Do you have sustainability in the bag? Here's our list of the best ethical and sustainable handbags and purses we could find to... Image by Parker Clay #ecofriendlyhandbags #ecofriendlypurses #ethicalhandbags #ethicalpurses #sustainablehandbags #sustainablepurses #sustainablejungle
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Ethical and Eco Friendly Handbags and Purses Image by Carry Courage #ecofriendlyhandbags #ecofriendlypurses #ethicalhandbags #ethicalpurses #sustainablejungle
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Do you have sustainability in the bag? Here's our list of the best ethical and sustainable handbags and purses we could find to... Image by Behno #ecofriendlyhandbags #ecofriendlypurses #ethicalhandbags #ethicalpurses  #sustainablehandbags #sustainablepurses #sustainablejungle
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13 Ethical & Sustainable Handbags And Purses To Carry Your Load


Here at Sustainable Jungle, we’ve got sustainability in the bag… well, we’re doing our best anyway, in part by seeking the most sustainable handbags and purses that the eco world has to offer.

The handbag industry has more problems than most in the overall fashion umbrella (thanks leather).

So how can we make sure we’re buying something that doesn’t harm anyone or anything?  

Now, please hold our bag while we dish out the dirt on where to buy the best eco friendly purses and handbags.

Carry Courage uses one of the best plastic free and renewable non-leather materials for their vegan ethical purses and handbags.

For (non-vegan) eco friendly handbags, O My Bag ensures you won’t be carrying around harmful chemicals like chromium with their vegetable tanning process.

For sustainable handbags in the UK, Elvis & Kresse has an innovative business model that uses recycled fire hoses.

Read our guide to vegan handbags and purses for specific coverage on animal friendly brands.

*This post contains affiliate links

1. O My Bag

Do you have sustainability in the bag? Here's our list of the best ethical and sustainable handbags and purses we could find to...  Image by O My Bag #ecofriendlyhandbags #ecofriendlypurses #ethicalhandbags #ethicalpurses  #sustainablehandbags #sustainablepurses #sustainablejungle
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About O My Bag’s Sustainable Handbags

Based in Amsterdam (but shipping globally), O My Bag knows the value of doing things the green way, and hence all their sustainable leather handbags for men and women are carefully crafted using an “eco-tanning” process

This Certified B Corp’s bags and purses boast a minimalist look that will pair well with any capsule wardrobe.

O My Bag’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices

Materials: 

Some of the best ethical purses in the non-vegan category, these bags are made of uncoated (so no synthetic finish) vegetable “wet white” tanned leather.

Read more about their specific leathers and the vegetable tanning process.

Essentially, they tan without any VOCs or harmful chemicals like chromium, heavy metals, and formaldehyde (verified by independent SGS laboratory testing).

They claim it’s so clean that leftover leather can be used as fertilizer.

They also have a line of ethical canvas purses that only feature leather handles and accents. This canvas is made from the same non-GMO GOTS organic cotton as their bag liners and dust bags.

Supply chain & labor practices: 

O My Bag’s eco friendly purses begin with their two tanneries: Shee Shen in Kolkata, India and Conceria Nuova Grenoble in Tuscany, Italy. Both source cowhides locally as meat by-products or from cows that died a natural death.

Shee Shen is an LWG Gold certified tannery that has its own primary effluent treatment plant and provides equal pay.

Conceria Nuova Grenoble is a member of the eco-tannery group, the Genuine Italian Vegetable Tanned Leather Consortium. They’re family-run, purify their production water, and have waste management systems in place to recycle production substances.

Next comes manufacturing. Each product page tells you which of their four factories it was produced in, all located around Kolkata, India.

Each one is SA8000 certified, and one of them (EMA) is also a member of the World Fair Trade Organization. 

Green business practices: 

O My Bag offers a Pre-Loved Program, where you can shop their Pre-loved Library.

Similarly in the name of slow fashion, they also provide Care & Repair guides to help you extend the life of your bags and purses. Packaging includes a choice between either FSC-certified recycled cardboard boxes.

They also use 100% renewable energy to power their office and stores and offer carbon-neutral global shipping.

Read more in their downloadable Sustainability Report.

Community & charitable giving: 

1% of O My Bag’s annual revenue is donated to support local projects which focus on women empowerment or education. Read more about their latest initiatives here.

