| it’s in the bag |18 Ethical & Eco-Friendly Bags For Your Next Trip

Okay, okay, so you’ve picked the destination, bought your plane ticket and booked the hotel. You also may have also figured out everything you need to take. But, what are you gonna put it all in?

Now my luggage has done me right for the past 10 years or so. I bought it when I first moved out to California and haven’t looked back. It helps that I usually only use my carry-on (we’re packing light, remember?), but still, I think the set still has plenty of years of life left.

That being said, I know that’s not the case for everyone (and won’t always be the case for me), and I also know that finding eco-friendly luggage can be a little bit tricky. Below are a few things to keep in mind as you’re searching.



I’ve mentioned how much of an environmental impact our luggage has (just the luggage on the route from New York to London creates 220 million pounds of carbon emissions per year). And granted, the majority of the weight is coming from what you’re packing, but some of it also comes from the bag itself. So just remember, the lighter the better when it comes to your bag.



Weight and size kind of go hand in hand. I prefer carry on size, because it’s small and easy and I don’t have to go wait for my bag at that stupid luggage carousel, but basically you should choose a size that fits only what you need. If you buy a bigger bag, you’ll probably fill it with more stuff. And more stuff means more weight. And, well, I think you get the point.



If you know anything about me, you know I’m a big fan of versatility. If you can find a bag that will fill all your travelling needs, as well as other needs, more power to you. This could mean a tote that expands to a weekender; or a duffel that can also be used as a backpack. Whatever it is, if something has multiple purposes it means you can buy/have less things. Period.



Unfortunately, similar to the fashion industry, a lot of luggage is made with materials and in a way that can negatively impact our environment. Luggage is often made with toxic chemicals such as chromium and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and Phtalate to make it more durable. Chromium can seep into the soil and eventually the groundwater, and if ingested can potentially cause cancer. PVC requires hazardous chemicals in its production, and it’s a plastic, and you know how much I hate plastic. It has also been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, impairing child development, birth defects and brain damage. Phthalates, otherwise known as DEHP, are one of the top six chemicals that are the most dangerous to humans (it can be found in several common items like bags and backpacks). So, for some better fabric options, you can look for the below:

  • Anything AZO, Phthalate/DEHP, DBP or BOP-free. Like I said lots of chemicals are are used to make a lot of the luggage that is out there. Avoiding any bags that use these chemical agents in their bag treatments can limit both your exposure and the damage done to the environment when these chemicals are used on a large production scale.
  • Hemp. Stronger than any other plant fiber, hemp can be grown almost anywhere without pesticides. It is longer, stronger and more mildew resistant than cotton and tough enough to withstand rough handling of airline luggage carriers.
  • Organic Cotton. 100% organic cotton bags use less pesticides than traditional cotton product, but it is not quite as durable as hemp. The production of organic cotton can also use a lot of water, so something to keep in mind there.
  • Canvas. Canvas can be made from cotton or linen, which is made from a flax plant of hemp. Canvas is a durable fabric, and there are tons of options out there, which can make it easy to find one you like.
  • Recycled Polyester. Made from recycled plastic bottles, recycled polyester is super versatile. The downside is that it is definitely not a natural fiber, so even though it is recycled, the recycling process can still create toxic byproducts and use a lot of energy.
  • Recycled Plastic. If you’re a diehard hard case fan, this is what you should be looking for. It’s durable, waterproof, protective and sleek.
  • Recycled (or Ethically Sourced) Leather. Although leather is an animal by-product, it is also one of the most durable fabrics out there. Leather also goes through a pretty toxic process filled with chemicals when it is dyed and treated. So if leather is a must for you, look for options that are recycled (or otherwise ethically sourced) and vegetable tanned instead of chemically dyed.



Obviously, I’m a big proponent of buying less, and durability is a big piece of that. If you’re buying a new piece of luggage, you’re gonna want to make sure that it’s gonna last. Look at the reviews, a good warranty or for a brand that’s known to last. Look for more durable fabrics (hint hint, you can find some above) and for a bag that feels sturdy, has good quality zippers, etc.



