Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have been making waves in art, allowing artists to sell digital artworks as unique and verified assets. However, as the popularity of NFTs continues to grow, concerns about their environmental impact have also risen. The energy consumption and carbon emissions associated with NFTs, specifically about the proof-of-work consensus algorithm used by most blockchain networks, have many questioning the sustainability of this new form of art collecting.
NFTs are unique digital assets that are verified on a blockchain network. They represent anything from digital artwork to virtual real estate. NFTs allow artists and creators to sell their digital creations as one-of-a-kind assets. The benefits of NFTs for artists and collectors include ownership verification and scarcity. Since the digital asset can be verified as authentic, and cannot be duplicated on the blockchain there is a limited supply.
How NFTs Are Created
Creating an NFT is energy-intensive, requiring the network to compute a proof-of-work consensus algorithm. When NFT ownership is transferred the proof-of-work verifies that the digital asset is unique and belongs to its creator. As NFTs become more popular, this process consumes more energy, resulting in increased carbon emissions.
Here are the steps used to create NFTs:
Step 1: Choose a Platform
The first step in creating an NFT is choosing a platform you will use to create and mint your token. Several popular platforms, such as OpenSea, Rarible, and SuperRare, each have features and benefits. Take some time to research each platform and choose the one that best fits your needs.
Step 2: Create Your Digital Asset
Once you have chosen a platform, you must create your digital asset. This can be anything from digital art to a collectible item. When creating your asset, you need to ensure that it’s unique and can be easily verified.
Step 3: Mint Your Token
Once you have created your digital asset, you must mint your token. This is creating a unique digital token that represents your asset. You will need to provide basic information about your tokens, such as their name, symbol, and total supply.
Step 4: List Your Token for Sale
Once your token is minted, you can list it for sale on your chosen platform. You can set a fixed price or auction your token to the highest bidder. Be sure to provide detailed information about your token, such as its unique features and special attributes.
Step 5: Monitor Your Token
Once your token is listed for sale, you will need to monitor its progress. Keep an eye on the current price and any bids that come in. You can also track the number of transactions and view the token’s transaction history.
Step 6: Transfer Ownership
Once your token is sold, you must transfer ownership to the new owner. This is typically done through the platform’s smart contract. The terms of the smart contract will automatically transfer the token to the new owner once the transaction is complete.
The Environmental Impact of NFTs
The environmental impact of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) is a growing concern in the blockchain and cryptocurrency communities. While NFTs have the potential to revolutionize the way we think about ownership and value, they also have a significant environmental impact.
Energy Consumption Of Blockchain Technology
One of the most significant environmental concerns surrounding NFTs is the energy consumption of the blockchain technology used to create and trade them. Blockchain networks, like the ones used for NFTs, are decentralized. These networks rely on a network of computers to validate transactions and record them on a public ledger. This process, known as mining, requires a lot of computing power and energy. According to one estimate, the energy consumption of the blockchain network used for NFTs is equivalent to that of an average European citizen.
For example, the energy report by Solana indicated about 4,056,273,936 Joules per hour. While this energy is slightly lower than the Ethereum blockchain’s, it still shows how much energy it takes to create an NFT.
Carbon Footprint In Minting NFTs
Another primary environmental concern is the carbon footprint of the minting process. Mining for NFTs, like other cryptocurrencies, often occurs in regions with cheap electricity, such as China, which means that a significant portion of the energy used is generated from fossil fuels. This results in a large carbon footprint and contributes to climate change. When an NFT is added to the blockchain, it uses about 83 kg of CO2. Moreover, bidding and transferring NFT can lead to over 80 kgs of CO2.
In addition to the environmental cost of the mining process, there is also an environmental cost associated with producing physical collectibles that accompany NFTs. Many NFTs are sold as a bundle with a physical item, such as a trading card or a piece of art. These physical items require resources to produce, and transportation and shipping also contribute to their environmental impact.
NFTs Via Proof Of Work Consensus
In a PoW consensus system, users, also known as “miners,” compete to solve complex mathematical problems to validate transactions and create new blocks on the blockchain. The first miner to solve the problem is rewarded with a certain amount of cryptocurrency. Solving mathematical problems is called “mining,” which requires significant computational power.
The environmental impact of NFT mining is a growing concern, as the process consumes a lot of energy. The Bitcoin network’s energy consumption, which uses a PoW consensus system, is estimated to be equivalent to about 1.7 million Visa transactions.
The high energy consumption of NFT mining is primarily caused by specialized computer hardware, known as ASICs, specifically designed for mining. These devices consume large amounts of electricity to run and keep cool, contributing to the carbon footprint of the NFT ecosystem.
NFT Via Proof Of Stake Consensus
Unlike traditional proof of work consensus, which relies on miners solving complex mathematical problems to validate transactions and create new blocks, proof of stake consensus uses a system of validators who hold a stake in the network and are chosen to validate transactions and create new blocks based on the size of their stake.
One of the significant benefits of NFT creation via proof of stake consensus is its environmental impact. Traditional proof of work consensus, used by networks like Bitcoin and Ethereum, requires significant energy to power the mining rigs used to validate transactions and create new blocks. This energy consumption has led to concerns about the environmental impact of these networks, as the energy consumption required to power these mining rigs can be quite high.
