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Sustainability has become a huge factor for many consumers, and people are looking for more eco-friendly options. While you might not think of tech as good for the environment, many tech companies -- and smartphones -- are going green.
The tech industry is responsible for tons of electronic waste and 2% to 3% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, but companies are starting to take note. Many smartphone brands are making a more conscious effort by changing how they produce, ship, and package devices. There are still not a ton of sustainable phone options on the market, but you might be surprised at what models made the list.
Some of the most popular phones on the market today, like the iPhone 14 Pro and even the recently announced Samsung Galaxy S23 series are eco-friendly phones made from recycled materials. However, there are other smartphone models as well.
Whether you're looking to lower your overall carbon footprint or become a smarter consumer, we've rounded up the best environmentally conscious, eco-friendly, and sustainable smartphones to help you choose which one is right for you to go green.
Also: The 5 best green phone cases: Sustainable and eco-friendly brands
Features: 65kg carbon footprint | 100% of recycled rare earth elements | uses 54% less energy
Apple has been instituting more and more green initiatives into every new iPhone release, and the iPhone 14 Pro is the "greenest" model yet. According to Apple's Product Environmental Report, the iPhone 14 Pro is made with 100% recycled gold in the wire of all its cameras, and 100% of recycled rare earth elements in all its magnets.
In addition, Apple said it uses e 35% or more recycled plastic in 15 components in the iPhone 14 Pro.
Energy use is another huge factor in making the iPhone 14 Pro a great eco-conscious pick. Apple said it uses 54% less energy consumed than the requirements for battery charger systems. It also had a 65kg carbon footprint throughout its entire life cycle (from production to recycling), nearly 6% less than the iPhone 13 Pro.
Read the review: iPhone 14 Pro packs a lot more innovation for the same price as last year
The iPhone 14 Pro's packaging is sustainable as well, and 95% of the packaging is fiber-based, with 100% of the fiber coming from recycled and responsible sources.
Features: 20% recycled ocean-bound plastic | Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor | 128GB-1TB of storage
The Samsung Galaxy S22 series not only has excellent specs, like a dynamic AMOLED 2x display, but the three phones in the lineup (Galaxy S22, Galaxy S22+, and Galaxy S22 Ultra) are also dubbed Samsung's most eco-conscious devices ever. First off, they contains 20% recycled ocean-bound plastic, all from discarded fishing nets. They also incorporates post-consumer recycled material in the speaker module and the inner parts of the volume and power keys.
Read the review: Galaxy S22 Plus review: This is the Galaxy you're looking for
The packaging is sustainable, too. Samsung says it uses 100% recycled paper for the Samsung Galaxy S22 lineup's packaging, including a protective film made from recycled plastic. It's all a part of Samsung's Galaxy for the Planet program, which includes plans to incorporate recycled material in all new mobile products, eliminate all plastics in mobile packaging, and achieve zero waste to landfills, all by 2025.
Also: Most eco-friendly smartphone? Apple vs Samsung in the race against e-waste
Features: B Corp certified | GD+ Display | 128GB, 6GB RAM or 256GB, 8GB RAM
While it's not a name-brand phone you may be familiar with, Fairphone was made to be the company's most sustainable option since it was founded in 2013. Fairphone is Blue Angel certified for sustainability and is B Corp certified for using business to address social and environmental issues.
The fourth generation of the Fairphone (Fairphone 4) still has all the things you've come to know and love about smartphones -- like a full GD+ display, dual cameras with an ultra-wide lens, and 5G speeds -- while being built with sustainability in mind. The Fairphone 4 is made from aluminum from Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) certified vendors with a 100% recycled plastic back cover. And, for every phone Fairphone sells, the company recycles an equal amount of electronic waste.
One of the only downsides to the Fairphone 4 is its availability: It's currently only available in Europe, but the company said it is hoping to possibly expand to the US.
Features: 25% recycled polycarbonate | 6.1-inch HD+ display | Replaceable battery
Another lesser-known brand in the smartphone market is Teracube, but the company is doing great things regarding sustainability. For every device sold, Teracube will plant a tree through a partnership with the One Tree Planted organization.
