© 2022 ERP Environment and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.The ecological pressure of humanity on the planet measured by ecological footprint has been enlarging, which upsurges environmental threats. At this point, green innovation emerges as an optimal solution to sustainable development which brings together economic growth and environmental protection. This paper explores the nexus between green innovation and ecological footprint for the case of the top 20 green innovator countries. As a comprehensive environmental sustainability indicator, the ecological footprint is employed to observe the environmental impacts of green innovation. We apply cross-sectional dependence tests, panel unit root tests and panel cointegration tests covering the period of 1993–2016. The results show that economic growth is the primary reason for environmental degradation while urbanization does not have a statistically significant effect. Renewable energy consumption has a moderating influence on ecological footprint. More importantly, environment-related technologies have a statistically significant effect on ecological footprint. Specifically, a 1% increase in environment-related technologies leads to a 0.129% decrease in ecological footprint. The findings of the study clearly demonstrate that it is possible to achieve economic growth while protecting the environment. The results of the study are expected to be motivating for countries' transition toward green innovation in that sustainable development can be achieved if countries invest in green innovation.