A lot of people grapple with the question: “Do non-fungible tokens (NFTs) harm the environment? And if you’re one of those people, well, that’s great! Let us explain, what we mean is we’re happy that you’re concerned about lowering your carbon footprint on the blockchain and protecting the natural world whether you build digital or physical NFT. You are conscientious, we like that, and we like you! And that is important on NFTs Becoming More Sustainable.
Table of Contents
- Physical NFTs and How Some NFTs Are Becoming More Sustainable
- WHAT IS AN NFT ANYWAY?
- WHAT IS A PHYSICAL NFT?
- HOW SOME NFTs ARE BECOMING MORE SUSTAINABLE
- BELOW IS A LIST OF POPULAR PROOF-OF-STAKE BLOCKCHAINS
- LINKING YOUR PHYSICAL NFT TO A PHILANTHROPIC CAUSE
- BUILD AND GROW YOUR ONLINE COMMUNITY
Physical NFTs and How Some NFTs Are Becoming More Sustainable
There is a misconception out there that all NFTs are inherently bad for the environment, but we’re going to show you how some NFTs are becoming more sustainable. It’s true that certain blockchains and NFT marketplaces use a lot of energy and DO produce a ton of CO2, but there are a growing number of environmentally friendly options out there for you to consider which we’ll take you through in this piece.
AND as we’ve talked about before, we’re going to show you that NFTs don’t only have to be digital art, they can also be… wait for it… PHYSICAL PIECES OF ART! AAAaaaaah! There are tons of brands using NFTs to sell physical products and we can’t wait to show you some cool examples so you’ll never again have to google, “What is the use of a physical NFT?”
We understand that NFTs can seem like a totally foreign and weird world if you haven’t read about or experimented with them. But did you know that NFTs have been around FOREVER? They aren’t going anywhere, so even gaining just a tiny bit of insight may give you some valuable takeaways!
There are thousands of ways to create NFTs (many super easy) so that you can take advantage of how we’re coming into the Web 3.0 era. Think of NFTs like email marketing – it’s going to be here for a loooong time. Sure there can be challenges to overcome, like how Apple IOS was inflating and distorting its email open rates (the gall!) but those challenges are not insurmountable whatsoever. NFTs are all around us (there’s one right behind you, look out!… just kidding) and they can serve you amazingly as you enter Web 3.0! We don’t want you to miss out on this explosive expansion of the art scene!
WHAT IS AN NFT ANYWAY?
An NFT stands for “non-fungible token,” which is just a fancy way of saying it’s one unique item that CAN NOT be duplicated. (Though the word fungible kind of sounds like a rare mushroom, it just means “able to be duplicated”). Oftentimes NFTs are digital collectibles (images, videos, GIFs, music, or other artwork) that can be stored, sold, and traded on marketplaces online. Some examples of NFTs you may have heard about would be Bored Ape Yacht Club (cartoon drawings of apes) or CryptoPunks (pixelated zombies) which have become very popular. (Imagine if they combined… APE ZOMBIES!)
What makes NFTs unique is that when you “mint” them, they get published on a blockchain which is an unalterable online ledger that provides definitive proof that your NFT is the original. Sure, that same NFT could be copied (curses you scammers!), but those copies are worthless without the verification of the blockchain (take that scammers!). (Think of the blockchain as your friend who is incapable of lying and only ever tells the truth, we all love AND hate that friend don’t we?)
You may already have something that can be turned into an NFT and not even know it: a physical piece of art. You can scan or take a picture of it, upload your file, join an NFT marketplace, get the file minted on the marketplace, and voila! You have an NFT that can now be sold, traded, and stored. Super cool, right?!
This is something we’ve talked about before in a previous article, A Step-By-Step Guide Explaining: How Can Artists Make An NFT (Easy Steps). We ALSO discussed in this article that NFTs, in addition to being digitized art, can also be physical pieces of art! This is great news because we know that many of you artists out there may have some physical pieces that you never even knew you could turn into an NFT! This is a great example of how your physical art can now be shared with people all over the world as part of the ever-growing expansion of the art scene.
WHAT IS A PHYSICAL NFT?
Are you still with us? Great! A physical NFT, simply put, is a non-fungible token that is linked to a physical asset.
Alexis Fedor, the founder of AIB, was getting a bit flustered with the whole NFT thing when she discovered, much to her dismay, that only 16% of NFTs are created by women. THAT. MUST. CHANGE. She felt like she’d stumbled into “bro-land” with all these online bros making the rules, the content, and the communication. Ugh. (Imagine throwing a house party and only crypto bros showed up, boooooring!)
