Under what conditions was it made? Were persistent perfluorinated water-repellent coatings added to it? Both key questions to ask. Back in October, the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights called out Gap/Old Navy for cheating the world's poorest workers in Bangladesh, where Gap's still refusing to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety. (Gap and Walmart opted for their own less rigorous scheme.) Also, earlier this month, 40 labour orgs called on Walmart to pay up and compensate victims of the Bangladesh factory collapse. Gap.ca. $64.95.
Both Ontario bag makers earn points for handcrafting ethically made bags using 99 per cent upcycled materials, keeping stuff like truck tarps, seat belts and old promotional banners out of landfill. The only downside is that they end up using a lot of vinyl. Not everyone's going to be comfortable being in close contact with a material softened with hormone-disrupting phthalates. If you're not fussed, enjoy. Mariclaro also makes satchels and pretty bike-friendly purses out of vintage car leather and seat belts. mariclaro.ca. $159.
Love this bag because while it looks and acts like a shoulder bag, it's actually a secret pannier that clips to your bike rack in a flash. Plus, like a few other Timbuk2 bags, it's made of 100 per cent PET yarn from recycled water bottles. Built to last, with a lifetime guarantee. Adjustable strap means it can be worn cross-body, too. Made in China, yes, but labour activists will be happy that factory names/locations are posted on the website. mec.ca. $90.
RESSAC, GREEN GURU
With every cursed flat tire you get, another rubber inner tube ends up in the trash. Not so for those tubes collected and recycled by Quebec's Ressac and Colorado's Green Guru, both of which craft all sorts of handy sacs out of old tubes (most of which are made of synthetic butyl rubber, also used in chewing gum). Green Guru (available at mec.ca and Greengurugear.com) offers rugged handlebar bags, panniers and backpacks that can carry pretty much anything to go. Ressac's backpacks, messenger bags and cool cross-body purses are lined with recycled textiles. Ressac.ca, Distill and One of a Kind Show. $196.
This may not be the bag for pro couriers, but you can stylishly sling your laptop and lunch over your shoulder in one of Thompson's one-of-a-kind, handcrafted bags for women and men. All are made über-locally from rescued fabrics left over from the Canadian furniture biz, many of which were organic or recycled to begin with. While more costly than, say, Chinese-made bags, they're super-well-constructed to last decades. Plus, they've got reflective tape on 'em and lots of pockets inside. From Annie Thompson, Distill and the Green Living Show. anniethompson.ca. $289.