Again, I’m not advocating that everyone go out and buy new luggage. Using what you have is the most eco-friendly choice. So, if you can repair your current luggage, you definitely should try that first. A broken zipper or wheel are pretty easy fixes. IFIXIT has a few guides on luggage repair, LuggageRepair.com is also a great resource that provides how-to’s, as well a list of purse and leather repair shops.

If you must buy, I’ve rounded up some better options from totes and backpacks, to full on luggage. Check out some of my favorite options below.


Totes & Backpacks

Everlane The Beach Canvas Backpack, Photo Cred Everlane

Everlane Beach Canvas Backpack – Minimalist design; made from durable canvas; finished on bottom with a waxed coating to protect from dirt, sand and water.

Apolis + Clare V. Market Bag

Handcrafted in Bangladesh and finished in California; made from 100% golden jute fiber with a waterproof lining and natural vegetable-tanned leather straps.

Raven & Lily Azeb Getaway Tote

Modern design, generous size; made with locally sourced leather in Ethiopia by local artisan women.

Half Light Bindery Waxed Canvas Roll Top Backpack from Kaufmann Mercantile

Made with waxed canvas and vegetable tanned leather; roll top makes for a great daypack; canvas can be re-waxed to maintain its water resistance.

Nisolo Lori Tote

Handmade in an ethical factory in Peru; leather is a by-product of the meat industry, sourced from farms that are committed to the ethical treatment of animals; vegetable dyed.

Mafia Discover Pack

Made from discarded sails; each bag is individually made using unique materials, so no two bags are the same.

Fashionable Selam Tote

Designed to be versatile; handcrafted in Ethiopia by women to help create long-term solutions to poverty.


Weekenders & Duffels

Elvis & Kresse Weekend Bag

Made from genuine decommissioned fire-hose, lining made from old auction bannerrs; super durable; water resistant; large size and wide mouth opening makes it easy to pack and find anything you need for a weekend away.

Raven & Lily Traveler Weekender Bag (on Preorder)

Leather locally sourced in Ethiopia; vegetable dyed; made by women vulnerable to labor trafficking; zip closure; long strap for shoulder carrying.

Hamilton Perkins Earth Bag Lite

Made from recycled plastic bottles and recycled billboards; waterproof; outer sleeve for smaller tech items; no two bag linings are ever the same.

Mafia Tubo Duffel Bag

Made from discarded sails; each bag is individually made using unique materials, so no two bags are the same.

Red Clouds Collective Waxed Canvas Duffel Bag from Kaufmann Mercantile, Photo Cred Kaufmann Mercantile


Red Clouds Collective Waxed Canvas Duffel Bag from Kaufmann Mercantile

Made from 18oz waxed canvas and vegetable tanned leather in Portland, Oregon; super tough and durable and versatile; can re-wax as needed.

Fashionable Alem Weekender

Extra spacious; lined interior; exterior pockets and two interior pockets; removable/adjustable crossbody strap for hands-free adventuring; handcrafted in Ethiopia by women artisans.

Rust & Fray Nomad Grey Denim Duffel Bag

Made from leftover fabric/cutting room floor waste from textile industry; detachable shoulder strap; made in an ethical factory in Bangladesh.



Patagonia Black Hole Wheeled Duffel, 120L

Made from fabric that is certified as bluesign® approved; waterproof TPU laminate; durable water repellent finish; sturdy frame; oversized wheels for smooth handling; zip side pocket, mesh inner pocket; weighs 8lbs 10oz.



LiteGear Hybrid Carry On

Made from recycled polyester; hi-density molded foam technology; super light and durable; expandable; three external zippered pockets, large internal mesh pocket; weighs 6lbs.

Heys Eco Orbis 21.5” Spinner Suitcase

Made from 100% recycled ABS plastic; strong, durable; 360 degree spinner wheels for easy maneuverability; expandable; internal handle system made from lightweight aluminum; weighs 7lbs.

McBrine Luggage 3 Pc Eco Friendly Luggage Set

ABS shell made from 50% recycled material; expandable; 360 degree swivel wheels; push button aluminum trolley system; self-repairing nylon zippers; 3 piece set weighs 28.6lbs.


Any favorite eco-friendly luggage brands that I missed?

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