The company's latest model, the Teracube 2E, is made with 25% recycled polycarbonate, has 50% less packaging than other smartphone models, and comes with a biodegradable phone case. In terms of tech specs, you can expect dual rear cameras and a 6.1-inch HD+ display.
Also, you're enabled to repair the phone yourself, prolonging its life past the average two- to three-year lifespan of a smartphone.
Features: Up to 256GB | 144Hz display | Two-day battery life
Lenovo (which owns Motorola) laid out an ambitious 10-year climate pledge in 2020 that outlined its sustainability plans for its products. Motorola said its entire mobile device product range currently is free from PVC (a synthetic polymer of plastic) and BFR (mixtures of man-made chemicals). The batteries in its phone don't have mercury or cadmium in them. In addition, the company uses 100% recycled pulp content to replace plastic parts in its packaging.
Since all of Motorola's phones have made this eco-conscious shift, you could choose any Motorola model, but the Motorola Edge is arguably the most impressive smartphone in the lineup. It's a solid smartphone option with specs like a 144Hz display, three cameras (including one with a 108MP high-resolution sensor), and up to 256GB of built-in storage. Plus, the Motorola Edge promises two days of power on a single charge, extending the time between charging.
Read the review: Motorola Edge Plus review: Mid-range experience for flagship price
The iPhone 14 Pro is our top eco-friendly phone. We considered many specs, including eco-friendly packaging, energy consumption, incorporation of recycled materials, price, warranty, software system, camera quality, battery life and more, to find the best green phone.
% of Recycled Materials
iPhone 14 Pro
$999 - $1499
100% of recycled rare earth elements
Samsung Galaxy S 22 Series
$799.99 - $1299.99
128GB-1TB of storage
20% recycled ocean-bound plastic
128GB, 6GB RAM or 256GB, 8GB RAM
100% recycled plastic back cover
25% recycled polycarbonate
Up to 256GB
Free from PVC and BFR
If you're loyal to a smartphone brand, the Apple and Samsung phones on this list are great options that don't require you to give up the smartphone experience you are used to. The Fairphone 4 is an excellent eco-conscious option with 5G speeds if you live in Europe.
And, if you want a cheaper phone that will last at least five years, the Teracube 2E is a great option that's already covered by major mobile carriers.
Choose this green phone...
If you want...
iPhone 14 Pro
The best overall option
Samsung Galaxy S 22 Series
A green phone with an exceptional camera
A phone that is certified sustainable
A green phone that lasts longer than the average two- to three-year lifespan
A green phone that has up to two-days of battery life on a full charge
We looked at the usual name-brand smartphones as well as the not-so-conventional brands to add to this list. We read through and fact-checked climate pledges and claims companies have made. Other criteria we considered when choosing the smartphones on this list were what the devices were made of and their overall energy usage/carbon footprint when compared to the average smartphone.
Some of the eco-friendly aspects of a phone include recycled parts and packaging, how long a device lasts (so you don't have to keep getting a new one every few years and contribute to the e-waste problem), a company's carbon footprint from the phone's production to its shipping processes, and its energy usage.
An eco-friendly phone will help reduce environmental waste (e-waste). According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), e-waste is the fastest-growing waste stream in America, but only a fraction of it is collected. As a result, the world produces as much as 50 million metric tons of e-waste a year.
Buying an eco-friendly phone means the phone is built with recycled materials and not hazardous e-waste materials like lead, nickel, and mercury. In addition, eco-friendly devices are built to last longer than the average smartphone, reducing the amount of e-waste by keeping your phone active for longer.
Of course, you can go the refurbished route and get any smartphone model you want and feel better about it than buying brand-new. Refurbished phones are previously owned and used phones that are repaired to give them a second life. Buying refurbished means the phone won't turn into e-waste by being thrown away to sit in a landfill. Instead, refurbished phones are sold by a mobile carrier, a manufacturer, or a retailer that has repaired them and run thorough checks to ensure they meet a certain standard.
Amazon has a great pre-owned and refurbished program called Amazon Renewed that includes devices like the iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, and Google Pixel and more at lower prices than a brand new model.