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Best eco-friendly headphones

Vote with your wallet.
By
July 7, 2022
House of Marley Exodus
By House of Marley
The House of Marley Exodus Bluetooth headphones against a white background.
7
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Positives
Build quality
Bluetooth 5, USB-C charging, audio jack
Battery life
Responsibly sourced materials
Negatives
SBC only
Discomfort after an hour
The Bottom Line.
The House of Marley Exodus uses FSC-certified maple wood, aluminum, and stainless steel. A solid battery life rounds out this product, as does the donation to One Tree Planted built into every purchase.Read full review...
Thinksound ov21
By Thinksound Inc.
The thinksound ov21 over-ear wired headphones against a white background.
7.8
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Positives
Good sound quality
Recyclable plastic
Plush bioplastic ear pads
Two cables
Comfortable fit for size
Negatives
Price
Some heat bulid up after one hour
Limited fit adjustment
The Bottom Line.
The Thinksound ov21 is a premium headset made from eco-friendly bioplastic.Read full review...
Beyerdynamic DT 700 PRO X
By Beyerdynamic
8
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Positives
Sound quality; audio jack
Good isolation
Comfortable fit
Replaceable parts
Negatives
Price
On the heavy side
Build could be more solid
The Bottom Line.
Beyerdynamic headphones are an audiophile favorite and the DT 700 PRO X is no exception. Rated highly by our readers, it impresses with great sound quality, comfortable design, and replaceable parts.Read full review...
Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2
By Audio-Technica
Product shot of Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2
7.8
Check price
Positives
Sound quality
Fast pairing
Equalizer
Foldable design
Battery life
Bluetooth 5; SBC, AAC, LDAC, wired
Negatives
Heat build-up
LDAC doesn't always work
Tight fit
The Bottom Line.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 is the wireless option for audiophiles, offering a staggering 64 hours and 51 minutes of battery life, and the option to plug in when the battery dies.Read full review...
Apple AirPods Max
By Apple
The Apple AirPods Max noise cancelling headphones in white against an off-white background.
7.8
Check price
Positives
Amazing active noise cancelling
Comfortable design
Solid build quality
Decent battery life
Sound quality
Negatives
No headphone jack
Lightning connector instead of USB-C
No aptX or LDAC codec support
Requires smart case to turn off
Microphone quality
The Bottom Line.
The Apple AirPods Max is a decent choice if you're already locked into the Apple ecosystem. Unparalleled active noise cancelling and great sound quality will let you forget its downsides.Read full review...

More than half the world’s carbon emissions stem from the extraction and processing of raw materials. That’s why the best headphones for the environment are the ones you never bought. Alternatively, you could make your old headphones last for as long as you can. If that’s no longer an option, we’ll help you pick a new pair of headphones that you can buy in good conscience.

Of course, you won’t have to give up on other key qualities. The best eco-friendly headphones listed here also score well in terms of sound quality and features. After all, environmentally sound headphones that you rarely use aren’t sustainable either.

Editor’s note: this list of the best eco-friendly headphones was updated on July 7, 2022, to add the HyperX Cloud Alpha Wireless and Sony WH-1000XM5 to the notable mentions.

For our top five picks, you can find the isolation and frequency response charts at the end of each image gallery. You can learn more about how to read our charts here.

The House of Marley Exodus is the best eco-friendly pair of headphones for most of us

For many companies, sustainability is an afterthought, but for House of Marley sustainability is the starting point. Not only does the company mindfully source all its materials, but it also supports global reforestation by donating a share of every purchase to One Tree Planted. To date, Project Marley has helped plant 223,000 trees. When you purchase from House of Marley, you support a company committed to sustainable audio products that also sound great.

