It's not often that we do in-depth backpack reviews on this site, but when we do, they tend to be pretty special bags. We've featured dozens of great backpacks in our various roundups and reviewed many environmentally sustainable products, but this is the first time that I can remember an accessory that bridges both of those areas so well.
The Lenovo Eco Pro Backpack was launched this past Earth Day 2020, but unfortunately, we just missed out on adding it to our extensive Earth Day coverage. The pack seemed like too good of a proposition not to cover, though, so the first chance I had, I jumped at the opportunity to get my hands on one and try it out for myself. What follows are my initial thoughts on the backpack after spending a few (admittedly) homebound weeks with it.
A reliable, responsible rucksack
Lenovo Eco Pro Backpack
Bottom line: The Lenovo Eco Pro Backpack lives up to its sustainable name, using over 80% recycled content, including 34 recycled water bottles per bag. It doesn't cut any corners, though, with enough padded pockets and pouches for all of your tech gear. The only potential downside? Those tiny side pockets.
- Made of 83% recycled content
- Lightweight, durable, comfortable
- Tons of great hidden pouches and pockets
- Aesthetic will please minimalists
- Water bottle pouches are too small
- Only one color option
- A little pricey
Unfortunately, when most people think about sustainability, they don't often think of big international tech companies. Sure, there are the niche innovators like Fairphone or Pela, and yes, Apple and Google have made progress here as well. Still, it can be challenging to find a lot of great examples of tech companies making significant headway on the subject of sustainability.
I was pleasantly surprised then to learn that Lenovo has been committed to sustainability and eco-friendly products, materials, production, and distribution for nearly 15 years. In a statement from a company spokesperson, Lenovo said that:
We are proud to offer a portfolio of products, including desktops, all-in-one computers, workstations, notebooks, and tablets that contain between 10% and 85% PCC. Recently we expanded our use of post-consumer recycled content materials from electronic hardware to additional products, like the new Eco Pro Backpack.
Lenovo claims that between 60 and 70 of its products have at least some recycled or repurposed materials in them, including wireless keyboards, workstation docks, and travel hubs. The company is looking into other sustainable materials for future products, like bamboo and sugar cane. It is also taking steps to increase efficiencies in its production, packing materials, shipping, and logistics to lower its carbon footprint and overall environmental impact. These efforts have helped Lenovo to reduce its global greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 92% over the past decade.
Following this trend, the Eco Pro Backpack is made out of over 83% recycled content and contains the equivalent of 34 plastic bottles and other materials. This is waste that would have likely ended up in a landfill or the ocean but has thankfully now been repurposed.
The process that Lenovo uses to take these plastic bottles and turn them into materials for its products, like the Eco Pro Backpack, is pretty ingenious. As described in a recent company blog post, Lenovo's production partners collect recyclable plastic bottles, break them down into little pellets, and then melt those pellets into a super-durable yarn that is spun into the fabric for the main components of the backpack. The result is a sturdy, soft, and flexible material that should last for years to come.
This pack has your back
When I first saw the Eco Pro Backpack in product renders and on Lenovo's website, I wasn't overly excited by its design. I mean, there was nothing wrong with it per se. It just looked, well, like a backpack. I appreciated the olive/army green colorway as a departure from the sea of blue and black bags, and I enjoyed its minimal design aesthetic, but that was about it. That is, until I opened the box with my very own Eco Pro Backpack in it.
Right away, I could see that I'd underestimated the bag. The green was more vibrant in person than I'd realized from the product photos (though still not ostentatious), and the little red accents on the pull tabs, sunglass strap, and minimal Lenovo logo on the side of the pack gave it a subtle, but much-welcomed, pop.