All that changed when she bought an alice + olivia blouse made by one of her favorite fashion designers, Stacey Bendet. And you guessed it, the blouse is an NFT! In addition to the blouse, Alexis was gifted an animated digital avatar of the Stace Face 20th Anniversary rainbow print, which unlocked priority access to an exclusive, live course on NFTs taught by Randi Zuckerberg, CEO of Zuckerberg media. It was created to inspire more women to learn about NFTs. (We can’t tell you how excited we are about that!).
On top of that, the NFT is housed on the polygon blockchain which is one of many eco-friendly platforms that we’re going to tell you aaaaall about a little later in the piece.
There are many examples of artists and brands using NFTs to sell physical products. Casey Golden created Luxlock which provides physical NFTs in the form of fashionwear. A consumer can purchase a physical luxury, designer jacket, for example, and then they’ll receive a matching NFT version of it for their avatar. As Golden pointed out, “offering a unique NFT is a much better use of marketing funds than an Instagram post.” Why not do both? Post about your NFT collection to your followers on your social media platforms!
The Alpha Girl Club (AGC) NFT Collection is another super cool example of physical NFTs. It’s a collection of 10,000 hand-illustrated alphas which are super colorful, iconic, and bold. With the purchase of the NFT, they offer exclusive IRL (in real life) experiences, events, and often provide purchasers with special goodies and collectibles. In addition, with your purchase, you get all-inclusive access to a mental health app curated by the Alpha Girl Club team. The app includes their daily check-in system, access to mental health experts, exclusive content that will help you get through your day, and much more.
In a great example of how to grow your online community AND support a cause, Alpha Girl Club collaborated with Women and Weapons (WAW) which grew both of their communities, increased engagement, and also gave their community members a chance to win one of their free NFT mints. They posted about it on their social media channels asking people to:
- Follow @WomenandWeapons + @alphagirlclub
- Comment something they’re thankful for
- Tag their NFT family
- Retweet the post
- Choose a winner who would get a special NFT
If you have a cause that you believe in, why not tag-team it, link up, and create a super movement that benefits all?
Another fun example of physical NFTs would be that of Burnett New York, a “ready-to-wear women’s brand known for its signature feminine sensibility and evangelizing ambitious women.” They’ve teamed up with Citizen-T, founded by artist Stephanie Dillion, a fashion brand “championed by artists and donned by ethical citizens hell-bent on changing the world.”
Together they’ve unveiled their experiential Resort 2023 collection, “non-manufactured garments, made by deconstructing existing fast-fashion pieces and recrafting them into high-fashion collectibles. Ownership of these epic ready-to-wear pieces is authenticated via their NFT, with owners’ ability to wear the pieces in real life, don them in the Metaverse and gain a myriad of exclusive benefits as NFT holders.”
Stephanie Dillion herself hand-painted artwork within the collection for the physical ready-to-wear and metaverse wearable NFTs. The collection was revealed at a large exhibition with augmented reality enhanced designs for a live interactive experience, while avatar models wore the pieces on the catwalk to the beats of live DJs. The physical and digital worlds are blending! Aaaah!
The final example we’ll share with you is that of Adidas. They joined the metaverse in 2021 (sorry we keep using the term “metaverse,” it’s so esoteric isn’t it?) partnering with Bored Ape Yacht Club to sell their NFT. Buying the NFT gave owners access to special physical goods, like a hoodie and the tracksuit worn by the Bored Ape that Adidas owns, and a slew of digital experiences. Adidas ended up selling more than $22 million in the span of an afternoon. Wow…
Okay! So now that you have some examples of how you too can turn your physical art into profitable, community-building, and exciting NFTs, now we’re going to tell you how to do it in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way.
HOW SOME NFTs ARE BECOMING MORE SUSTAINABLE
Whether you have a digitized NFT or a physical NFT, they need to be housed on a blockchain, the unalterable online ledger that provides definitive proof that your NFT is the original.
In past articles, we’ve talked about the OpenSea NFT marketplace, one of the biggest and most popular in the world. It’s great for beginners and it also supports the Ethereum blockchain. You know that question we posed earlier, “Do non-fungible tokens (NFTs) harm the environment?” Well, in the case of Ethereum, the answer’s yes AND no. Unfortunately the Ethereum blockchain currently only uses a proof-of-work, which means that the minting process for an NFT can use an incredible amount of energy. Boo! (Oh, and, minting is when your NFT becomes verifiable on a blockchain).
In short, when the NFT is minted, or mined, by cryptocurrency miners, they must rely upon a massive network of computers and computing hardware that use vast amounts of electricity. If you want to transfer the NFT to another person or marketplace, it will similarly require this same amount of energy to do so.