Available: O My Bag


2. CARRY COURAGE

Do you have sustainability in the bag? Here's our list of the best ethical and sustainable handbags and purses we could find to... Image by Carry Courage #ecofriendlyhandbags #ecofriendlypurses #ethicalhandbags #ethicalpurses  #sustainablehandbags #sustainablepurses #sustainablejungle
Image by Carry Courage

About Carry Courage‘s Affordable Sustainable Handbags & Purses

Carry Courage started via 9-to-5 burnout (we’ve all been there).

After realizing her office job wasn’t inspiring her, Marisa took a courageous step to live her dream… and give other women the courage to do so as well! 

They invite you to carry courage in the form of their “organizing solutions for intentional women”, which includes essential oil bags, tablet clutches, and cosmetics bags that can double for an earthy and stylish clutch any day.

Carry Courage’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices

Materials: 

These sustainable handbags are made of a buttery soft yet durable cork exterior with linen lining, making them PETA-approved vegan.

Cork fabric is a renewable and sustainable material made from a tree that absorbs 5x the CO2 as regular trees because they grow so quickly.

It also makes for environmentally friendly handbags that are washable with mild dish soap (like a natural zero waste dish soap).

Supply chain & labor practices: 

Carry Courage’s cork is sourced from the world’s cork mecca, Portugal, where it is grown sustainably and sourced under strict harvesting regulations. 

Their linen is organically grown at a family-owned farm in the US and the metal hardware also comes from a US woman-owned company.

As for manufacturing, that all takes place in their fair labor studio in Portland, Oregon.

Green business practices: 

Each of Carry Courage’s sustainable bags is hand sewn in small mostly made-to-order batches, which eliminates lots of machine emissions and wasted overstock. 

It also guarantees customers with “heirloom quality” pieces that will last for generations.

Available: Carry Courage  


3. PARKER CLAY

Do you have sustainability in the bag? Here's our list of the best ethical handbags and purses we could...  Image by Parker Clay #ecofriendlyhandbags #ecofriendlypurses #ethicalhandbags #ethicalpurses #sustainablejungle
Image by Parker Clay

About Parker Clay’s Sustainable Bags

Parker Clay wants to create a “Better Bag For A Better World”.

Their classic collection of sustainable leather purses and handbags joins their eco friendly luggage in proving that leather can be better.

For women, you’ll find crossbody bags, totes, bucket bags, and backpacks. Their range of sustainable bags for men include briefcases, messenger bags, and backpacks.

Many of their bags are tech and laptop-compatible and some can be monogrammed.

Parker Clay’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices

Materials:

All their ethical handbags are made of premium Ethiopian full-grain leather, sourced as a byproduct of the Ethiopian meat industry.

The hardware consists of high-quality natural brass.

Supply chain & labor practices:

This Certified B Corp handmakes all bags in their own factory in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Workers receive not only over living wages (based on the USD to prevent currency devaluation), but transportation, pensions, health care, paid time off, transportation, and laundry services.

Most employees are at-risk women who have been impacted by the sex trade.

The Parker Clay Center of Excellence provides elite skills training specifically in leather working to increase future job prospects for artisans.

Green business practices:

“Fashion should not be disposable but treasured” so Parker Clay’s bags are built to last a lifetime.

As a member of the Green Tannin Initiative, their leather is tanned using organic vegetable dyes rather than chrome and sulfides. Their local Ethiopian tanneries also recycle all water used.

Community & charitable giving:

After having adopted a daughter from and lived in Ethiopia for several years, Parker Clay’s founders are passionate about giving back to it.

For every bag purchased, they plant a tree there through the Green Legacy Challenge.

This is in addition to employing at-risk women with the help of their sister nonprofit, Ellilta.

Available: Parker Clay


4. BEHNO

Do you have sustainability in the bag? Here's our list of the best ethical and sustainable handbags and purses we could find to... Image by Behno #ecofriendlyhandbags #ecofriendlypurses #ethicalhandbags #ethicalpurses  #sustainablehandbags #sustainablepurses #sustainablejungle
Image by Behno

About Behno

Behno, meaning “sisters” in Hindi, crafts high-quality sustainable luxury handbags.

Their stylish, statement-making bags are made based on six guiding ethical philosophies called the “Behno Standard“, setting these sustainable designer handbags apart.