In contrast, proof of stake consensus requires significantly less energy to operate. This is because the validators chosen to validate transactions and create new blocks are determined based on the size of their stake rather than their computational power. This means there is no need for large, energy-intensive mining rigs to reduce the network’s overall energy consumption e network.
Another benefit of NFT creation via proof of stake consensus is that it is more decentralized than traditional proof of work consensus. In proof of work consensus, a small group of miners with access to powerful mining rigs can control a large portion of the network’s computational power. This can lead to the centralization of power and increased vulnerability to attacks. In contrast, proof of stake consensus distributes power among a larger group of validators, making the network more secure and resistant to attacks.
NFT Via Proof Of Authority
Proof of authority (PoA) consensus is a consensus mechanism used in blockchain networks. Unlike other mechanisms, such as proof of work (PoW) or proof of stake (PoS), PoA relies on authorized nodes to validate transactions and create new blocks. This is done using digital signatures and a trusted list of validators known as “authorities.”
When creating NFTs, PoA consensus can be used to create unique and valuable digital assets that are not interchangeable with others. This is achieved by using a smart contract to mint a new token, which is then recorded on the blockchain. The token’s ownership, as well as any other relevant information, is recorded on the blockchain.
One of the most significant advantages of using PoA consensus for NFT creation is that it is much more energy-efficient than other mechanisms. PoW, for example, requires a large amount of computational power, which in turn requires a lot of energy. This can be a significant concern for the environment, as the energy used to power these networks often comes from fossil fuels.
On the other hand, PoA consensus only requires the energy needed to run the validator nodes, which is significantly less than PoW. This means that NFTs created using PoA consensus are much more environmentally friendly than those made using other mechanisms.
Another advantage of using PoA consensus for NFT creation is that it is more secure than other mechanisms. PoW networks are vulnerable to 51% of attacks, where a group of miners can control more than 50% of the network’s computational power and manipulate the blockchain. PoS networks, on the other hand, are vulnerable to “nothing at stake” attacks, where validators can vote on multiple chains without any consequences.
PoA consensus, on the other hand, is not vulnerable to these attacks, as the validator nodes are chosen based on their reputation and trustworthiness. This means that NFTs created using PoA consensus are more secure and less likely to be compromised.
NFT creation via proof of authority consensus is a great way to create unique and valuable digital assets that are environmentally friendly and secure. As more creators and collectors turn to NFTs to express themselves and make a profit, it is essential to consider the impact these tokens have on the environment. PoA consensus is a great solution that can help to mitigate these concerns while still providing the benefits of blockchain technology.
How To Make NFT More Sustainable
While blockchain-based art is becoming increasingly popular, it can also be a source of environmental harm. To reduce the environmental impact, there are several steps that creators and collectors can take to make their NFTs more sustainable. Here are some of them:
- Prioritize Renewable Energy: Miners responsible for creating and verifying new blocks on the network require much energy to run their rigs. To reduce their environmental impact, miners should prioritize renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power instead of relying on fossil fuels.
- Utilize Proof of Authority: As discussed earlier, proof of authority (PoA) consensus is a much more energy-efficient way to create and manage NFTs. PoA networks require significantly less energy than other mechanisms, making them more sustainable in the long run.
- Use Carbon Offsets: Many miners are now using carbon offsets to offset their emissions from mining. Carbon offsets allow miners to purchase credits that reduce their emissions by a certain amount, making it easier for them to remain environmentally conscious.
- Adopt Eco-Friendly Practices: Collectors and creators can also take steps to reduce the impact of their NFTs by adopting eco-friendly practices. For example, collectors can avoid buying or selling NFTs created with energy-intensive methods, such as PoW networks. Additionally, creators can opt for more sustainable creation methods and materials when creating their artwork.
How NFT Can Promote Sustainable Art
While NFTs have been primarily associated with the world of cryptocurrency and digital art, there is a growing interest in using them to promote sustainable art and conservation.
One of the main benefits of NFTs is their ability to create a digital record of ownership and provenance. This means that NFTs can be used to track the origin and authenticity of artworks, which is particularly important when it comes to sustainable art and conservation. For example, NFTs can be used to track the sourcing of materials used in artworks, such as recycled materials or ethically sourced materials. This can help to ensure that the paintings are truly sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Another potential benefit of NFTs is their ability to support conservation efforts. NFTs can create digital records of endangered species and their habitats. This can help raise awareness about conservation efforts and support organizations working to protect these species. NFTs can also be used to create digital records of historical sites, such as archaeological sites, which can help to ensure their preservation for future generations.
In addition to their benefits for sustainable art and conservation, NFTs also have the potential to democratize the art world. NFTs can be used to create digital art accessible to anyone with an internet connection. This can help increase access to art for people who cannot afford physical artwork. It can also make it easier for artists to reach a global audience. Additionally. it can help promote sustainable art and conservation efforts globally.
As more people become interested in NFTs, it is essential to consider the environmental impacts of this technology. While some potential risks are associated with NFTs, such as energy consumption and resource competition, several steps can be taken to make them more sustainable. Additionally, NFTs have the potential to support sustainable art and conservation efforts, which can help protect our planet for future generations. Thus, with the right approach and practices, NFTs can be a powerful tool for promoting sustainability.