Ethical, DIY and Just Plain Fun Bags and Purses

Guest post by Donna on behalf of TestFreaks website

Something that always makes my palms sweat, my heart beat faster and my gets me breathing heavy is…. accessories! Now if you thought I was going somewhere else – shame on you.

Which got me to thinking: Why do we gals love shoes and handbags so much? At one time it was a statement of a lady’s status in society. For example, one might conclude the character of a woman from the type of purse or handbag she carries.

There may still be some truth to this today. But maybe it’s about more than that. Today’s environmentally-minded woman thinks about the planet and those she loves more than she does her image. Now, don’t get me wrong – there’s a lot to be said for presenting a positive image. But when it comes to accessories, a lady can look sharp and be eco-friendly.

To help with making some great ethical handbag choices, we have rounded up some of our favorites. Some of these you can go out and buy, and some you can make yourself.


Candy Wrapper Handbags

Nahui Ollin offers a very stylish line of handbags that are made from candy wrappers. A Mayan technique of paper folding (not unlike those gum wrapper chains we made as a child) gives a strong and colorful end result. The bags offered vary from the shoulder bags and totes to our favorite, the handbag. The style is sure to get some attention, and the brightly decorated accessory will accent any outfit you decide to pair it with. The lighthearted video below shows the process of making a very nice looking handbag.

And if you are feeling brave with a do it yourself desire, Mylinda shows us how to make a candy wrapper purse with step by step directions. While many websites state that making a candy bar bag is not a complicated process, I would suggest that you at least look over the process that Mylinda has provided carefully before committing. You may find it easy if you have the skills, and daunting otherwise. But whether you buy it or make it, the candy bar wrapper purse is a great way to accent your looks while being eco minded.


Duct Tape Purse

Duct Tape – real do-it-yourselfers absolutely love the stuff, and you can find it used in any number of situations. However, did you know that duct tape can make a great handbag? MonkeySee.com has a great tutorial on making just such a purse, shown in the video below.

The end result is a fun accessory item that could fit anywhere. But the best news is that the end design is limited only by your imagination and the color of duct tape, which has apparently expanded well past the old standard of gray.


Recycled Leather Jacket Bag

If you like leather, then there is no better feeling that a well worn leather jacket that has gotten soft and comfortable. Taking this concept to heart, Remade USA offers a wonderful selection of bags (as the example above shows) made from recycled leather jackets. By doing this they end up with a quality soft leather accessory item that feels great and is earth friendly by upcycling the leather.


Pop Tab Purse

This is a do it yourself project that reuses those tabs you find on the top of soft drink cans. As shown on project hubpage, the end result is a classy metal purse (shown above) that has a natural shine and durable look that would beautifully accent any wardrobe. The page provides step by step instructions, and it is not at all hard to follow.

But if you have plans to make the handbag, you had better start saving tabs now – the bag above required 727 of them. (And yes, you can find tabs on Ebay.) When finished, you have a snazzy accessory item that looks great, is easy on the planet, and easy on the purse strings – isn’t that appropriate?


Recycled Skateboard Bag

If you are looking for a unique handbag, then consider a recycled skateboard bag from ECO-Handbags. The bags are made from actual repurposed skateboards, and no two bags will be the same. The inside of the bags are lined with silk satin to keep your items safe, and the outside is nothing if not durable. This is one handbag that screams authenticity, but as to what kind of crash created the fashionable scratches I’ll leave to your imagination.


Juice Pouch Handbags

Having a lightweight and stylish handbag made from recycled goods does not have to be boring. In fact, MormonChic (the source of the above image) shows us how to make it with flair that is both easy on the pocket and good for the planet. Their website details making an interesting handbag from those discarded juice pouches that we are all too familiar with.

The bright colors and illustrations on the pouches lend a colorful look to the finished handbag that is easily accented with whimsical touches. The fun juice pouch hand bag is sure to make your fun outfit really sparkle with interest while delivering a great message that recycling can be fun.


Eco Smart Laptop Bag

Finally, today’s woman is not always just about the fashion – she has to bring the eco-minded styling into the business world as well. That is where an earth friendly laptop bag makes so much sense. Targus offers a line of their eco smart bags that feature no PVC or toxic laden nickel, just durable recycled materials. You can find a wide variety of bags for your laptop, but my favorite is the Spruce netbook bag shown above. And the small black bag will go with everything from business power suits to casual day dress.

So there you have a few of our favorite eco minded bags for a variety of uses, from the errand around town to the meeting room. And we have bags that can be bought or cleverly crafted yourself. But when you sport these attractive bags, the focus will no doubt be on the smarts of the wearer, not the handbag itself. And what more could you ask for from any accessory?

Starre Vartan is founder and editor-in-chief of Eco-Chick.com and the author of the Eco-Chick Guide to Life. She's also a freelance science and environment writer who has published in National Geographic, CNN, Scientific American, Mental Floss, Pacific Standard, the NRDC, and many more. She lives on an island in Puget Sound with her partner and black cat. She was a geologist in her first career, and still picks up rocks wherever she goes.