Choose from shoulder bags, crossbody bags, clutches, and wallets, in many unique styles.

Behno’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices

Materials:

All Behno’s luxury sustainable handbags are made of premium Italian leather (in pebble, suede, or Nappa textures) paired with a cotton twill lining.

Leather is sourced from food industry waste and tanned at one of two Leather Working Group Gold certified tanneries outside Venice.

Supply chain & labor practices:

For sustainable handbags from India, Behno’s are handcrafted from Italian leather in Nashik.

This factory is regularly visited by staff members and provides financial security for workers. It’s also REACH compliant and certified by ISO 14001 and ISO 9001.

Workers also receive access to family planning services, healthcare clinics, clean water, and transportation, among other benefits

Green business practices:

Through sustainable sourcing, recycling waste materials, and energy-saving machinery and infrastructure, Behno attempts to minimize its manufacturing footprint.

Each of these sustainable fashion handbags comes mailed in either a handwoven Khai dust bag or a recycled bag made from scrap textiles.

Their partnership with Canopy helps ensure their packaging and tree-based textiles come from recycled or sustainably-managed non-endangered sources, respectively.

Community & charitable giving:

Behno supports both the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) and Boys & Girls Clubs of America by donating a percentage of sales from certain product collections.

Available: Behno


5. DEUX MAINS

Do you have sustainability in the bag? Here's our list of the best ethical and sustainable handbags and purses we could find to... Image by Deux Mains #ecofriendlyhandbags #ecofriendlypurses #ethicalhandbags #ethicalpurses #sustainablehandbags #sustainablepurses #sustainablejungle
Image by Deux Mains

About Deux Mains

Fully woman owned and managed Deux Mains believes “Women are the Pillars of Society”.

And sustainable purses are the pillars of any woman’s green wardrobe.

In addition to sustainable wallets and recycled flip flops, they provide a small selection of ethical bags—including totes, a shoulder bag, bucket bag, and crossbody bag—in a variety of different colors.

Deux Mains’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices

Materials:

These bags are either made of deadstock leather or responsibly sourced full grain leather from Haiti or Mexico.

We’re not sure what tanning chemicals are used for their non-recycled leather and will be reaching out to ask.

Their totes feature upcycled tire inner tube bottoms for durability and waterproofing.

Supply chain & labor practices:

The brand’s name means “two hands” which is exactly what is used to create these stylish ethical handbags.

Their own Haitian factory provides good wages (and overtime) as well as healthcare, paid vacations, and paid maternity/paternity leave.

Green business practices:

Their factory and tanneries run partially on solar power and their tanneries also employ water and waste recycling practices.

Small batch manufacturing, handcrafting, and turning excess fabric into new products ensure Deux Mains produces minimum waste.

Recycled packaging and goals of carbon neutrality further reduce the brand’s impact.

Community & charitable giving:

By providing their team with meaningful work, Deux Mains takes a holistic approach to break cycles of poverty through their nonprofit partner REBUILD.

REBUILD students have skills training, higher education opportunities via its University Matching Program, and guaranteed jobs at Deux Mains after graduation.

Available: Deux Mains


6. NISOLO

Do you have sustainability in the bag? Here's our list of the best ethical and sustainable handbags and purses we could find to... Image by Nisolo #ecofriendlyhandbags #ecofriendlypurses #ethicalhandbags #ethicalpurses  #sustainablehandbags #sustainablepurses #sustainablejungle
Image by Nisolo

About Nisolo 

Nashville’s Nisolo is an ethical shoe brand that also makes ethical leather handbags of all sorts, big and small. 

Aside from making ethical leather sandals, ethical boots, and accessories of their own, this certified B Corp and Climate Neutral Certified brand aims to:

“[…] push the fashion industry in a more sustainable direction – where success is based on more than just offering the cheapest price – a direction that not only values exceptional design, but the producer and the planet just as much as the end consumer.”

Check out their recently published Sustainability Framework for an overview of their work.

Nisolo’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices 

Materials: 

Nisolo bags are mainly made of nubuck and suede leathers, sourced as a by-product of the meat industry.

To gain traceability for these leathers, they’ve personally visited and vetted all leather tanneries, most of which are certified by the Leather Working Group.

They also have more sustainable bags made with a cotton canvas body, vegetable-tanned leather straps, and copper rivets.