House of Marley Exodus
7
House of Marley Exodus lays flat on a white and black surface.House of Marley Exodus: The power button and LED indicators on the left ear cup.House of Marley Exodus: Close-up of the L-shaped 3.5mm headphone jack.House of Marley Exodus: The playback controls located on the back edge of the right ear cup.House of Marley Exodus: The inner ear cups are labeled "Marley."A chart depicts the House of Marley's isolation performance which is about average for over-ear headphones.A chart depicts the House of Marley frequency response and the headset's amplified bass and midrange response.
House of Marley Exodus
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The House of Marley Exodus is a middle-of-the-road pair of headphones with great build quality. The unique design makes the Exodus stand out, but it’s also a reflection of the materials used in its construction. FSC-certified maple wood ear cups, aluminum, and stainless steel have replaced plastic where possible.

House of Marley was founded on Bob Marley's vision of universal love, music, and respect for the earth.

The Exodus offers nearly 25 hours of battery life. If you ever run out of power, just plug in the included audio cable and switch to wired listening. Audiophiles might want to do this by default as the headphones only support SBC. In any case, you enjoy bass as that’s where these headphones shine, though the boosted bass can occasionally mask mids. When bass is less present, the headset reproduces instruments and vocals clearly, too. Note that the House of Marley Exodus might start to feel uncomfortable after long listening sessions.

The Thinksound ov21 sources environmentally friendly materials

The Thinksound ov21 is a lightweight pair of over-ear wired headphones. The headband, gimbals, and ear cup frames are made from metal, vegan leather wraps the memory foam and headband, and the ear cups sport sustainably sourced walnut inlays. Thinksound used Eastman Trēva, a bioplastic made from wood pulp, to replace the remaining plastic parts.

Thinksound ov21
7.8
Thinksound ov21 centered and fitted over a wood headphone stand with acoustic panels in the background.A hand holds the Thinksound ov21 partially packed into its accompanying pouch.The left ear cup is shown with the removable cable on the Thinksound ov21.Shot head on the Thinksound ov21 is fitted over a wooden headphone stand with acoustic panels behind.A man looks left while wearing the Thinksound ov21 headphones.Frequency response of the Thinksound ov21 shows the exaggerated highs.A chart shows the isolation attenuation performance of the Thinksound ov21.

Interestingly, the ov21, as with Thinksound’s other products, isn’t marketed as an eco-friendly headset, it just happens to be one that sounds great. Its 45mm dynamic drivers make music sound very good because of the widely accepted consumer-friendly response. You’ll notice more bass emphasis from this than you would from a pair of studio headphones like the Drop x Sennheiser HD6XX.

When you buy the ov21, you’re really paying for premium build quality that does its best to be kind to the environment.

There isn’t much else to this headset, but Thinksound does supply two 3.5mm cables (1.4m length). One of the cables has an integrated microphone so you can take calls without the need to remove the headphones.

The Beyerdynamic DT 700 PRO X is the best for studio or home use

Nothing about Beyerdynamic headphones is explicitly sustainable, but the company generally well-built and long-lasting products. With the DT 700 PRO X, you’ll get a pair of studio-quality headphones with a neutral frequency response to match its purpose.

Beyerdynamic DT 700 PRO X
8
A man plays guitar wearing the Beyerdynamic DT 700 Pro X.A set of Beyerdynamic DT 700 Pro X rests on a white window sill.A close up of the Beyerdynamic DT 700 Pro X displaying the brushed and textured metal housing.A man's hand holds the Beyerdynamic DT 700 Pro X by a window.Around the neck of a red guitar the Beyerdynamic DT 700 Pro X is slung over, showing the ear cups.The Beyerdynamic DT 700 Pro X sits around the neck of a red guitar showing the cable connector.Beyerdynamic DT 700 Pro X slung over the horn of an electric guitar.A chart compares the Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X to the Beyerdynamic DT 700 PRO X frequency responses against our Studio Curve V2, and displays minor midrange and treble response differences between the headsets.The frequency response of the Beyerdynamic DT 700 Pro X versus SoundGuys house studio curve.Beyerdynamic DT 700 Pro X isolation measurement chart.
Beyerdynamic DT 700 PRO X
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The DT 700 PRO X doesn’t require an amp, so you could use it during your commute, though the lack of foldable hinges might make it a bit too bulky for lugging around. Designed for studio use, the DT 700 PRO X isn’t wireless, nor does it feature active noise cancelling. It does, however, offer effective passive isolation. And since it lacks features that require a battery, it comes with a 3.5mm audio cable.