According to Investopedia, “Every transaction on the Ethereum proof-of-work platform, including every NFT transaction, uses more than 260 kilowatt-hours of electricity—equivalent to the electricity used by an average U.S. household over 9.05 days.” A New York Times article pointed out that minting your average NFT is like driving 500 miles in a gas-powered car. Double boo! But there is another way…
The “proof-of-stake” operating method generates NFTs without using massive amounts of electricity or negatively affecting the environment. Per CNBC, proof-of-stake requires “far less power than mining and will translate to faster transactions.” We’re not going to bore you with all the details, just know that proof-of-stake is significantly better for the environment… but if you ARE interested in the nitty-gritty details, here’s a piece by CoinDesk that breaks down proof-of-work vs proof-of-stake.
The good news with Ethereum is that it is gradually transitioning to the proof-of-stake operating method. In June of this year (2022), it completed a successful first attempt in testing its proof-of-stake blockchains. There is still a lot of work to be done before they can merge the proof-of-stake blockchains, but you can track its progress by keeping an eye out for updates on the Ethereum Blog. Once Ethereum goes from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake, it will “use at least 99.95% less energy post-merge.”
In the meantime, if you’re looking to buy energy-efficient NFTs you may want to consider using a blockchain that currently uses proof-of-stake with a particular focus on lowering your carbon footprint on the blockchain.
BELOW IS A LIST OF POPULAR PROOF-OF-STAKE BLOCKCHAINS
THE SOLANA BLOCKCHAIN
Solana made its network carbon neutral for 2021 and is committed to continuing to do so in 2022, “Using Watershed Climate, the foundation is funding refrigerant destruction, one of the most effective ways to maximize carbon offsets. The process involves incentivizing the proper disposal of CFCs, which permanently eliminates them.” Bloomberg has noted that Solana uses the least energy per transaction. Solana supports NFT marketplaces including Magic Eden, Solanart, and Rabbit Hole.
Joy Hughes, AKA JoyoGraphic, is an artist dedicated to climate change and creates skyscapes and generative photography, which led her to Solana. In 2021, one of the best-known artists in the NFT scene, Emily Yang, aka pplpleasr, known for designing the cover of Fortune magazine, recently dropped a new project on Solana: “The Collectoooooor” which included 500 pieces of 3D ducks, buildings, UFOs and all kinds of other artworks. OMG, don’t you wanna check it out?
Algorand is the world’s first carbon-negative blockchain and was designed with the intent of minimizing its impact on the environment, “Compared to the Bitcoin blockchain, digital asset creation and transactions on Algorand result in 120 million times less CO2 emissions.” Some popular NFT marketplaces used by Algorand include Aorist, Algogems, AB2 Gallery, ALGOxNFT, Rand Gallery, Abris, and Dartroom.
High-profile artist Ed Smith, a painter and sculptor, recently tokenized a number of his famous works on Dahai, a fine art marketplace operating on Algorand. In June of this year, Nancy Baker Cahill, minted a video of her “Mushroom Cloud NYC/RISE” (a huge mushroom cloud enveloping New York City) on Algorand, with the mission of sharing and conserving resources and bringing awareness to climate change. She debuted it in June at the 2022 Tribeca Festival’s Immersive Program. Viewers could experience the work in real-time via augmented reality with Baker Cahill’s free 4th Wall App when standing at the end of Pier 25 in New York City. The physical and virtual worlds collide once again.
Cardano, named after Italian Mathematician Gerolamo Cardano, as of writing this, is the largest cryptocurrency to use a proof-of-stake blockchain. Bloomberg has noted that Cardano uses the least energy per node of all the blockchains. Cardano supports several NFT marketplaces, including CNFT and Galaxy of Art. They also support Lovada, where the entire platform has zero net emissions, pretty incredible stuff.
In 2021, Cardano partnered with Eco-Age, hosts of the Renaissance Awards which rewards four categories: environmentally restorative, socially just, economically inclusive, and technologically balanced, and are bestowed to activists across the world.
Some notable up-and-coming artists who use the Cardano blockchain are Kimika Baba, a Japan-based calligraphy artist, Polyannie, an artist whose mission is to expose censorship and empower, and Davash Atry, a 3D artist who uses neon lights, film photography, and night photography for his creations.
Tezos has claimed that it has an “average energy footprint of 17 global citizens.” Tezos hosts several NFT marketplaces, including Rarible. AND of Tezos’s greatest attributes is that it has NO MINTING fees. According to Leafscore, minting costs on Ethereum, for example, “can run to well above $150 per NFT, meaning that creators have to price their NFTs at more than $150 to make any profit.” So watch out for those fees!