Supply chain & labor practices: 

Nisolo manufactures between four factories: one which they own in Trujillo, Peru, and three partner factories in Leon, Mexico.

Their website includes detailed wage and condition information about each, and each product includes a Sustainability Facts Label that brings unprecedented transparency to the fashion industry.

All factories must adhere to their strict Code of Conduct and they have helped enforce these rules with the help of the supply chain consulting group ACCOUNTABLE (run through Good Ops), which has provided them with social impact assessments.

Nisolo is committed to providing a living wage to all their employees.

They cofounded the Lowest Wage Challenge and published their lowest wage employee information. 

They also provide in-house yoga and fitness classes, and training on topics like finances, health, nutrition, and English in collaboration with their suppliers.

Green business practices: 

Nisolo is a Climate Neutral Certified brand and the top ranking brand on Remake’s Accountability Report.

They measure, reduce, and offset 100% of their carbon emissions with Ecosphere+ , specifically protecting trees from deforestation in the Cordillera Azul and Ucayali regions of the Peruvian Amazon.

Number loving folks can read more about their sustainability initiatives here.

Community & charitable giving: 

Nisolo is cultivating a community of sustainable brands with their Ethical Marketplace, where they also sell products of other sustainably-minded brands to encourage sustainable living outside the closet.

They also launched a Shoe Reclamation Program and have collected and donated over 7,000 shoes to Soles4Souls.

Available: Nisolo


7. GUNAS

Do you have sustainability in the bag? Here's our list of the best ethical and sustainable handbags and purses we could find to... Image by GUNAS #ecofriendlyhandbags #ecofriendlypurses #ethicalhandbags #ethicalpurses  #sustainablehandbags #sustainablepurses #sustainablejungle
Image by GUNAS

About GUNAS’ Ethical Handbags

Any fans of A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix?  Maybe a particular handbag of mysterious Madam Lulu caught your eye.

That’s GUNAS for you! 

With big bow accents and vibrant colors, these fun ethical fashion handbags are named after and inspired by great female figures like Dr. Jane Goodall.

GUNAS is a female-owned ethical handbag brand started by Sugandh G. Agrawal under the core belief that “[a]nimals are NOT meant to be a part of fashion. We can look and feel good without harming other living beings.”

Their award-winning sustainable designer bags include everything from small clutches and wristlets to everything-but-the-kitchen-sink holding bucket bags and satchels.

GUNAS’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices

Materials: 

GUNAS’ main material for their sustainable fashion handbags bags is a PVC-free premium “Eco Polyurethane” PETA-approved vegan leather.

While they know plastic vegan leather alternatives are not perfect, they still “account for only a fraction of petroleum used in contrast to leather”.

They also use a plastic-free vegan leather made from MULBTEXTM, made of a cotton base coated with waterproof mulberry plant leaf pulp.

Their bags also feature a lining made of recycled plastic bottles (rPET) and recycled metal hardware with 18K Gold plating.

Supply chain & labor practices: 

All their bags are made by a group of small artisan studios in Seoul, South Korea, where the makers are paid above average wages. 

They personally visit these studios annually to maintain their ethical standards.

Their brand manifesto states, “We make “victim-free” fashion full of love for all. We will not participate in any kind of exploitation, be it towards our planet, people or animals.”

Community & charitable giving: 

Aside from not promoting the exploitation and harm of animals, they support animal welfare groups and sanctuaries such as the K9 Youth Alliance, Save-A-Pet, Vegan Outreach, Wild Tomorrow Fund, and many more.

Available: GUNAS


8. HYER GOODS

Do you have sustainability in the bag? Here's our list of the best ethical and sustainable handbags and purses we could find to... Image by Hyer Goods #ecofriendlyhandbags #ecofriendlypurses #ethicalhandbags #ethicalpurses #sustainablehandbags #sustainablepurses #sustainablejungle
Image by Hyer Goods

About Hyer Goods

Female-founded Hyer Goods sets a hyer bar when it comes to sustainable accessories.

In addition to phone cases and wallets, they have a huge section of unique eco sustainable handbags.

Shop just about any style imaginable, including tote, belt, bucket, crossbody, and shoulder bags.

Hyer Goods’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices

Materials:

Rather than using partially plastic vegan leathers, Hyer Goods opts for sustainable leather handbags—while eliminating the leather industry’s negatives.