This is the kind of headphone that will last you for years beyond its generous two-year warranty. And should you ever break something, Beyerdynamic offers a comprehensive list of spare parts for most of its products, though we could only find cables for the DT 700 PRO X. Listeners who don’t intend to take their headphones out of the house should look into the open-back variant, the Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X.

Get massive battery life with the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2

If you must have wireless headphones, pick the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2. Not only does Audio-Technica have top-notch quality standards, but the ATH-M50xBT2 also affords you almost 65 hours of battery life. Should you ever run low, a 10-minute charge adds three hours of audio playback. If all else fails, the headphone jack is there to save the day.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2
7.8
Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 slung over the back rest of a bench.Close up of the buttons and connections on Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 ear cup.Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 on a bench with leaves showing the cushions of the ear cups.Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 with one ear cup rotated laying flat on leaves.Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 packed away in included vinyl bag.Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 with headphone cable plugged in, held in a hand.A man puts on the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2, showing the top of the headphones.A man wears the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 pressing the buttons on the left ear cup.Isolation measurement chart for Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2.Frequency response of Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 set against the ideal studio curve.
Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2
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The ATH-M50xBT2 appeals to consumers and professional users alike. The foldable design makes it portable, the noise isolation is passable, and its sound profile is conservative, but not completely bass-agnostic. Audiophiles will also appreciate the support of AAC, SBC, and LDAC codecs.

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 lacks active noise cancelling and the clamping force might become uncomfortable, but none of these might be a factor for you. Otherwise, have a look at some of the other Audio-Technica headphones we recommend, such as the ATH-ANC900BT with Bluetooth and ANC.

Apple users should choose the Apple AirPods Max

Among headphone manufacturers, Apple appears to be the most sustainable. Since its first environmental progress report in 2008, the company has set out to achieve a net-zero carbon impact by 2030. This puts it decades ahead of its competitors, most of which haven’t even started reporting on sustainability. However, carbon emissions aren’t everything, which is why the Apple AirPods Max doesn’t make it to the top of our list.

Apple AirPods Max
7.8
White Apple AirPods Max on top of a green book on a coffee table.Close-up of the headband of the Apple AirPods Max on a white desk.Close-up of the digital crown at the top of the Apple AirPods Max right ear cup.Close-up of the noise cancelling toggle on the Apple AirPods Max as it is on a desk.The Apple AirPods Max and its smart case on a white desk.Man holding the smart case for the Apple AirPods Max.The Apple AirPods Max in white on a gray felt deskmat.Man holding the Apple AirPods Max over a desk.The Apple AirPods Max in white on a coffee table next to a newspaper.The headband of the Apple AirPods Max.

The AirPods Max is the most eco-friendly solution for iPhone owners. Its build largely omits plastic, replacing it with stainless steel and aluminum. This gives these headphones a premium feel and makes them more durable, and it still manages to be extremely comfortable.

The AirPods Max offers excellent active noise cancelling, a great transparency mode, and a pleasing sound profile. At 20 hours with ANC enabled, the battery life is pretty good too. You can also use the AirPods Max in wired mode, but if you’re not already a member of the Apple club, that option will be a nuisance as it relies on Apple’s Lightning connector, as does charging.

Man holding the smart case for the Apple AirPods Max.
The “Smart Case” is puts the AirPods Max into low power mode.

You technically can’t power the AirPods Max off manually, it doesn’t have a power button, and this is one of the many headset quirks. Instead, you must return the headset to its case (the best AirPods Max cases) to trigger its low-power mode. Unless you put it back into its smart case, it takes a few hours until it goes to sleep on its own, all the while wasting battery life.

The Logitech G733 Lightspeed is a great gaming headset that happens to be fairly eco-friendly

A man wears the Logitech G733 gaming headset with a poster for my brother my brother and me in the background.
At just 285g, the G733 Lightspeed is a seriously lightweight gaming headset.

