13 Best Eco-Friendly Tote Bags to Shop in 2021 [Review]

Royalty Free Image from Pexels by Bach Hanzo

When it comes to fashion, the tote bag is a staple that just about everyone needs. They’re the perfect blend of functional, stylish, and comfortable to carry.

Their multi-functional design and large size make them an ideal all-purpose bag that you can use for just about anything. If you need to carry some stuff and look nice while doing it, the tote bag has you covered!

As a highly functional fashion item, they’re often made of hardy, easy-to-clean materials – which more often than not means synthetic materials like nylon, polyester, and polyurethane (PU) leather. These fabrics are light, strong, and easy to clean. They also make a great, reusable, alternative to single-use plastic bags.

Sounds wonderful, right? The problem is that many are just another fast fashion accessory!

They’re often made factories, by people working in appalling conditions. They’re mass-produced, using methods and materials that are harmful to the environment. The quality is poor and don’t last long, adding to our ever-growing textile waste crisis and necessitating yet another purchase.

The good news is that eco-friendly tote bags are a rapidly growing trend! You can now find loads of tote bags that suit your style, your budget, and your values and ethics!

With so many choices, it can be overwhelming to find the best options. So, to make it simpler, we have found them for you!

Why You Should Switch to an Eco-Friendly Tote Bag

Fast fashion and the massive toll the fashion and textile industry has taken, and continues to take, on the environment makes our choices, as a consumer, all the more important.

Check out this short video by HuffPost UK on just how damaging the fast fashion industry is:

When you’re living a more eco-friendly lifestyle and moving away from fast fashion and consumerism, each purchase you make becomes a conscious, thoughtful decision.

Aside from diverting waste from landfills, reducing energy and natural resource consumption, and minimizing pollution, switching to eco-friendly products has many benefits.

When you choose an eco-friendly tote bag, you’re choosing an item that is made to last and won’t need to be replaced in the near future. You’re choosing a versatile item that can replace numerous other items in your closet. You’re choosing to support businesses that support the environment.

So, what makes a tote bag eco-friendly?

When it comes to fashion and accessories, several things make an item eco-friendly. Here are some things to look for when you’re choosing an eco-friendly tote bag:

  • Well-made and high-quality items that are made to last
  • Serviceable and easy to maintain over time so they last longer
  • Made from natural materials rather than plastic-based synthetic materials like polyester, acrylic, and polyurethane (PU) leather
  • Produced by manufacturers that are certified as ethical and treat their workers well
  • Made from sustainably sourced or recycled materials
  • Manufactured using methods that are not resource-intensive/using materials that have a low environmental and carbon footprint
  • Locally produced rather than shipped around the world to reach you
  • Designed to be multi-functional and used for a variety of activities

This is by no means an exhaustive list but these are the main aspects to consider when you’re deciding which eco-friendly tote bag is the best for you.

Often, items won’t check all of these boxes either and your choice comes down to your values, what you care about most and what you already have in your closet.

As consumers, our choices are cumulative and our impact is based on our consumption overall, rather than each individual purchase. It’s all about balance – You don’t have to make the ‘best’ choice every single time to make a difference!

With the above in mind, here are some of the best eco-friendly tote bags to choose from:

13 Best Eco-Friendly Tote Bags

1. Cuyana – Structured Leather Tote Bag

Cuyana makes Italian leather bags that are sustainably sourced and manufactured. Their leather tanning process is Leather Working Group (LWG) Gold Certified, ensuring that it is processed responsibly. Resource consumption and effluent treatment are managed effectively to minimize environmental impacts.

Cuyana Eco-friendly Tote Bag by Cuyana

Ethics and Sustainability: Cuyana is a woman-owned company that uses independently audited, ethical suppliers for its products. They use natural, Leather Working Group (GWP) Gold Certified, leather. Their products are beautifully designed, made from sustainable materials, and manufactured to last a lifetime, in line with slow fashion principles.