Called Better Leather, it’s made of 100% upcycled and leftover leather.

While this means they can’t control the tanning used, they test all skins for chrome VI for safety and prioritize vegetable-tanned scraps when possible.

Supply chain & labor practices:

All products are hand-crafted at an Indian factory that is SEDEX-compliant and female-owned.

Green business practices:

Through the Hyer Up circularity initiative, you can post your unwanted Hyer Goods for sale online and receive 100% of the selling price in store credit.

Orders are shipped in recycled, recyclable, and biodegradable plastic free mailers and boxes.

Community & charitable giving:

Hyer Goods pledges 1% for the people, meaning 1% for sales go towards protecting transgender and women’s right, racial justice, and education.

Their giving partners are numerous, including the National Women’s Law Center, The Okra Project, the Malala Fund, and NAACP.

Available: Hyer Goods


9. KLÈS

Do you have sustainability in the bag? Here's our list of the best ethical and sustainable handbags and purses we could find to... Image by Klès #ecofriendlyhandbags #ecofriendlypurses #ethicalhandbags #ethicalpurses  #sustainablehandbags #sustainablepurses #sustainablejungle
Image by Klès

About Klès

Klès is a “Slow Fashion Adventure” undertaken by Jessica Gomez.

For sustainable handbags in the UK (along with some other gorgeous women’s leather accessories), Klès offers timeless and versatile wardrobe staples. 

Whether a clean, minimalist handbag is your style or something a little more outspoken with hand-painted designs, Jessica will personalize bags with a debossed word up to 9 characters on the interior.

Klès’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices

Materials: 

Klès’ handmade ethical leather handbags are about as sustainable as leather handbags can be.

They use only unlined, full-grain aniline Italian and Belgian vegetable tanned cow leather that’s sourced as a byproduct of the meat and dairy industry. 

Vegetable-tanned leather in and of itself embodies the slow fashion Klès stands for. While chrome-tanned leather is processed in just a day, vegetable-tanned leather takes about six weeks.

They also start with only the highest quality skins so that the leather can be either left undyed or dyed with a transparent dye (called aniline) so that the beauty of the natural grain can shine through.

Supply chain & labor practices: 

All Klès’ environmentally friendly purses are created by designer and owner Jessica Gomez herself using hand cutting, hand stitching or riveting, and hand finished edges.

Her studio is in the In Bristol Studio in Bristol’s Barton Hill where she shares a space with Rosa Pietsch, a sustainable and ethical jewelry brand

All other raw materials are sourced locally from within the UK from independent suppliers.

Green business practices: 

Klès “products are 100% slow fashion” referring to the fact that they’re all hand stitched which makes the bags easier to repair and more durable.

Available: Etsy


10. STELLA MCCARTNEY

Do you have sustainability in the bag? Here's our list of the best ethical and sustainable handbags and purses we could find to... Image by Stella McCartney #ecofriendlyhandbags #ecofriendlypurses #ethicalhandbags #ethicalpurses #sustainablehandbags #sustainablepurses #sustainablejungle
Image by Stella McCartney

About Stella McCartney

Stella McCartney is a go-to for vegan shoppers looking for anything from sustainable rain boots to heels.

But this designer brand is much more, offering a wide range of clothing, shoes and accessories, too.

Their selection of ethical luxury handbags and purses is vast, including belt bags, crossbody bags, totes, shoulder bags, mini bags, clutches, and wallets.

If you’re seeking an ethical handbag that looks like snakeskin with no animal cruelty involved, they’ve got it in the bag.

Stella McCartney’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices

Materials:

Their most sustainable materials for handbags include recycled polyester, GOTS certified organic cotton, and recycled brass and aluminum hardware. 

Other sustainable elements you’ll find combined with virgin synthetics include solvent-free polyurethane bodies and linings, GOTS cotton linings and lacing, and reduced use of solvents.

Supply chain & labor practices:

Alongside a breakdown of materials, each product description tells where each of the ethical handbags is made.

As a member of the Ethical Trading Initiative, Stella’s global manufacturing partners are held to fair labor standards including living wages, safe conditions, reasonable working hours, and protection from abuse and forced labor.

Green business practices:

Stella McCartney builds ethical, sustainable luxury handbags that can withstand being loved for a lifetime or more.