When I heard that the backpack was made of recycled water bottles, I assumed it would be stiff, scratchy, and not all that comfortable to the touch, but I was pleasantly surprised here as well. The "fabric" created by the woven plastic fibers is soft yet secure, and the breathable mesh on the rear of the pack is very comfortable across your back. It comes with the standard adjustable straps, as well as a sturdy handle up top, and a sleeve for sliding it onto the handle of your roller suitcase (remember suitcases?).
The secret pockets and pouches make this pack so fun, and so practical.
Another feature that I love about this backpack is its assortment of pockets and pouches; this thing is like a kangaroo on steroids! For starters, it has a secret zipper pouch on the lower portion of the backside (secret because the zipper is hidden, and it's protected from would-be thieves by the small of your back). It's perfect for stashing away your wallet, tickets, or passport for easy access on the go. It's also padded, so you don't feel those quick access items jabbing into your kidneys.
Inside the main compartment, you have three smaller, open-access pouches for things like earbuds or battery packs, a few smaller open-access pouches for items like business cards, thumb drives, and pens. There is also a medium-sized sleeve for a notebook or e-reader, a big open cavity for a jacket or shoes, and a zippered pocket for smaller items that you don't want to get loose.
|Specs||Lenovo Eco Pro Backpack|
|Dimensions||19.2 x 12.2 x 6.5 inches|
|Compartments||Over 15 pockets, pouches, and compartments|
|Recycled Materials||83% recycled materials
34 water bottles recycled per pack
Behind this is a large zippered compartment for a laptop and tablet, along with some extra storage space in the main cavity. In the front of the bag, you have upper and lower zippered compartments, and, hallelujah, two adjustable pockets on each side of the pack for water bottles, umbrellas, or whatever items you want to stash there quickly.
At $90, this isn't a cheap backpack by any means, but it is affordable when compared to other tech enthusiast packs like the OnePlus Explorer Backpack, or the Peak Design Everyday Backpack v2, which retail for $100 and $260, respectively.
Strap in for a few suggestions
In my opinion, Lenovo got just about everything right with this eco-friendly backpack, but there are a few areas that I think could stand to be improved in a v2.
For starters, let's revisit the price. I know I just said that this pack was priced well vs. its tech competitors, but to get wider adoption (and broader exposure for sustainable products), I'd love to see a second version of the pack priced in the $60-$75 range. I think that would be much easier to swallow in this current economic climate, and might see the product trickle down to college and even high school students as well as business folk on the go.
For a bag that is made from 34 plastic water bottles, it doesn't really do a great job of holding water bottles. That's a missed opportunity.
I also said above that I really liked that Lenovo included not one, but two adjustable side pockets, ostensibly for water bottles (in homage to what the bag is made from?). However, these pockets, even when expanded to their maximum width, are not great for storing water bottles. As you can see from the above photo, my 32oz Nalgene bottle doesn't come close to fitting, and my narrower Camelback bottle just barely fits. That's a little bit of a bummer, but something that should be an easy fix in a future version of the bag.
Finally, and this is just a personal preference here, but it would be great if Lenovo could release additional colors for this backpack. While I do like the green, let's see Lenovo introduce a traditional black or slate gray, a blue variant, and then maybe a wildcard like a fun orange or Lenovo red to mix things up and call attention to this material marvel!
Lenovo Eco Pro Backpack Should you buy one?
Should you buy one of these backpacks from Lenovo? Yes — if what you need is a good backpack that can also protect and transport your laptop and gear. The tagline for this product on the Lenovo website is "Look good, feel good, do good," and I think it comes close to nailing that statement.
In keeping with the spirit of sustainability, the best thing you can do for the environment is not to buy new stuff you don't need but instead reuse and repurpose your existing possessions for as long as possible (before you hopefully recycle them). That being said, if you are in the market for a new backpack, then this one is worthy of your serious consideration. Not only can you feel good about purchasing a product that is almost 90% recycled materials, but because of its build, it will last you a LONG time. But not only is it an excellent product from a sustainability perspective, but it's also great for lugging your tech around with minimal tradeoffs.
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