The Harmful Impact of NFTS on the Environment and What to Do About It

By 

Josiah Makori

 on May 18, 2022. 
Reviewed by 

Marcel Deer

NFT written on a blue background

Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) have become incredibly popular in the last couple of years. NFTs are a unique representation of ownership of various digital assets on the blockchain. They are blockchain-based tokens that denote artistic designs such as fine art, music, in-game items, pictures, videos, and many more. Crypto exchanges facilitate the buying and selling of NFTs online, just like other cryptocurrencies.

NFTs have given content creators a new way to invent and monetize their work, enabled researchers to raise funds for scientific projects, and even helped Ukraine raise funds for humanitarian actions during the Russian invasion.

But there is another side of NFTs – the environmental harm of leveraging blockchain technology to create, store and transfer digital assets. These activities are energy-intensive as they require a lot of computing power. The increase in the creation and use of NFTs has only added fuel to the flames.

Summary

  • NFTs can have harmful impacts on the environment when they are minted, traded, or transacted using a Proof-of-Work (PoW) blockchain
  • Creating one NFT on the Ethereum blockchain uses the same amount of electricity to power an average American household for approximately nine days
  • The NFT community is developing creative ways to reduce the environmental impact of NFTs

Creating an NFT does not necessarily have to be energy-intensive. Read to the end to learn how NFT minting consumes electricity and the eco-friendly options of minting NFTs.

How Are NFTs Made?

First, you need to set up a digital wallet like MetaMask or TrustWallet. You will use it to store your NFTs and pay for minting charges. After setting up your wallet, proceed to an NFT marketplace like OpenSea and connect your wallet to it.

Click “Create” to start the NFT minting process. You need to select the format of your NFT. Remember, you can create an NFT from any multimedia file like a digital painting, a picture, a text, audio, video, or even an avatar. If the file you want is using is not digital, you must convert it into an appropriate file like JPEG, PNG, PDF, MP3, MP4, or GIF.

If you want to mint multiple copies of your creations, you must enter the number of copies that will be in circulation. After minting, your offerings become immutable, more secure, and difficult to steal. And since they are represented as a blockchain-based token, you can trade NFTs 24/7 on secondary markets like OpenSea and Rarible.

The minting process cannot be complete without signing your NFT and paying gas fees. After verifying your transaction, you will see the newly created NFT on your profile.

Most NFTs are minted and traded on the Ethereum blockchain. When traders buy NFTs on the Ethereum network, they pay using Ether (ETH). The payment includes the market price of the NFT and the network gas fees.

Are NFTs Bad to the Environment?

NFTs do not harm the environment, but how you mint them can have a significant environmental impact. Let us see how NFTs using the PoW mechanism are created to elaborate their harm to the environment.

NFT Listing on Blockchain Marketplaces

Typically, before minting an NFT, you list it in a blockchain marketplace. Though listing an NFT doesn’t consume much energy, the type of marketplace you choose determines the amount of energy the minting process will consume. For example, the OpenSea marketplace supports the Ethereum blockchain that applies the PoW mechanism, meaning the minting process will consume high energy.

NFT Trading

Content creators often mint NFTs to monetize them. Miners are the ones who mint and confirm NFT transactions using their decentralized computing resources. Both processes require a lot of energy to execute.

NFT Storage

After minting and trading an NFT, you need to store it in your digital wallet or transfer it to another interested party. If you use a PoW blockchain to transfer your NFT, you repeat the same energy-intensive minting process discussed above.

How to Reduce the Impact of NFTs on the Environment

Minting, trading, and transferring NFTs often consumes a lot of energy, but this process doesn’t have to. You can use Proof-of-Stake (PoS) blockchains (e.g., Solana, Algorand, Cardano, and Tezos) that efficiently use energy to mint, trade, and transfer NFTs. This way, you can avoid adding to the energy consumption of Ethereum.

Below are more options for reducing the carbon footprint of NFTs:

Using Renewable Energy

Miners using PoW to mint and verify NFT transactions can opt for renewable energy sources. Although PoW mining consumes a lot of energy, the energy source can be free of carbon dioxide emissions. Some popular eco-friendly renewable energy sources include solar, wind, hydro, tidal, geothermal, and biomass energies.

Investing in Eco-Friendly Energy Sources

Since the NFT industry is a lucrative business, the NFT community can invest some profits into environmentally-friendly energy projects. A substantial shift into eco-friendly energy use could reduce or even eradicate the harmful impact of NFTs on the environment.

Investing in Experimental Technologies

The NFT community can also invest in experimental technologies like capture and storage to collect and thrust carbon emissions underground.

Purchasing Carbon Offset Credits

Though buying carbon credits doesn’t directly reduce carbon dioxide emissions, it offers a financial incentive for environmentalists to increase their campaigns of minimizing carbon emissions annually.

In conclusion, an NFT only leaves a harmful impact on the environment when it is created, traded, or transferred on a marketplace using a PoW blockchain. NFTs created, traded, or transferred using PoS blockchains emit minimal carbon dioxide emissions to the environment.



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