Artists wanting to sell their work via NFT face the challenge of confronting the environmental footprint and the impact on the planet when they mint. But how much of a burden does this place on the artists, and what’s happening in this space to make sustainable use of NFTs achievable?
Art Min is behind Phosphene.app (a curated portal offering regenerative NFTs with strong values around social impact) and believes it’s almost an expectation that NFT artists are mindful of the fact that they need to claim the emissions derived from blockchain activity, yet he doesn’t see it as a particular burden. Artists have the options of buying offset credits, supporting climate action nonprofit or using transaction platforms that have smaller energy requirements.
“Providing an artist is interested in offsetting the emissions from their project, there are now several options to do the transaction such as Offsetra,” says Min. “Looking beyond offset credits, a climate solution like Unios are helping rewild land which will have both carbon and sustainability impact.”
Phosphene was a great way to learn about NFTs. But, collectors want direct relationships with creators. Going forward @phospheneapp will be a special projects entity where we will advise and collaborate with artists for unique projects. Let's goooo @CharlesP_photog! https://t.co/I93vT2sE6F— artmin.eth (@artmin) January 27, 2022
Min also highlights that it is possible for artists to make decisions to reduce the environmental impact at the minting stage, pointing to NFT artists using Proof of Stake (PoS) blockchain to mint CleanNFTs. PoS reduces the computational load for validating claims, whereas Proof of Work (PoW) by contrast requires the parties to prove specific computational effort has been expended to validate the NFT, thus using more energy.
“Using PoS blockchains requires less computation and thus electricity generated from fossil fuels,” says Min. “Another option is to use more efficient smart contracts, such as the ERC721A that is a new standard which makes minting several NFTs more efficient.”
The push to less intensive platforms
If Ethereum shifted from PoW to PoS in Ethereum 2.0 and worked on platforms like TEZOS - which uses PoS blockchain applications that are eco-friendly - artists would be significantly helped in their mission to work sustainably. Ethereum is working towards moving to a PoS model, although it’s been in the works for several years with no concrete delivery date yet.
“The creativity of the ecosystem is creating interesting solutions to addressing emissions from blockchains today. There are projects that try to have crypto miners use clean energy sources like hydropower vs. fossil fuels,” says Min.
Christopher Schultz, head of unit at interactive studio SPACE based in Hamburg, part of the Markenfilm Group, has experimented with NFTs exclusively as CleanNFTs. ‘Unseen Frames’ is 12 beautiful frames from terabytes of digital film content, previously unseen, and minted as NFTs. “We decided directly in favor of TEZOS,” he said. “For us, it is the platform we trust most in terms of climate-friendly technology.” (As an addition, Solana, Cosmos, and Avalanche are three additional platforms just as clean as TEZOS)
He also believes the concept of CleanNFTs should be understood more broadly than just from minting to storing. “It actually also includes the creation of the content - how is the media object created, is there green electricity involved, and does one work on sustainable IT equipment? A holistic view is helpful - and of course makes the task even more challenging,” he said.
The art industry is working to improve the NFT footprint
Artist and poet Munira Hamzah says that it’s really the amount of public misinformation around NFTs that is putting more of a burden on the artists, rather than the true environmental impact of PoS models, saying that “[PoS] gives artists a cleaner choice to continue participating in NFTs with a much smaller carbon footprint. It isn't a burden for artists to make this choice However, public misinformation can hurt artists; which has resulted in the harassment of artists participating in NFTs, whether PoS or PoW.
In the CleanNFT developer community, there are lists of CleanNFTs platforms to help NFT artists choose less power-hungry minting platforms. As Hamzah explained: “If the artist wants to mint CleanNFTs on blockchains which are more energy efficient and have a smaller carbon footprint.
“Artists can even reduce their carbon footprint per dollar earned as opposed to when producing merchandise, as manufacturing also has a high carbon footprint,” she said.
Formed in early 2021, the CleanNFT guild is a group of artists and members of the NFT community who’ve come together to discuss concerns around minting NFTs on Ethereum-based platforms, and looking to shift it to PoS models.
Jose Andres Rosero-Curet, an AR/VR/XR designer and researcher who is instrumental in the guild, said it has encountered some resistance. The change is expected to come with Ethereum 2.0, and the guild is now focused on shifting the community towards NFT platforms on more sustainable PoS chains.
“In this past year, we've seen the number of NFT platforms on PoS blockchains explode, with several of them catering to artists. Since then we've continued to be a resource for artists who wish to learn how to minimize their blockchain based emissions, while still benefiting from mechanisms like creator royalties,” said Rosero-Curet.
By my count there were only 3 panels and 2 presentations on social impact/giving, creator economies, and sustainability last year.— Jose Andres 🔮 (@never_render) March 22, 2022
Very cool to see this segment growing. https://t.co/s1x7XEQgVU
“Currently we're connected with various projects and groups at the intersection of NFTs and social impact, ReFi (regenerative finance), and of course climate change. We're exploring how these relationships can be helpful to further educate our community and the larger CleanNFT movement,” he added.
Build links between minting and green initiatives
Across the industry, whether it’s artists organizing collectively or the emergence of new initiatives, there is a real appreciation for now overlooking the environmental footprint in the burgeoning NFT space. GreenNFTs is one new project working to improve environmental outcomes in Web3 through NFTs and sustainable forestry.
GreenNFTs head artist Hanciel Dela Torre, alongside head of R&D Julian Thornton, said change is at the heart of GreenNFTs’ mission. Each of its NFTs will offset the carbon demand generated through the use of smart contracts. Users who mint an NFT will have a real life tree planted, offsetting this demand and making GreenNFT carbon neutral, the point by which emission of carbon is equal to that of carbon adsorbed.
Thrilled to share the results of the first community-driven GreenNFTs hackathon! 💚💚💚https://t.co/t5uInSCYtG— GreenNFTs (@GreenNFTs) June 3, 2021
“We want to strive to make a difference in the Web3 community and set a new standard of environmental consciousness by promoting renewable practices. In the future we also want to expand and help other green infrastructure developers through the donation and dedication of carbon credits,” they said.
TREE-ID is its in-house software database that connects living, breathing trees and NFTs, storing data such as tree type, height, and diameter within the network. “TREE-ID will be constantly updated and will be available on our website in the near future,” they added.
“With anthropogenic climate change as severe as it is now, we felt it was important to create our project and send the message to others in the Web3 community that you can engage with cryptocurrencies and NFTs while still being sustainable and eco-friendly.”
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