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Understanding the environmental impacts of digital collectibles

NFTs has taken pop culture by storm in the last year. Nearly every day, celebrities announce their interest in this emerging technology by dropping NFT collections. From Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp fiction to Snoop Dogg’s NFT music label ,, a variety of prominent names are starting to recognize the creative potential that NFTs provide. Celebrities have played an important role in increasing awareness of the NFT’s investment potential and the variety of NFT use cases. However, some people are still angry about it.

In the midst of the hype surrounding the NFT phenomenon, apprehensions have grown about the technology’s environmental impact. In one notable example, the popular South Korean boy band BTS faced significant pushback a few months ago in response to their plans to debut their own NFT collection. BTS’s backlash is just one example of the many instances where artists have become wary about exploring the NFT trend.

Many fans don’t realize that it is feasible to create NFTs that are not detrimental to the environment. Many NFT platforms use more eco-friendly methods of minting NFTs by incorporating energy efficient blockchains like Tezos and Flow, Polygon, Polygon, and Solana. These blockchains use a consensus mechanism called Proof-of-stake (PoS), to validate transactions on the blockchain. For example, minting an NFT. As we’ll see, this type of consensus mechanism uses significantly less energy than proofs-of-work (PoW), which was the dominant method to validate transactions.

But given the amount of technical jargon and misinformation regarding NFTs, the barrier to entry can feel overwhelming when it comes to conducting one’s due diligence. To maximize eco-friendliness, artists must consider four factors before entering the NFT space: PoW and PoS. Sidechains are also important.

Related: How blockchain technology is transforming climate action


Environmental concerns surrounding NFTs primarily stem from a consensus mechanism called proof-of-work. PoW is essentially a security feature for cryptocurrency transactions. Computers must solve mathematical puzzles to verify transactions. This is done in order to ensure they are legitimate and secure. This process requires large amounts of electricity. It is why some celebrities have been subject to backlash after launching NFTs on PoW networks.

Related: Green Bitcoin: The impact and importance of energy use for PoW


Fortunately, not all blockchains require PoW, and — contrary to popular misconception — NFTs can be minted in a manner that is environmentally conscious. This is where proof-of-stake presents a compelling solution. Instead of requiring energy-guzzling computers for solving puzzles to verify transactions transactions, PoS requires that individuals stake their crypto to be eligible to receive rewards.

As previously mentioned, there are a few popular PoS Blockchains like Tezos and Flow. Tezos in particular has garnered significant attention for its low use of energy — for an easy comparison, 50 million transactions on Tezos produces carbon emissions of just 17 global citizens.

Related: Proof-of-stake or proof-of-work, that is the question

Further, one of the leading blockchains in the NFT ecosystem — Ethereum — will soon transition from a PoW to PoS system. According to the Ethereum Foundation, the network’s upcoming switch from PoW to PoS, rumored to be coming this fall, will allow it to become roughly 2000 times more energy efficient and reduce total energy use by 99.95%.

Sidechains and layer-2 solutions

Another alternative to circumvent the excessive energy consumption of PoW is sidechains, which are independent blockchains that operate parallel to mainchains like Ethereum. Sidechains can set their own rules for transactions, security, and governance. Sidechains are able to verify transactions independently of a distributed network. This reduces their carbon footprint.

A great example of a popular sidechain in the NFT space is Polygon. Polygon, a layer-2 protocol or third-party protocol that supports Ethereum mainchain, improves transaction speed and efficiency. Many sidechains are governed by a community, which is a good thing for creators and developers looking to create mutually beneficial economies. Sidechains can be a great option for anyone interested in crypto.

Carbon neutrality

Regardless of whether a project utilizes PoW, PoS or sidechains, it is important that they acknowledge and maintain accountability for their carbon footprint.

There are many ways that projects can make a dedicated effort toward attaining carbon neutrality, such as implementing carbon offsets through integrations with carbon removal projects. Rarible’s integration earlier this year with Nori, a popular carbon removal platform, allows anyone to offset their carbon footprints for all Ethereum NFTs on Rarible. With these considerations in mind, artists should do their research to ensure they only mint with NFT markets and projects that are ethical.

Related: Green finance needs voluntary carbon markets that work

While some have minted NFTs as a cash-grab without regard for the environment, this characterization misrepresents the community-focused intentions of the Web3 futurists and innovators behind the technology. By adopting environmentally-friendly, utility-driven NFTs, artists can unlock a new realm of possibilities for building connections and sharing value with their fans.

This article does not contain investment advice or recommendations. Each investment and trade involves risk. Readers should do their own research before making any decisions.

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

Alex Salnikov is the co-founder and chief strategy officer of Rarible, a community-centric NFT marketplace. A blockchain trailblazer and an active developer in the crypto space since 2012, Alex previously served as the chief technology officer of CoinOffering, the first company to offer its shares in the form of blockchain assets. A B.A. in computer science and an M.A. A B.A. in computer science and an M.A. Alex holds a M.A. in computer science and a .

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Henry Hicks
Henry Hicks
NFT and Crypto Enthusiast. Loves Travelling and Exploring the Metaverse!


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