Materials: Leather (LWG Gold certified)

Pricing: $155 to $195 USD

Where to Buy: Cuyana

2. AAKS Hand Crafted – Hawa Rainbow Tote Bag

AAKS Hand Crafted makes colorful, hand-woven bags out of Raffia palm fiber. Each bag is hand-woven an artisan in Ghana, using traditional weaving techniques. Their bags are unique, beautifully made, and contribute to each maker’s livelihood in Ghana.

Raffia Eco-friendly Tote Bag by AAKS

Ethics and Sustainability: Items are hand-made by local artisans in Ghana, using traditional weaving techniques. They use natural, biodegradable, Raffia palm fibers that are ecologically harvested to do no harm.

Materials: Handwoven Raffia palm fiber  

Pricing: $180 USD

Where to Buy: AAKS Online

3. Nisolo – Lori Tote Bag

Nisolo is B Corporation Certified, ensuring the strictest compliance with social and environmental good practices. Their goods are manufactured in their factory in Peru, where they guarantee a living wage and operate an ethical working environment. Their products are beautifully designed, timeless, and high-quality. If you’re looking for an eco-friendly tote bag in leather, they have some stunning options!

Two tone Leather Eco-friendly Tote Bag by Nisolo

Ethics and Sustainability: Nisolo is B Corporation and Climate Neutral Certified. They reduce and offset 100% of their carbon (for their entire supply chain), use natural materials, and are committed to ethical working conditions and living wages throughout their supply chain.

Materials: Smooth and Nubuck leather

Pricing: $170 USD

Where to Buy: Nisolo

4. Baggu – Cloud Bag Tote

Baggu makes a variety of bags from materials that have been recycled or repurposed. They use materials that are destined for landfills and create attractive and durable bags that are designed to reduce waste at every step of the process, without compromising quality or style. Their eco-friendly tote bags double as shopping bags, without losing any style.

Cloud Bag Eco-friendly Tote Bag by Baggu

Ethics and Sustainability: Their products are vegan and made from recycled materials, including waste fabric and recycled Nylon. Baggu’s business model uses waste materials as raw materials, reduces waste and reuses waste in the manufacturing process, and insists on ethical and healthy working conditions for all workers in their supply chain.

Materials: Recycled heavyweight Nylon

Pricing: $56 USD

Where to Buy: Baggu

5. Bellroy – Tokyo Tote Bag

Bellroy is B Corporation certified, which ensures that their environmental and social impacts are held to strict standards and independently audited. They make stylish, functional, and durable products that are designed to be long-lasting. They use recycled, biodegradable, and sustainably sourced materials that are innovatively used to make great products, with a low environmental impact.

Recycled Materials - Eco-friendly Tote Bag by Bellroy

Ethics and Sustainability: Bellroy is B Corporation Certified. They use vegan, recycled, and biodegradable materials where possible, and their products are made to last a lifetime. Their manufacturing processes reduce resource consumption, emissions and cut out chemicals and toxins. Their social responsibility includes a portion of revenue donated to projects like the Centre for Effective Altruism, GiveWell, and the global Effective Altruism community.

Materials: Polyester made from 100% Recycled PET Bottles

Pricing: $129 USD

Where to Buy: Bellroy

6. Rok Cork – Carminda Cork Tote

Rok Cork is a Portuguese company making bags and accessories out of sustainably grown cork. Their products are designed to be stylish, functional, and high-quality. They’re ethically manufactured, using sustainable materials and practices.

Rok Cork Carminda Eco-friendly Tote Bag

Ethics and Sustainability: Rok Cork products are made by hand in small, family-run workshops, allowing them to create their own working conditions, and they’re paid fair wages. The materials used are natural, biodegradable, and sustainably sourced from local cork plantations. They are vegan but contain no synthetic materials (PU).

Materials: Cork and natural fibers

Pricing: $254 USD

Where to Buy: Rok Cork

7. Malia Designs – Recycled Feed Bag Shopping Tote

Malia Designs is a Fair Trade company that supports female economic empowerment in Cambodia. They use artisan suppliers that create beautiful items from recycled materials. Their artisans are independent suppliers who own their own businesses and manage their sustainable livelihoods. The products they make are well-made, durable, and made from recycled materials for minimal environmental impact and waste reduction.

