NFT Environmental Impact. Is It That Bad?

Can you be an NFT artist and environmentalist at the same time?

NFTs minted on the blockchain are carbon-intensive assets. The magnitude of damage crypto mining inflicts on the environment is astronomical. However, soon environmentally-conscious artists and musicians might revise their hard pass on NFTs as new sustainable platforms emerge.

In 2021 world leaders bickered about global efforts to reduce carbon emissions at the COP26 summit. Meanwhile, in the oil-drilling capital of Alberta, Canada, a tech company is doing its own small part to help the world reach carbon neutrality: turning oil waste into environmentally-friendly energy that powers crypto mining. 

Is there a change coming? 

Now, the crypto world is trying to change. Many platforms now advertise their eco-consciousness. Processes like those at the plant in Canada, using a CurrencyWorks protocol called Zer00, are gaining traction. Innovations in cryptocurrency information storage offer attractive alternatives. Some companies are even selective about the physical locations they choose to mine coins, seeking out places that use renewable sources or excess energy. (Currently, about 39% of bitcoin mining can be traced to renewable sources.)

But it is early days for crypto, and every month brings new efficiencies. Israeli engineers Eli Ben-Sasson and Uri Kolodny, co-founders of a company called StarkWare, are quick to stress the rapid change the industry is experiencing. They’re the Boomers in this space, not the young engineers and Gen Z artists who tend to be in the spotlight. 

“If you think of each block of a blockchain as something that is very carbon-emitting, because of all the mining that goes on, there are fixed costs, which are really, really large,” explains Ben-Sasson. “Think of it like some airplane that spits out a lot of carbon. But if instead of 100 people on an airplane you could fit 600,000 on an airplane, then even though the airplane is still emitting the same amount of carbon—which is bad—in terms of the footprint per person, it’s actually pretty, pretty decent. And that’s exactly where we come in.”

This self-sustainable system, developed by a company called CurrencyWorks, will ultimately help power the distribution of Zero Contact, a new movie starring Anthony Hopkins, which is set for release next month as an NFT, or non-fungible token, with zero carbon footprint.

So what are the environmentally sustainable options? 

While the new platforms don’t have the same volume as their Ethereum-based counterparts (and for this reason, are likely to have fewer collectors and lead to fewer sales), the hope is that, as more artists migrate to ecologically friendly and transparent platforms, developers, investors, and collectors will follow suit. 

Bubblehouse (the first NFT marketplace for digital artists) and OneOf (which is aimed specifically at musicians and their fans) are two such upcoming platforms.

Bubblehouse

In December last year, Bubblehouse announced itself as the first carbon-neutral NFT marketplace. 

The platform is built on the Indian-founded, eco-friendly blockchain startup Polygon—which is 84810x more energy-efficient than Ethereum. For context: Creating an NFT on Ethereum is equivalent to sending 20,750 emails, as opposed to Bubblehouse 2.5 emails. 

According to Arjun Kalsy, VP of growth at Polygon, “Bubblehouse and Polygon, together, will neutralize not only Bubblehouse’s carbon impact but the entire Polygon blockchain for the next year with less than USD 10,000 in carbon offsets.” 

The platform also makes it easier for people without crypto-expertise to buy and sell digital collectibles.

Bubblehouse is the first NFT platform to offer a social, interactive feed in which people can see what their friends and favorite celebrities are collecting in real-time. 

Furthermore, unlike in most NFT marketplaces, creators on Bubblehouse won’t have to pay gas fees to turn their artwork into NFTs: they can turn their work into NFTs for free with a single click. 

Collectors, too, don’t have to figure out the complexities of crypto-wallets and cryptocurrencies to purchase the works and are given the option to buy NFTs with standard payment methods. 

OneOf

Quincy Jones helped introduce OneOf last May, with big stars like Doja Cat and Charlie Puth signing up on the platform. The platform hopes to provide a cheaper, more eco-friendly alternative to NFT marketplaces for music lovers.

OneOf, built using Tezos blockchain, takes the energy of one tweet to mint an NFT. Whereas, Ethereum consumes two days’ worth of an average American household’s power consumption to mint one.

OneOf is also donating 5 percent of its revenue to a charity of the artist’s choice and is partnered with projects that aim to conserve the environment. 

Like Bubblehouse, OneOf requires don’t charge minting fees on creators—and will also accept credit card payments from its shoppers.

Adam Fell, one of the co-founders of the platform, believes no gas fees means “the artists can sell NFTs at any price. It doesn’t matter if the artist sells one NFT for a million dollars or a million NFTs for a dollar— and the latter is oftentimes much better for some artists, especially artists that are just starting.” 

Unlike music labels, the platform will not own this artwork, and (according to Fell) will make these deals “extremely flexible.” 

Carbon footprint

A few ways in which NFT platforms can improve sustainability include: 

  • Lazy minting: Meaning an NFT should not be created until its first purchase has been made. 
  • Interoperability: Making blockchain ecosystems more compatible—allowing you to move from Ethereum to a less harmful chain without loss of the data.
  • Instead of Ethereum, use less energy-consuming blockchains such Polygon, Tezos, Algorand, Hedera Hashgraph, and other PoS networks. 

Eco-friendly NFT marketplaces

  • Kalamint: A curated marketplace for digital art, built on the blockchain Tezos. 
  • KodaDot : An open marketplace for all sorts of digital collectibles, built on the blockchain Kusama. 
  • Viv3: An open marketplace for digital art, built on the blockchain Flow. 
  • Paras: A curated marketplace for digital art cards, built on the blockchain NEAR. 

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