Given the need to employ novel research methods in the energy-environment nexus, the objective of the present research is to investigate the impacts of real output, unemployment, and renewable and nonrenewable energy on ecological footprint under a STIRPAT theoretical framework by applying the second-generation unit root, cointegration, Granger-causality, and long-run estimation methods on the annual data from 1990 to 2017 for South Asian economies. Empirical results show that increases in unemployment and renewable energy decrease ecological footprint while increases in real income and non-renewable energy hurt the environment. This study confirms the adverse effect of renewable energy on environmental degradation as well as the trade-off between unemployment and pollution through multiple robustness and sensitivity checks. In addition, the causality test supports unidirectional causality from income, renewable energy, and non-renewable energy to ecological footprint. Regarding policy perspectives, the governments of the South Asian region should support the deployment of renewable energy through various channels and regulations. The development of technologies that promote sustainable production and consumption play critical roles for reducing the trade-off unemployment and ecological footprint. Further policy suggestions are discussed in the study.(c) 2022 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.