If you tire of yours before that, you can resell it via their partnership with The RealReal—where you can also sell clothes of any sort.

Read more about their sustainability efforts here including their position on things like circularity and reducing water use.

Community & charitable giving:

Stella McCartney has a significant history of giving back to organizations like War Child, the Kering Foundation, and Animals Asia.

Available: Stella McCartney


11. HFS COLLECTIVE

Do you have sustainability in the bag? Here's our list of the best ethical and sustainable handbags and purses we could find to... Image by HFS Collective #ecofriendlyhandbags #ecofriendlypurses #ethicalhandbags #ethicalpurses  #sustainablehandbags #sustainablepurses #sustainablejungle
Image by HFS Collective

About HFS Collective

HFS Collective was founded by mother-daughter power duo Debra and Rachel Denniston.

These thoughtfully made belt bags, crossbodies, bottle bags, and wallets are stunningly simple with a minimalist vibe because: 

“We celebrate the joy of less and the freedom inherent in living life hands-free. Our belt bags, designed to fit just the essentials, are a reminder of the ease of living a life of simplicity–a life filled with more experience, happiness, wholeness and joy in exchange for less stuff.”

HFS Collective’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices

Materials: 

HFS’s materials include recycled and deadstock materials, Pinatex, deadstock raffia, hemp, cork, organic cotton, and vintage denim. 

Their eco suedes are entirely vegan and sustainable, made from post-industrial recycled polyester and post-consumer recycled plastic bottles.

Even the recycled plastic items meet OEKO-Tex 100 standards for being free from VOCs, formaldehyde, pesticides, chlorine, heavy metals, carcinogens, and allergen dyes.

Supply chain & labor practices: 

By manufacturing fully in their home city of Los Angeles, these are ethical purses made in the USA. 

In fact, most are made in a small, family-run factory that’s a “safe, happy and healthy workplace” just a few miles from their office. They personally know every person that helps make their bags.

Community & charitable giving: 

The HFS charitable community is vast, and they’ve worked in some capacity with numerous organizations to fight back against things like domestic violence and sexism. 

These include LA’s TreePeople, the anti-sweatshop organization Garment Worker Center, The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, Rainforest Trust, The National All Girls, Farm Sanctuary, Haven Hills, Mercy For Animals (MFA). 

Most recently, they’ve been using Direct Relief to provide financial aid for out of work garment workers during COVID-19.

Available: HFS Collective


12. ELVIS & KRESSE

Do you have sustainability in the bag? Here's our list of the best ethical and sustainable handbags and purses we could find to... Image by Elvis & Kresse #ecofriendlyhandbags #ecofriendlypurses #ethicalhandbags #ethicalpurses  #sustainablehandbags #sustainablepurses #sustainablejungle
Image by Elvis & Kresse

About Elvis & Kresse

Certified B Corp and Social Enterprise Business for Good Elvis & Kresse rescues raw material and turns it into recycled handbags and accessories for men and women. 

Big or small sustainable handbags, they’ve got it all, as well as laptop sleeves, tablet cases, wallets, sustainable backpacks, duffels, briefcases, and belts.

Guided by the three pillars: Rescue, Transform, and Donate, this brand was founded as a rescue mission for all the London Fire Brigade’s decommissioned fire-hoses headed to the landfill.

Though they’ve expanded to many other reclamation projects, this Fire and Hide Collection is still one of their most unique and bag-nificicent.

They also do custom and personalized products.

Elvis & Kresse’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices

Materials: 

All their ethical handbags are made entirely of things like discarded fire hoses, auction banners, military parachute silk (for the linings), air traffic control flight strips, and used up printing blankets. All cleaned until they look like new. 

Elvis & Kresse have an exclusive partnership with the Burberry Foundation to help save the 800,000 tonnes of leather that end up being left over post-production by making a collection out of these small leather cut-offs.

Each of these bags contains about 48 small scraps.

Note that this collection is not vegan, though their Fire-hose Collection is.

They also use hardware (like buckles and D-rings) made from littered aluminum cans as part of their Solar Forge Aluminum Rescue Project.

Supply chain & labor practices: 

For sustainable handbags UK born and bred, know that many of the Elvis & Kresse bags and accessories are made using not only UK-sourced materials but in their Kent workshop.

Those not made in-house are made in their own ethical, well-paying factory in Istanbul, Turkey. 