Recycled Feed Bag - Eco-friendly Tote Bag by Maila Designs

Ethics and Sustainability: Products are made by autonomous artisans, who are empowered to own and manage their businesses. They are Green America certified and use recycled materials and minimize waste in their production methods. Malia Designs is committed to the empowerment of women, and the plight of human trafficking, through donations to organizations fighting human trafficking.  

Materials: Recycled polypropylene feed bags.  

Pricing: $25 USD

Where to Buy: Malia Designs

8. Groundtruth – ‘GTGTT3.124’ Tote Bag

Groundtruth works with a specialist factory in Taiwan, where they have developed a fabric made entirely from recycled plastic bottles. They source their bottles from landfills and litter pick-ups, as well as from dedicated recycling depots. Each bag repurposes 8 plastic water bottles and their packaging is carbon neutral and 100% biodegradable. Their carbon footprint is offset with Wildlife Works.

Black and Grey Eco-friendly Tote Bag Groundtruth

Ethics and Sustainability: All products are made from 100% recycled plastic and packaged in biodegradable cassava packaging. They’re Blue Sign certified and carbon neutral, offsetting their entire carbon footprint with Wildlife Works.

Materials: 100% recycled plastic materials

Pricing: £35 GBP

Where to Buy: Groundtruth

9. ELK – Cardis Tote Bag

ELK is an Australian company that is committed to sustainability and ethical business practices. Their annual transparency reports detail their progress and the goals they aim to achieve. They use mainly natural fibers and sustainably tanned leather for the goods. Their leather is LWG certified and meets the REACH standard regulations. Their products are beautifully designed in classic and timeless styles and made from high-quality materials.

Cardis Eco-friendly Tote Bag by ELK

Ethics and Sustainability: Elk is an ethical brand, using ethical suppliers who are artisans and business owners in their own right. They use natural materials and use environmentally sensitive methods. Their Transparency Report details their efforts in full.  

Materials: Jute and Nappa Leather

Pricing: $295 USD

Where to Buy: ELK The Label

10. BEEN London – Fields Tote

BEEN London creates stylish and durable bags entirely from waste materials. Every material they use has been recycled or repurposed and they design their styles to produce the least waste during manufacture. Their products include leather and vegan leather, recycled cotton, and polyester made from recycled plastic bottles. If zero-waste is your biggest concern, BEEN London has just the eco-friendly tote bag you’re looking for!

Blue Eco-friendly Tote Bag by Been London

 

Ethics and Sustainability: All materials are repurposed or recycled from waste materials, offcuts and plastic waste. Vegan leather is made from pineapple leaves and apple peels. They’re certified by independent organizations and committed to carbon minimization and offsets by supporting the reforestation of the Amazon.

Materials: Leather (Global Recycled Standard certified) from tannery offcuts and post-fabrication trimmings, felt padding made from discarded textiles and corporate uniforms, recycled cotton from discarded clothes, polyester zippers (Bluesign certified) made from recycled plastic bottles.

Pricing: £259 GBP

Where to Buy: BEEN London

11. Kayu Design – St Tropez Pompom Straw Tote

Kayu Design makes handcrafted bags, using all-natural materials. Their woven seagrass straw bags are made using traditional Filipino basket-weaving techniques. All their products are consciously designed and made from all-natural, organic materials. Their products are high-quality and made to last, making them slow fashion staples.

Straw Eco-friendly Tote Bag by Kayu Designs

Ethics and Sustainability: Kayu’s products are made consciously, with their social and environmental impact in mind throughout the supply chain. They take steps to minimize waste, reduce energy and resource consumption, and subscribe to Fair Trade principles for ethical manufacturing. They support small artisans and family businesses.

Materials: Organic and sustainably grown Seagrass straw.  