David Tng and Katherine Ng, the folks behind blockchain consultancy TZ APAC, have long been advocates of the “CleanNFTs” movement, “a global effort that advocates for eco-friendly practices and a lower carbon footprint in the NFT space. This includes minting and hosting works on proof-of-stake platforms like Tezos and generally being more mindful of the environmental impacts of NFTs.
They’ve pointed to artists that they love and support, including Mumu the Stan, an artist and community leader from Malaysia, who creates NFTs on the Tezos blockchain. Her work advocates gender representation, people of color representation, Muslim representation, and mental health awareness and support. Zancan, a traditional oil painter who is now doing generative art, and Yazid Azahari, an experimental maker of generative art, also host their works on Tezos and are environmentally conscious with their work.
As we noted above, the alice + olivia blouse NFT that Alexis Fedor purchased, was part of the Polygon blockchain (specifically Polygonscan). Brands like Adidas, Prada, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have all launched NFT projects on it as well.
When it comes to eco-friendliness, to put it in perspective, Polygon’s yearly energy consumption of greenhouse emissions is equivalent to “122 passenger vehicles driven for one year.” When it comes to its annual CO2 emissions, “101 homes’ electricity use for one year.” Other NFT marketplaces it supports include Refinable, NFTrade, and tofuNFT.
Per this article by Bloomberg, “Polkadot has the lowest total electricity consumption and total carbon emissions per year of the six so-called proof-of-stake blockchains studied, according to a report from Ulrich Gallersdörfer, Lena Klaaßen, and Christian Stoll of the Crypto Carbon Ratings Institute.”
XENO NFT Hub and PolkaFantasy are NFT marketplaces you can find on Polkadot. In 2021, RBW Japan, which represents popular girl group Mamamoo and other K-Pop artists such as Vromance and Oneus, are minting tokens on XENO NFT Hub which will give their fans the ability to own digital products related to the RBW entertainers.
These listed above are some of the major proof-of-stake operations that are making huge impacts when it comes to lowering your carbon footprint on the blockchain.
LINKING YOUR PHYSICAL NFT TO A PHILANTHROPIC CAUSE
What’s cool about NFTs is that you can link them to philanthropic causes. As we discussed before in our article, A Step-By-Step Guide Explaining: How Can Artists Make An NFT NFT collections like Sad Girls Bar, Sacred Skulls, and Meemo’s World were linked to mental health causes.
As Newsroom UCLA reported, “world-renowned visual artist Refik Anadol, who creates mesmerizing AI-driven digital artworks using massive data sets, recently donated the proceeds from an NFT to the Open Earth Foundation, as part of an art auction called The Carbon Drop. His piece, ‘Machine Hallucinations: Nature Dreams – Last Memory,’ sold on Nifty Gateway for more than $300,000.’”
One of our favorite NFT experts, Randi Zuckerberg, CEO of Zuckerberg Media, recently set up a project in response to the Uvalde school shooting, where all proceeds go to Everytown For Gun Safety. Twenty-one artists from the community banded together and donated NFTs for the project (three were kids younger than twelve). Randi said, “The wonderful thing about NFTs is that not only does Everytown see the donation when it first gets purchased, but when those pieces of art trade hands on the secondary market, the money keeps going back to the charity for eternity.” Every NFT has a smart contract built where the artist or activist has the potential to see residuals and profits on every transaction if written into the contract. (Meaning if your NFT gets sold or traded, even after you no longer are the owner of it, your smart contract could guarantee you see a portion of those transactions).
BUILD AND GROW YOUR ONLINE COMMUNITY
In conclusion, creating NFTs is a great opportunity for you to build and grow your online community. As Katherine Ng, avid online art collector and one of the people behind blockchain TZ APAC, put it so eloquently, NFTs “bridge a gap in the art world, allowing artists to connect with new collectors around the world, and institutions, and sell their work to anyone at any time.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Getting involved in NFTs is a great way for you to connect with your community, network with and support other artists, foster relationships with people all over the world, and gain new customers who love and support your art and your vision. All of it happening within the new era of Web 3.0 that we find ourselves in. To not take a part would be depriving yourself of a great opportunity to flourish.
Now that we’ve shown you the incredible possibilities with physical NFTs and How some NFTs are becoming more sustainable we hope you’ll feel a little more confident when it comes to incorporating them into your art business. If you don’t you may be missing out on this incredible expansion of the art scene. Because if there’s one thing for certain, it’s that NFTs are here to stay, baby!