Ever since NFTs hit the online marketplace, they’ve raised all sorts of questions. Are they a crypto currency? Are they art? Are they games? What’s the point?
While many of these more general questions are still floating around, you might have some more specific concerns you’ve heard about that could use some clearing up. Namely, the environmental impact of NFT transactions and if there is a way to combat any potential negatives.
Thankfully, there is! Gas free, carbon neutral NFTs, or “green” NFTs, are a relatively new creation that seek to neutralize the carbon footprint created from NFT transactions through a variety of methods. This allows owners and traders to take part in buying, selling, and trading NFTs without feeling guilty about harming the environment.
But first, let’s take a closer look at what NFTs are to understand how various crypto platforms can achieve this.
First Off, What Exactly Is an NFT?
No, they’re not all a bunch of yawning apes. NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are digital files that can take on many forms but are individually unique in their identification. This means that owners of an NFT can take some pride in knowing that their NFT is “one-of-a-kind,” and can take the form of videos, pictures, games, and even in-game items like avatars and character outfits. You could view owning NFTs as collecting a form of digital art or kitting out your in-game wardrobe with unique cosmetics.
NFTs are closely related to crypto currency in that they exist on a blockchain. Most of them are on the Ethereum blockchain, though other crypto currencies have begun to host their own NFTs. Blockchains can be thought of as a ledger that records all transactions of crypto currencies or NFTs that take place on it. The difference being each NFT is recorded as a unique “token” whereas crypto currencies are fungible, i.e. one is the same in value and form as another.
However, each transaction can require a large amount of energy to resolve, which has led to environmental concerns over crypto and NFT transactions. The amount of computing energy required to conduct a transaction on a blockchain is commonly referred to as gas.
So What Is Blockchain Gas?
As mentioned before, “gas” is the amount of energy resources to record the buying, selling, and trading of crypto and NFTs on a blockchain using the proof-of-work method. Gas fees are paid by those involved with a transaction just to pay for the computational power utilized to process it.
This is where the environmental concerns start forming. They were first brought up during the early days of the crypto currency craze, and since NFTs utilize blockchain technology in the same way, they are targets of the same criticism. The argument here is that crypto and NFT transactions require tremendous amounts of energy to transact, and that the environmental implications of this energy use are potentially damaging.
Are NFTs Harmful to the Environment?
The truth is, NFT transactions during their early days did have a negative impact on the environment. The act of creating, transacting, and minting NFTs consumed vast amounts of energy much like their crypto currency predecessors. It was an issue then, and it is an issue now.
However, the negative perception of the environmental impact of crypto currency and subsequently NFTs is a bit overblown. The carbon emissions of crypto mining year to year is substantially less than other factors such as driving SUVs, iron/steel factories, or ironically enough, the electric vehicle battery supply chain. NFT and crypto transactions are relatively inconsequential when looked at compared to these giants of carbon emissions, though at the end of the day they still contributed to the problem.
Thankfully, many companies aren’t afraid to recognize and acknowledge this concern, especially in an era where climate change is actively worsening the planet. Because of this, they have taken steps to reduce the carbon footprints created by NFT transactions in a variety of ways.
Do Green NFTs Exist?
So can gas free, carbon neutral NFTs and their associated transactions exist? They do, and are called green NFTs! More and more people are rightfully concerned about the sourcing of what they buy, such as their food or clothing products, and intangible goods like NFTs are no different in this regard. People who wish to partake in NFT transactions can do a bit of research to make sure that their NFT was created and minted in an environmentally friendly manner.
How do artists and companies create these green NFTs? There are several steps they make take to achieve a reduced carbon footprint when it comes to NFTs, such as:
- Proof-of-Stake: Instead of relying on the proof-of-work (PoW) blockchain types that crypto currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum are reliant on, NFTs can be created and transacted on proof-of-stake (PoS) blockchains. PoS blockchains use a different method to randomly select miners and validate transactions, which results in a massive reduction in the computational power needed for crypto and NFTs activities. It is one of the more popular ways to neutralize the carbon footprint of these transactions.
- Renewable Energy: Though PoW transactions consume a hefty amount of computational power, there’s no harm to the environment if the miners use renewable sources of energy to fuel them. Many miners have been utilizing solar power to help offset carbon emissions from NFT transactions.
- Fighting Climate Change: Another interesting way NFTs can help offset their carbon footprint is investing gas fees into combating climate change. This can take the form of investing in renewable energy sources or technologies that will contribute towards an overall shift into the right direction as far as saving our environment and fighting climate change. Some companies even use their proceeds to help plant trees!
- Efficient Transaction Methods: This can also take many different forms, but blockchain technology is still relatively new. As the technology develops, so too will the efficiency in which NFTs are traded and transacted. Even today many platforms will batch NFT trades in a way that saves much more energy than allowing them to take place individually.
It’s good to know where your NFTs are coming from, and companies that are proud of their NFT sourcing will have this information listed somewhere. An example of such is a statement from Kongregate as they create their NFT-based games:
“This is an incredibly exciting time to be a developer, working with forward thinking green partners like ImmutableX that ensure our NFTs are scalable, secure, fully transparent, and most importantly, gas free & carbon neutral,” — Max Murphy, Chief Technology Officer
Where Are We Today?
NFTs are headed in the right direction. Generally, people strive to be more responsible about the looming climate crisis, so when it comes to NFTs and their resulting energy costs they would have good reason to be hesitant.
However, as previously mentioned many artists and companies are taking the right steps to ensure that NFTs don’t negatively impact the environment. Green NFTs are becoming more popular and sustainability is in the spotlight. You can rest assured when creating, buying, selling, or trading NFTs knowing that there are sustainable options available to you, you just have to look for them!
Learn more about how Kongregate is bringing responsible NFT technology to their video games.