© 2019, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.This study examines the nonlinear relationship between foreign direct investment (FDI) and the ecological footprint (EF), trying to confirm the pollution haven hypothesis (PHH). We use a panel data model for MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Turkey) countries in the period 1990–2013 and an empirical framework based on the pollution haven hypothesis (PHH). Using the fully modified least squares (FMOLS) and dynamic ordinary least squares (DOLS) econometric methodologies, the empirical results confirm an inverted-U relationship between FDI and the ecological footprint. To reinforce our analysis, we check the connection between economic growth and the ecological footprint, validating the environmental Kuznets curve (EKC) hypothesis for MINT countries. Finally, we also confirm a negative connection between renewable energy use, the urbanization process, and the changes in the ecological footprint. These findings offer a series of useful recommendations for policymakers, where the promotion of clean industries and energy-efficiency actions are essential for reducing environmental damage in MINT countries. We highlight the viability of the ecological footprint as a first-order environmental indicator whose evolution is determined by demographic fluctuations.