It doesn’t matter if you call the movement, environmentally friendly, nature friendly or just plain eco-friendly; more and more people are actively looking for ways to minimize the impact on the Earth’s environment.
Every year millions of dollars in school supplies are bought and then discarded before the semester is even over. This is wasteful both in time, money and the environment. One such staple of the annual school supply hunt is the student backpack.
Usually made of plastic or nylon the school backpack is destined for a landfill in a semester or two, where it will remain for the next 30 to 40 years. But now you can do your part to help the environment by learning how to pick out eco friendly backpacks for your kids.
Organic or Recycle?
Eco friendly backpacks can be broken down into products made from two very different “source materials”. Eco friendly backpacks can be either made from fabrics or materials organically grown or from materials recycled from man-made or post-consumer materials.
One of the most popular organic materials commonly found in eco friendly backpacks is hemp. Banned in the United States as a legal commercial crop since 1937 (in an effort to prevent marijuana production), hemp is grown in Canada and Europe. Considered the oldest fiber plant cultivated for fabric production, hemp has been found in cloth fragments dating back to 8000 B.C.
Hemp’s usefulness as a cloth is oblivious. The hemp plant produces the strongest natural fiber known. Any fabric or material made from hemp is 3 times stronger than regular cotton material with the same weight or thickness. Hemp is warmer than cotton and is more absorbent, and more durable.
Another interesting plant material is “vegetal leather” or TreeSap®. This material is made from sandwiching wild rubber tree sap between layers of raw cotton and letting in “vulcanize” in the hot Brazilian sun (from clothes lines in local villages). It is then made into eco friendly backpacks with a “silky smooth material that is softer and lighter than leather.”
A post-consumer material is just a real fancy way to say “recycled. Several manufacturers offer eco friendly backpacks recycled from bicycle parts, fires hoses, “On Sale” retail banners, to used racing boat sailcloth.
One company that has made quite a name for its is run by two Swiss brothers, Markus and Daniel Freitag, who in the 90s cobbled together a backpack made from an old truck tarp (not common in the US), scavenged car seat belts, and a bike inner tube for reinforcement at stress point (like it needed any). It was an instant hit. Now the Freitags’ are offering a new product made from used fire hoses.
Another company has used marine canvas from sailing boats and yachts to create recycled backpacks and totes. A Florida based company is using old retread tires to make very heavy duty eco friendly backpacks (sorry they only come in one color: black). Still others have used materials scavenged from retails store signs and banners.
So you now can get a backpack that is both eco friendly and something interesting to talk about.