- The environmental impact of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) depends on their production method. Creating one NFT on a proof-of-work blockchain consumes as much electricity as an average American household uses in around 47 days.
- However, blockchain developers and communities actively seek ways to reduce or eliminate this environmental impact.
- Ethereum, the primary blockchain for minting NFTs, transitioned from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake on September 15, 2022, through a significant upgrade called The Merge.
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) do not hurt the environment directly, but their environmental impact is linked to manufacturing. Creating NFTs can be energy-intensive, especially when using a proof-of-work blockchain.
However, since Ethereum switched to proof-of-stake, the energy consumed by NFT minting has decreased dramatically.
Environmental concerns arise when energy-intensive blockchains, whether for crypto or otherwise, rely on nonrenewable energy sources, potentially adding to excess carbon emissions and climate effects.
Are NFTs Bad For The Environment?
NFTs are a mechanism for creators to market digital assets. Each NFT is a one-of-a-kind asset, hence the term ‘non-fungible.’ According to CNBC, NFTs became a major industry quickly, with the market topping $10 Billion in sales by late 2021.
NFTs are harmful to the environment. The Ethereum network is where the majority of NFTs are traded. To confirm the trade and transaction, each transaction employs a mining process. Many people are concerned about the energy used in mining because they believe it contributes to carbon emissions if non-clean energy sources are used.
- Most NFTs use the Ethereum blockchain, which requires energy-intensive proof-of-work for block confirmation.
- Computer networks solve intricate problems to earn the right to confirm these blocks.
- The entire network consumes energy in pursuit of the gas fees generated from block confirmation.
- This setup incentivizes miners to invest in more hardware, increasing power demands.
Power sources emitting greenhouse gases have a detrimental environmental impact.
For example, French artist Joanie Lemercier calculated that selling a single NFT was equivalent to powering her art studio for two years.
A quick 10-second sale was estimated to consume 8.7 megawatt-hours of energy. These factors highlight the environmental concerns surrounding NFTs and their energy-intensive transactions.
Does NFT Cause A Carbon Footprint?
NFTs will have a significant carbon footprint by 2021 due to the Ethereum Proof-of-Work minting mechanism. No carbon impact is currently connected to NFTs produced on Ethereum. Memo Akten examined 15,000 NFTs and found that, on average, each one had a carbon footprint comparable to that of an EU home over 1.5 months.
With the new Proof-of-Stake methodology, NFTs might be 95-99% more efficient and have a substantially reduced carbon footprint.
Modern NFTs are substantially cleaner than older ones but still have a secondary and tertiary carbon impact that is much more difficult to measure.
NFTs For A Sustainable Future
Efforts are underway within the NFT industry to address its environmental impact and promote sustainability. Here are three key strategies being explored:
- Utilizing Renewable Energy Sources for Mining
One approach is to transition blockchain mining operations to rely on green energy resources.
This shift would involve powering mining activities using renewable sources like solar or wind energy, reducing reliance on carbon-emitting electricity grids.
By embracing clean energy, the carbon footprint associated with NFT mining can be significantly reduced.
- Moving to Proof-of-Stake Systems
Ethereum is also moving towards this system with Ethereum 2.0. Instead of energy-intensive computations, proof-of-stake validates transactions based on how much cryptocurrency validators hold, greatly reducing energy usage.
- Implementing Transaction Batching
Certain NFT marketplaces are exploring transaction batching to reduce energy consumption.
This involves adding a layer to the purchase process. Instead of each transaction being processed individually on the blockchain, buyers would engage in off-chain transactions that would be batch-processed in a single operation.
This approach significantly lowers overall energy consumption. A similar concept is already in use with the Bitcoin Lightning Network, which employs a two-layer transaction approach.
NFTs have long been criticized for their environmental impact, and with good reason. However, the situation has changed drastically due to recent updates to the Ethereum network, where most NFTs are minted.
While NFTs have gotten cleaner and greener on Ethereum, Cardano, and Solana, only some blockchains are eco-friendly.