standards and a bag made from eco-friendly and sustainable materials.

Get In Touch

Where do you buy your sustainable bags? Have I missed your favorite brands? Do you rock a fanny pack…or is a sparkly clutch more your thing? Drop me a line and let me know.

James is a senior editor at The Roundup and has been in journalism for over 10 years. He was born in the UK but raised in Florida, where he currently lives with his wife and two daughters. James is passionate about sustainable living and environmental issues which are reflected by his work as an editor of TheRoundup.org.
James Miller
James is a senior editor at The Roundup and has been in journalism for over 10 years. He was born in the UK but raised in Florida, where he currently lives with his wife and two daughters. James is passionate about sustainable living and environmental issues which are reflected by his work as an editor of TheRoundup.org.

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