Green business practices: 

For over a decade, NO London fire hose has gone to the landfill and they’ve helped reclaim over 200 tons of waste material.

Even their packaging is recycled from a hodge-podge of materials like jute or hessian coffee and tea sacks (which they use for a variety of things, like the string for their hang tags), tea bag paper, and shoe boxes.

They also offer lifetime repairs on any product, manufacture fully on renewable energy in a restored mill, and never hold sales so as to not promote impulsive purchasing of things one doesn’t need.

Community & charitable giving

This brand takes the cake for charitable initiatives; they donate 50% of their profits to organizations like Fire Fighters Charity.

Other recipients include Help for Heroes, Barefoot College (who train women in rural areas to become solar engineers), British Forces Foundation, The Costa Foundation, WWF, and two sustainable coffee plantations in Nicaragua and Guatemala.

Available: Elvis & Kresse


13. MALIA DESIGNS

Do you have sustainability in the bag? Here's our list of the best ethical and sustainable handbags and purses we could find to... Image by Malia Designs #ecofriendlyhandbags #ecofriendlypurses #ethicalhandbags #ethicalpurses  #sustainablehandbags #sustainablepurses #sustainablejungle
Image by Malia Designs

About Malia Designs

Malia Designs represents harmony between western and eastern cultures, specifically that of Cambodia.

Drawing inspiration from the Angkor temples and the colorful streets of Phnom Penh, their huge selection of eco friendly purses includes those of every shape and size imaginable.

Whatever your exact style is, they’ve got something unique just for you to #CARRYACAUSE

Malia started selling these conversation-starters at trunk shows, street festivals, and from founder Lia’s living room.  Now their affordable ethical purses are sold by over 250 US retailers.

Malia Designs’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices

Materials: 

All of Malia’s sustainable materials for handbags are recycled. 

You’ll find bags made from recycled feed bags, cement bags, cotton canvas sourced from leftover rolls of fabric from Cambodia garment factories), and upcycled denim. 

Supply chain & labor practices: 

To create economic opportunity for Cambodians living in high risk areas for human trafficking, Malia works with three fair fashion cooperatives that are women-led.

They employ over 300 people from disadvantaged groups including women, the deaf, and disabled individuals.  

One of these groups offers a choice between home-based employment or living accommodations attached to the workshop.

Community & charitable giving: 

More than anything, Malia Designs wants to break the cycle of human trafficking in Cambodia.

For over a decade, they’ve donated to organizations like Damnok Toek, a 100% Cambodian-run NGO that assists vulnerable children and trafficking victims.

Through their donations, they’ve helped provide bunk beds, education supplies, transportation, and vocational training for young women without as many employment opportunities.  

In addition, they provide grants and loans to their artisan groups for workshop expansion, training, and new equipment.

Available: Malia Designs


WHY BUY ETHICAL HANDBAGS AND PURSES?

Finding an ethical and sustainable handbag is a bit like trying to find that ONE thing in your purse, but needing to pull out every other item before finding it. 

The Problem With Traditional Leather

The traditional go-to handbag material is leather, chosen for its chic look and durable nature, but, (surprise, surprise) is made from the skin of animals.

Sometimes, byproduct leather is used, a waste product from the meat industry. 

Quite often though, leather is the only reason 1 billion animals are raised and killed every year.

While leather is technically a natural fabric, it doesn’t break down like other animal-based fabrics (ethical wool, cashmere, peace silk, etc.). 

When it’s been treated with additives, it can take over 100 years, and release dangerous chemicals in the process. 

Don’t even get us started on tanning. 

The process requires 250+ chemicals (arsenic, chromium, cyanide, etc.) which results in leaching at this stage, too. Not to mention the harm it induces on workers exposed to toxins on the daily… 

To summarize: traditional leather isn’t that sustainable when it comes to animals, people, or the planet.

Overconsumption, Labour Inequalities and Environmental Damage

Handbags, purses and accessories are not immune to the numerous problems the fashion industry has generated.

It’s tricky to get a handle on the true impact but overconsumption through fast fashion (how many bags do we each really need?), labour atrocities, and environmental damage seem to be just the tip of the iceberg.

Needless to say, if you need to buy a new handbag (secondhand should always be the starting point), we recommend researching the best sustainable handbags to find one that ticks all the boxes.

