As it turns out, canvas bags might be less eco-friendly than plastic bags because they’re often made of cotton, which requires more energy and water to produce. According to one study from 2011, a cotton bag’s carbon footprint is 598.6 pounds of CO2, compared to 3.48 pounds for a standard plastic bag made from high-density polyethylene. Researchers concluded that it might actually be better to reuse those plastic bags you get from the supermarket, then recycle them once they’re no longer viable.
Similarly, a 2018 recent study from Denmark found that low-density polyethylene bags wreaked the least damage on the planet of all the different types of bag studied. (However, it’s important to note that ocean pollution was not taken into account in that particular study, and that plastic can still severely harm marine life and ecosystems.) Representatives of Denmark's Ministry of Environment and Food determined that conventional cotton bags would have to be reused 7100 times to match the cumulative environmental performance of a plastic bag. Organic cotton bags are even worse, because those would need to be reused 20,000 times.
Backpacks were once considered casual and suited only for travel or for students who needed to lug books by the kilos. It was a hard-working bag meant for the wearer’s comfort.
But as offices become more mobile with laptops and assorted gadgetry (chargers, tabs, power banks and mobile phones), a backpack has become the goto workbag. Add to this the rise of a casual corporate culture, where athleisure is kosher at the workplace and sneakers are subbing in for high heels for women and dress shoes for men, and backpacks are strictly formal now.
Making and selling backpacks and travel bags — of burlap and vegan leather — is how Samriddh Burman, Karuna Parikh and Rewant Lokesh of Kolkata came together to start The Burlap People.