If you’re looking for a pair of headphones that’s actually carbon neutral, look no further than the Logitech G733 Lightspeed. The G733 Lightspeed is a wireless gaming headset with a battery life of around 28 hours. This long battery life is great but doesn’t quite compare to that of the SteelSeries Arctis 7+ Wireless or Arctis 7P+ Wireless, and the HyperX Cloud Alpha Wireless (also see below) blows them all out of the water.

Sound quality is very good with the G733 Lightspeed too, so you can be sure that gaming soundscapes and music will all sound great. If you find yourself wanting to change the sound, you can via the Logitech G Hub app (macOS and Windows). The app’s Blue Vo!ce features can greatly improve the microphone’s sound, which is more than we can say for other gaming headset apps.

Logitech is a member of Amazon’s Climate Pledge and the G733 Lightspeed carries a CarbonNeutral certification by Natural Capital Partners. As a company, Logitech performs LCAs on some of its products and has reported on sustainability since 2011.

The most eco-friendly headphones: Notable mentions

House of Marley Positive Vibration XL ANC folded up on a bed of grass with purple flowers.
You can rotate the House of Marley Positive Vibration XL ANC headphones flat, or collapse them down to reduce the footprint.
  • AiAiAi TMA-2: You can choose from five pre-configured models or you can build your own TMA-2 set from any of the available components. The wireless TM-2 speaker units offer 40 hours of playback and USB-C fast charging. You can choose between on-ear or over-ear pads and add coiled or straight audio cables. If your phone doesn’t have an audio jack, just build your set with a 3.5mm-to-USB-C cable instead.
  • Sony WH-1000XM5: Sony has been releasing sustainability reports for almost 30 years, longer than any other headphone manufacturer, and Sony has been using recycled plastic in their products since 2011. Not only does the Sony WH-1000XM5 use recycled plastic (though likely no more than 10%), but it also offers excellent ANC performance, sounds great, and offers an impressive battery life of up to 53 hours with ANC disabled.
  • HyperX Cloud Alpha Wireless: If battery life was our main criterion, this gaming headset would be a top contender. At over 327 hours on a single charge, per our standardized test, it outperforms any other product currently on the market. Unfortunately, the USB-A wireless RF dongle is its only connection option, and HyperX isn’t known for its sustainability efforts.
  • House of Marley Exodus ANC: The active noise cancelling version of the House of Marley Exodus offers the same great qualities, but with a whopping 80 hours of battery life with the ANC turned off. If you’re not a fan of the light-brown bamboo, you’ll love this all-black version.
  • House of Marley Liberate Air: It’s hard to recommend wireless earbuds in an article about eco-friendly headphones because shorter lifespans and irreplaceable batteries make these a liability for the environment. If it wasn’t for the Liberate Air’s mindfully sourced materials, we would recommend earbuds with a significantly longer battery life than 9 hours per charge.
  • House of Marley Positive Vibration XL ANC: This set of noise cancelling headphones sounds very bass-heavy, and the bass only gets relatively louder if you listen in passive wired mode. The headset is built pretty well, though its clamping force is a bit excessive, so those with large heads may not find it comfortable. If you happen to be a bass-lover with a smaller-than-average noggin, this headset may be for you.
  • LSTN The Troubadour 2.0: LSTN is an “inspirational electronics company.” In partnership with the Starkey Hearing Foundation, LSTN funds hearing aids for those in need. Strictly speaking, this is not an eco-friendly headphone, as it’s unclear whether the company’s ethical standards expand to its supply chain. However, if you’d like to support a good human cause, these stylish headphones with vegan leather ear pads and real wood accents could win you over.

Hold up! Something’s different:

The House of Marley Exodus’ frequency response and isolation charts were measured with our old testing system. We have since purchased a Bruel & Kjaer 5128 test fixture (and the appropriate support equipment) to update our testing and data collection. It will take a while to update our backlog of old test results, but we will update this article (and many others!) once we’re able with improved sound quality measurements and isolation performance plots. These will be made evident with our new chart aesthetic (black background instead of white).

Thank you for bearing with us, and we hope to see you again once we’ve sorted everything out.

What makes a pair of headphones more eco-friendly?

