Nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, are unifying computerization and the world of marketable art. Like Bitcoin, the tokens are a cryptocurrency. However, instead of maintaining a fixed value, each token holds a different value, like a baseball card.
The push towards digitization derives from eco-conscious intentions. Physical art forms utilize many materials like ecologically degrading paints and rare resources. Though NFTs may lessen artists' exploitation of natural resources, it is essential to examine their carbon footprint.
The Environmental Impact of Physical Art
Before evaluating the energy use and carbon footprint of NFTs, we must examine the environmental impact of physical art forms.
Many well-known pieces display nationally, traveling from exhibit to exhibit. The greenhouse gas emissions generated from shipping an art piece by plane or truck significantly affect its carbon footprint.
The transportation sector accounts for 27% of the U.K.’s total carbon emissions. It is the single most polluting division of the country, generating 112 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually. When artists frequently move their work, it contributes to atmospheric pollution.
Artists also use paints containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These compounds have adverse environmental and human health effects. VOCs generate fine particles, creating smog and compromising the ozone layer.
VOCs’ effects increase climate change and ecological degradation. Glass-blown pieces also generate adverse environmental impacts. High-temperature ovens rely on vast quantities of natural gases to function, for example.
When burned, natural gas releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The glass blowing sector also has low recycling rates and creates heavy metal pollution. All these ecological considerations led environmentalists to revolutionize the art industry.
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NFTs and Their Environmental Impact
Since the Paris Agreement, various industries have adopted sustainable practices. Corporations increasingly balance shareholder expectations with reductions in localized community pollution and increased ecological conservation.
The market is changing, and industries must meet eco-consumer demands to remain relevant and profitable. Over 62% of Generation Z consumers prefer to purchase sustainably sourced goods and services. As a result, they represent a significant portion of the consumer market, influencing company actions.
Unfortunately, NFTs come with environmental limitations. Most “crypto art” distribution and security technology derive from Ethereum. The Ethereum platform uses 48.14 kilowatt-hours of energy per transaction.
The Ethereum blockchain generates thousands of transactions every day. One transaction uses as much power as the conventional household over a day and a half. As a result, it significantly increases global energy consumption.
The blockchain uses vast quantities of energy for proof-of-work (PoW) security. When you purchase an NFT, you hold the original and singular rights to the digital artwork. PoW prevents double-spending or duplication of the piece.
The security system uses data mining to assign a unique identifier to the purchase and constructs mathematical problems that ensure an owner’s protection. Math problems are solved through trial and error by computer systems, running all day and using significant amounts of electricity.
A Sustainable Solution
Environmental engineers and scientists search for sustainable solutions to crypto’s serious emission problem. Data mining generates a significant portion of energy expenditure in the NFT industry. Recently, Elon Musk explained Bitcoin's plans for using renewable energy.
Musk presented a goal of mining with 50% renewable energy. NFTs can also utilize clean power, significantly reducing their environmental impact. However, a global transition will take time, strict policies, and public pressure.
Over 75% of cryptocurrency data mining occurred in China in 2020. China fuels 40% of its coin mining operations with coal, causing high greenhouse gas emissions. The under-regulation of crypto limits investors' abilities to influence energy sourcing.
Fortunately, eco-consumers continue driving the market in various industries. For example, they influenced modern physical art forms, creating pieces with trash and limiting surface pollution. So, what is holding them back from altering NFT practices?
Without customers, the crypto art market will crash. Miners must adopt renewable energy and sustainability features for financial success. Over time, their influence can bring carbon-neutrality to the NFT industry.
How to Help
If you are a digital art fanatic looking to expand your gallery, evaluate mining sources before purchasing. Consider the impact of your purchase and its effect on your carbon footprint. Supporting renewably fueled mining can positively influence the NFT market.
Purchasing NFTs from coal-driven mining platforms can support ecologically degrading practices. In addition, you can conduct crypto origin research and ensure the limited impact of your digital art purchase.