Take a look at how we’ve come up with this list of sustainable handbag brands using our criteria below.


HOW WE CHOSE THESE ECO FRIENDLY PURSES

How do we hunt through the handbags to find durable purses that can withstand being tossed around day after day (but also don’t toss our planet or animal lives to the curb)?

Well we dig and dig and dig just a little deeper until… aha!

We finally find the tools needed underneath our scrunchie, wallet, eco friendly water bottle, and zero waste lip balm: our sustainable and ethical fashion criteria. 

Materials:

With sustainable materials for handbags, the options are endless. But some are certainly better than others. 

Leather ticks the box for durability, but its benefits are limited after that (especially ethically). Vegan leather alternatives are a’plenty but there are downsides to that, too.

So, what’s better: leather or vegan leather?

It’s complicated. 

For us, vegan products are preferred from an ethical standpoint, but in some cases, vegan leather alternatives are actually less sustainable fabrics.

Sometimes, vegan leather = plastic. When it’s PVC (the WORST of the types of plastic), proper disposal is impossible. 

We look for these types of sustainable vegan leather:

  • Plant-based vegan leather alternatives: These include Pinatex, apple leather, SCOBY (the very same as when you learned how to flavor kombucha!), fungi, and cork.
  • Recycled PET or nylon: Commonly made with recycled plastic bottles or discarded fishing nets, this vegan leather alternative is still plastic, but doesn’t require crude oil drilling. Plus nylon and PET are widely recyclable.
  • Polyurethane (PU): Technically still plastic, but easier to recycle and more sustainable to produce. 

What about ethical leather? Is there such a thing?

Here we look for a clearly defined sourcing policy to ensure no animals were killed explicitly for their skin (i.e. must be a byproduct of the meat industry). 

The only exception is leather sourced from small Indigenous/rural communities that do raise animals for leather but also to feed themselves (AKA “wild caught leather”).

The best options (in order) are:

  • Upcycled/deadstock: Prevents leather from entering landfills, where it would take hundreds of years to decompose (and release toxins)! 
  • Vegetable-dyed leather: Plant-based agents in tanning provide durability—without toxins. Manufacturing water can be recycled and workers are safer, too.
  • Chrome-free leather: As just some harmful chemicals (i.e. heavy metals) are avoided, this is a teeny-tiny step in the right direction, but the previous two are far better options. 

The following certifications can help you spot more sustainable leather: Leather Working Group (Gold level is best), Ecolife™ by Green Hides, Oeko-Tex 100, and bluesign®.

Other materials in natural sustainable handbags include canvas (preferably from organic cotton) and jute/palm/raffia leaves for a woven, straw-like fiber. 

Supply chain & labor practices:

From material sourcing to manufacturing to shipping, we want to ensure that everyone involved is supported. That means living wages, safe and healthy work conditions, and fair and respectful treatment (what “fair trade” is all about).

To accessorize without greenwashing, the best sustainable handbags have strict codes of conduct or are certified to prove their claims.

Green business practices:

Having a better eco footprint can start with not using leather, but it can go much further.

How?

With the use of green energy, carbon offset programs, closed-loop manufacturing, repair/recycling programs, and use of sustainable shipping initiatives and biodegradable or compostable packaging materials. 

Community & charitable giving:

These sustainable handbag brands aren’t out to be Mr. Moneybags. 

In other words, purpose comes before profit because many of these brands give back to charitable organizations that benefit the environment, social programs, or both! 


FINAL THOUGHTS ON SUSTAINABLE HANDBAGS & PURSES

So there you have it: a whole bag-load of eco friendly purses and handbags from brands that are giving you the tools (or rather a means to hold them) to live more sustainably.

Just remember the best ethical purses are those already in the back of your closet. If you really need to replace them, make sure you recycle properly.

And then consider online thrifting first to see if you can score a killer deal on a pre-loved ethical designer handbag. 

Conscious consumerism can be a heavy bag to carry, but the more we spread the message and encourage more brands (and friends) to go-green, the lighter the load will become!


Do you have sustainability in the bag? Here's our list of the best ethical and sustainable handbags and purses we could find to... Image by Parker Clay #ecofriendlyhandbags #ecofriendlypurses #ethicalhandbags #ethicalpurses #sustainablehandbags #sustainablepurses #sustainablejungle

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