Pricing: $135 USD

Where to Buy: Kayu Design

12. Hope Made In The World – Tetera Basket Tote Bag

Hope Made in The World brings together a collection of hand-crafted products from different countries around the world. They source products that are sustainable and ethically made. The majority of their products are made in developing countries by individual artisans and small business owners. In this way, they support sustainable livelihoods, economic empowerment, and fair labor practices.

Basket Weave Eco-friendly Tote Bag by HopeMade

Ethics and Sustainability: They source Fair Trade products that are made by artisans and small businesses in developing countries to support economic empowerment and sustainable development. Their product ranges are made with natural materials and processed without chemical dyes.

Materials: 100% Paja Tetera Palm fiber

Pricing: $248 USD

Where to Buy: Hope Made In The World

13. ALLÉGORIE – Rose Gala Tote

Allégorie makes all their products using materials made from fruits, such as apples, mangoes and cactus, and other bio-based and eco-friendly materials. They use sustainably sourced fruit and plant material, the bulk of which has been discarded by farms and grocery stores. Their vegan leather is plant-based and contains no plastics, making their bags mostly biodegradable.

Veggie Vegan Leather Eco-friendly Tote Bag by Allegorie

Ethics and Sustainability: Allégorie implements strict guidelines for environmental and social sustainability. These cover zero hazardous chemical emissions, using green energy, and netting zero on water usage. The plant material they use in their manufacturing process is made from agricultural and food waste. Their social responsibility includes fair wages, balanced working hours, and safe working conditions.

Materials: Hybrid material made from Apple peels, vegetable waste, and plant-based, vegan leather.

Pricing: $325 USD

Where to Buy: ALLÉGORIE

Conclusions and Our Two Top Our Picks

To wrap it up, there are loads of great choices when you’re looking for an eco-friendly tote bag. Whatever your needs, budget, and values are – there are some great options to choose from!

Our two favorites from this list are:

Top Pick #1: Nisolo Lori Tote Bag – we love the leather Nisolo Lori Tote Bag as a great choice for those who want a durable, comfortable, and stylish all-purpose bag. We also love that Nisolo is a Certified B Corp entity and comply with strict, independently audited, criteria for best environmental and social practices.

Top Pick #2: Bellroy Tokyo Tote Bag – we love the Bellroy Tokyo Tote bag for its versatility and functionality as a lightweight and waterproof bag. It has all the pockets you need to organize your things and find them easily. It is vegan and made from recycled plastic. Bellroy is also a certified B Corp entity, ensuring that they’re walking the talk!

References and Useful Resources

Bluesign: Blue Way For Business

Certified B Corporation: About B Corps

Country Living: 5 Worst-Offending Hidden Plastics in Your Wardrobe

The Guardian: The Big Fashion Fight: Can We Remove All the Toxic, Invisible Plastic from Our Clothes?

Green America: Green Business Network

GreenBiz: 33 Sustainability Certifications You Need to Know

Leather Working Group: Audit Protocols

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an eco-friendly tote bag?

An eco-friendly tote bag is a bag that is:
- Made to last a long time and be reused over and over again
- Made from sustainable materials that are sourced responsibly if virgin materials are needed
- Made from recycled materials, recycled textiles and repurposed materials
- Made using methods that have a minimal impact on the natural environment
- Made by people working in safe and ethical conditions, for a living wage

Why should you buy an eco-friendly tote bag?

When you choose an eco-friendly item, you're choosing an item that is better for the environment and better for the people involved in the manufacturing and supply process. You're also choosing an item that is high-quality, made to last and multi-functional, which saves you time and money. They're also just really nice bags!

Are eco-friendly tote bags more expensive?

The price of an item reflects many factors in the production and supply chain. Often, items that are made by hand, using high-quality materials, are more expensive. However, this is sometimes offset by the reduced cost of materials if they're using recycled/upcycled or repurposed materials. A bag that will last many years and serve many functions, may well be worth the investment rather than buying several items and replacing them all over the same period.

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