How Green Is Your Cell Phone?

GoodGuide, a startup that ranks goods on how sustainable they are, has released its latest green rankings for cell phones. The company rated 576 cell phone products and says the top rated phones have energy efficient chargers and are made of more sustainable materials, and the manufacturers that are producing those green phones are doing so in a more environmentally friendly and socially-responsible way, and also have strong recycling programs.

You probably notice as you peruse the list, sustainability sometimes doesn’t have a lot to do with popularity of the devices themselves; green-marketed cell phones aren’t really making a dent in handset sales, and leading devices like the iPhone (s aapl) rank somewhere in the middle of the scale. However, Nokia (s nok) took the entire top 26 greenest overall cell phones, starting with the Nokia C6 cell phone, and Nokia continues to be the world leader in cell phones sales, having sold 461.31 million phones in 2010.

Here’s how some of the more popular devices stack up on GoodGuide’s list:

  • iPhone 4: 5.6. Apple was dinged for a lower than average score in society for “ethical policies and performance.”
  • HTC Android Incredible: 5.3 —  HTC got average scores for environment and society.
  • BlackBerry Torch: 3.3. BlackBerry devices (s rimm) rated on the bottom for environmental “use of resources,” and in society for “labor and human rights.”
  • BlackBerry Curve 3G: 3.3. The BlackBerry Curve 3G rated the same as its cousin, the Torch (above).
  • Motorola Droid X: 6.5. Motorola (s mmi) received high marks for making phones free of BFR and PVC, and also generated an above-average score in ethical policies and performance.
  • Nokia N8: 7.7. Nokia crushed it across all categories and for both high- and low-end phones.

GoodGuide, which launched in September 2008, also ranks appliances and lighting (as well as all types of consumer goods), and is backed by venture firms New Enterprise Associates and Draper Fisher Jurvetson. GoodGuide’s researchers collect product data, which comes from hundreds of private and public sources, among them government, nonprofits, and private, third-party research firms.

The data collection process and the rating system are meant to create a sense of trust and authority for the site. However, getting visitors to see such ratings as trust-worthy and authoritative will be difficult. Good Guide’s success at earning consumers’ trust depends as much on marketing and outreach as on actual practices.

For more research, check out GigaOM Pro (subscription required):