More eco-friendly products have a lower negative impact on the planet. It may seem obvious, but let’s unpack what that means.

AirPods Pro with exposed speaker and battery.
iFixit True wireless earbuds like the AirPods don’t last long and are almost impossible to repair.

Environmental impact is often measured in carbon emissions. However, while calculating a product’s carbon footprint is complex, even that is a simplified metric—it doesn’t account for soil or water pollution, ecosystem destruction, or biodiversity loss, to name a few key impacts. A better way to comprehensively capture negative impacts is to assess a product’s entire life cycle.

A life cycle assessment (LCA) analyzes a product’s environmental impacts from cradle to grave (from resource extraction, raw material processing, production, distribution, use, to its end of life). Unfortunately, not many manufacturers perform LCAs and even fewer make them public.

How we choose the best eco-friendly headphones

The AIAIAI TMA-2 MFG4 taken apart on a wood table.
You can completely take apart the TMA-2 MFG4 and swap out components at a whim.

It’s hard to obtain official LCAs, so we took the idea and turned it into our own set of guidelines for picking eco-friendly headphones:

    1. Above-and-beyond sustainability efforts by the manufacturer
      When a manufacturer demonstrates a serious commitment to reducing its negative impacts, we think it’s worth investing in its products. Companies that fall into this category are making the transition to a circular economy. That means making new products predominantly from recycled materials, sourcing remaining materials responsibly, making products repairable, and at the end of the product’s life cycle, making sure parts can be recycled and fed back into the production cycle.
    2. The headphones use reclaimed or recycled materials
      The biggest share of a headphone’s carbon footprint is tied to its production. Raw material extraction and processing alone account for 53% of global carbon emissions. Replacing freshly minted materials with reclaimed or recycled alternatives means we can drastically reduce a product’s negative impacts on the environment.
    3. The headphones use more sustainable (raw) materials
      When it’s not possible to use reclaimed or recycled materials, manufacturers can look for other sustainable alternatives. For example, wood from a sustainably managed forest, metals extracted in mines that don’t use child or slave labor, or fully recyclable plastics.
    4. The headphones are modular or repairable
      Making individual components, such as the battery or a driver, replaceable or repairable, can significantly increase a product’s lifespan. What’s more, it can be easier to break apart and recycle modular products, potentially resulting in even less resource extraction.
    5. The headphones have extra long battery life
      A battery with greater capacity generally also translates into a longer product lifespan. That’s because lithium-ion batteries tend to die slowly because they lose a tiny bit of capacity with every charge cycle.
    6. The headphones offer a wired audio option
      Even wireless headphones can come with a wired option via an audio jack or USB. This makes them more sustainable as they will remain functional even when the battery dies. Why smartphone manufacturers ditched the headphone jack is beyond us.
    7. The headphones meet the SoundGuys quality standards
      After picking candidates that met one or more of the above criteria, we weighed eco-friendliness against the overall quality of the headphones and chose models that satisfy both sets of standards.

Why you can trust SoundGuys

A man plays guitar wearing the Beyerdynamic DT 700 Pro X.
With the headphones on your ears are safer with loud instruments.

At SoundGuys we’re dedicated to testing every product we recommend and we adhere to a strict ethics policy. Our objective tests are based on standards we continuously improve on. We measure frequency response, isolation, active noise cancellation, and battery life. For this article, we also looked into sustainability-related criteria as outlined above. There’s always a subjective dimension to our reviews as we try to cater to different reader preferences. Our goal is to recommend products you will enjoy for many years.

Frequently asked questions about eco-friendly headphones

Great question! We have a detailed article on how to recycle your old headphones and earbuds. There are a few options like refurbishing headphones, selling or trading headphones, and using trade-in programs.

Yes, you can! Most importantly, don’t get earbuds. If you must, learn how to make your earbuds last longer. If you go with Bluetooth or ANC headphones, get a pair with a wired audio option, so you can still use them when the battery goes bad. Also keep in mind that longer battery lives equal longer product lifespans. Meanwhile, you can replace or repair ear pads and headbands.