More Green ICT perspectives on companies in this post: Acer - Apple - Asus - Brother - Canon - Casio - Cisco - Dell - Epson - Ericsson - Fujitsu - HP - Hitachi - IBM - Intel - Lenovo - LG - Microsoft - Motorola - NEC - Nintendo - Nokia - Oracle - Panasonic - Philips - Quanta - Samsung - Sharp - Siemens - Sony - Toshiba - Wipro

Finding the Greenest Mobile Phones

Resources for responsible phone purchasing have improved significantly. In our latest update, a manufacturer's up-cycling program collaborates with hacker space innovators.

Certification/Registry Organizations

A EPEAT/UL collaboration to address mobile phones was launched in July 2017. There are now seven models EPEAT Gold registered for the United States: five from Apple and two from Samsung

The database of UL 110 certified phones lists one hundred nineteen models certified Platinum as of early May 2017. UL 110 is a "Standard for Sustainability for Mobile Phones".

Looking at past resources, I could find only one model listed by only one organization: Germany's Blue Angel's certification of the Fairphone 2.

Nordic Ecolabel does not offer mobile devices. The Environmental Working Group has suspended publication its cellphone radiation database.

TCO Development updated its smartphones program (TCO Certified Smartphones 2) in September 2015 . TCO tells me there are no TSO Certified phones because no manufacturer has submitted devices for certification.

Service Providers

Sprint told me in 2017 that, "All Sprint Prepaid and Postpaid handsets are required to complete UL 110 certification. As a result, Sprint has more UL 110 certified wireless phones than any other wireless carrier in the world. "

Equipment Manufacturers

Apple publishes detailed Environmental Reports for its products, such as this report for the iPhone X.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency gave Samsung the Cutting Edge Champion Award in its 2017 Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Electronics Challenge. "Samsung Electronics is recognized for their unique and fun Galaxy Smartphone Upcycling program. This innovative approach for the millions of old Galaxy smartphones provides all the necessary resources and tools to allows users to “upcycle” an old smartphone into a new product and share applications on the Upcycling website. Other users can download and use these crowd sourced ideas...Samsung is collaborating on the Galaxy Upcycling program with some of the largest influencers in the maker/hacker/repair space. The open source platform Samsung is developing will be transparent and the public will be able to track uptake through user forums and other decentralized sites, including social media. The shared nature of the software and the used smartphones makes the new products more affordable, thus enabling more people to become users of technology." The Galaxy Upcycling program has a portal for interested techies.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency gave Samsung the Cutting Edge Champion Award in its 2015 Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Electronics Challenge. "Samsung Electronics is recognized for its vision to make the Galaxy S6 mobile phone, its packaging, and its accessories meet high environmental standards while maintaining its status as a high-end product. Samsung has reduced the carbon emissions in each consecutive S Series phone by an annual average of 14%. This aggregates to 58 billion kg CO2 since 2011— the equivalent of planting 4.7 million trees. "

Previous listings

Here are previous posts for those looking to reuse an older unit.

Newer Models UL
Jul 2013 [17]
May 2013 [16]
Jul 2012
Sep 2012 [11]
More Green Info
Apple "Not participating"
Blackberry / RIM 9310
Fairphone [18]
HTC EVO - 5 models
One - 5 models
One S
Kyocera / Sanyo Torqu
not offered
LG Rumor Reflex - 2 models
Optimus - 5 models
Rumor Reflex
Optimus Elite
Viper 4G LTE
Not offered
Motorola Photon Q 4G LTE not offered
Nokia Not offered [6]
Samsung SPH - 9 models
Galaxy S4
Galaxy S4 Reclaim
Galaxy Ace
Sony Ericsson Not offered Xperia P,S,U,go [6]
ZTE Flash
not offered

Notes for table

(Most original references have been removed as they are no longer in service)

[6] The Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics does not rank individual products, rather, it ranks consumer electronics companies according to policies on toxic chemicals, recycling and climate change. Vertatique's tracking of Greenpeace's rankings over the years shows Nokia and Sony Ericsson to be consistent top performers.

[11] UK mobile services provider Telefónica O2's "Eco rating"of 4.0 or better out of 5.0 for the phones they sell from participating manufacturers. O2 publishes detailed rating methodology developed by Forum for the Future.

[14] Greenpeace Survey rates products submitted by participating manufacturers on a 10-point scale. The hypothetical score of a "fictional product that combined the best features of all submitted products within each category" is 8.18 for mobile phones and 7.92 for smart phones. We report models scoring 5.0 or better; the score is shown in parenthesis.

[16] TCO appears not to have certified any more phones since the May 2013 certifications.

[17] Forty models are listed in UL Environment's Sustainable Product Database .

[18] Fairphone, first available in Europe in late 2013, will feature conflict-free tin and tantalum and an e-waste program.

Going Deeper

Our experience with mobile/smart phones is typical of the challenges sorting through green ratings of electronics products and companies. The lack of good information is also hampered by the lack of mobile phone listings from the European ecolabels.

We are unaware of any volume buyer of mobile devices (business, government, or education) that significantly weights green criteria in its purchasing decisions. Please comment below if you know of green-oriented volume purchasers.

Take a look at who are the greenest telecom providers.

@ecologee told me in June 2010 that he has been using his Samsung Crest E1107, an inexpensive solar-powered GSM phone, for a couple of weeks now without plugging into the grid. His objective is to get through the summer without doing so. Getting through the short days of the German winter will be more of a challenge, as the phone is limited to 5-10 minutes of talk time for 1 hour of solar charging. The E1107 Crest, available in much of the world but not North America, offers a number of features, from a flashlight to an FM radio, that would make it attractive to those traveling off the beaten path . . . as long as they can find enough power for all those features.

For those looking for greener approaches to charging their existing units, blogger Kathryn Vercillo offers 10 solutions, ranging from solar to stored vampire power.

Update 2011.04.01
French company Wysips claims to have a solar film that can be used as a display on a mobile device to keep it charged longer. Engadget review.

Sources become dated as new models hit the market. We're always looking for new sources, please comment below if you know of any.