Widespread concerns about the energy use of proof-of-work (POW) blockchains such as Bitcoin and Ethereum impacted crypto artists in recent months due to Ethereum’s prominent role in the NFT ecosystem. Though common beliefs about the actual energy used in minting NFTs are often inaccurate, the crypto art community cares deeply about environmental issues and artists have been responding in a variety of ways. Ongoing responses include utilizing carbon offset services, supporting Ethereum’s move to proof-of-stake (POS) status, and increasing activity on POS blockchains.
Specific attacks on crypto artists began in December 2020 with the launch of CryptoArt.wtf, a site that gauged the energy used in minting NFTs based on the overall use of energy on the Ethereum blockchain. The problem is that Ethereum energy use does not work in such a direct manner, and the blockchain would use the same amount of energy to function even if NFT production stopped entirely.
Though this misperception was addressed to a limited degree by Web 3 developers, such as Sillytuna writing for NFTS WTF, it remains the dominant misunderstanding of both crypto artists, media, and the general public to this day. The resulting bitter attacks on crypto artists via social media led to the creators of CryptoArt.wtf shutting the site down because it had become a “tool for abuse and harassment.”
Since many crypto artists are concerned about the environment and did not need attacks to spur them into action, a variety of approaches to the perceived environmental effects of NFT production emerged and continue to be supported.
Carbon offset efforts, essentially tree planting by third parties, have been a popular choice of crypto artists choosing to remain on Ethereum. The concept of Ethereum energy calculations, though technically inaccurate, does provide a proxy for blockchain usage and is widely employed for energy offset purposes.
Offsetra is a popular carbon offset service. As crypto artist Angie Taylor enthusiastically explained on Twitter:
I have just offset all of my carbon emmissions for my Ethereum network activity with @offsetra – its so easy to do, it works out what you've used and then you can choose which project to donate to.
Everyone should do this! 🙂 ❤️🧷❤️https://t.co/TjbSsJk7PR
— 🧷 Angie Taylor | Digital Artist and Sculptor♀️ (@theAngieTaylor) April 8, 2021
Another artist, AnonymousNobody used RootedFuture to plant a tree for each NFT Tree he sold in a crypto art project.
Beeple, perhaps the most well known crypto artist to date, organized a charity auction to benefit environmental organizations featuring donated NFTs by a group of high profile artists and additional donated carbon offsets. The Carbon Drop on Nifty Gateway was thus identified as a “Carbon Net-Negative Auction.” The proceeds totalled over $6.66 million including a $6 million winning bid for Beeple’s piece “Ocean Front” by Tron founder Justin Sun.
Green NFT Hackathon
Climate change and energy expenditure issues must ultimately be addressed at the source of energy use. Though Ethereum’s move to proof-of-stake will address many of its issues, interim solutions and educational efforts are still in order. One leading example of addressing such issues now is the Green NFT project.
Green NFTs launched on Gitcoin to provide an “Awareness Bounty” for educational resources and a “Solutions Bounty” to improve existing Ethereum-related solutions. Co-created in February by Jason Bailey, aka Artnome, and The Mint Fund, Green NFTs went on to raise funds and hold a hackathon. Grant recipients were announced earlier this month.
Artnome explained in an interview that the “overall goal” of the project is to “raise awareness and give the community a way to take part in owning and addressing the problem.” He feels it is a way to take the “fighting and finger-pointing going on around the ecological impact of NFTs” and “redirect that human energy into a more constructive direction.”
SIRSU, who created The Mint Fund to support artists new to NFTs, noted in a separate interview that it was important to move beyond carbon offsets as well as “political grandstanding,” and to find “solutions to avoid making new harm.” He emphasized that the “goal of Green NFT was to kickstart more solutions.” SIRSU also hopes this work can develop further and “evolve into a coalition…dedicated to the creation of public goods related to making our work greener as well as influencing public policy.”
Bridging to Ethereum
Many of the current solutions to the problem of Ethereum’s energy use involve moving minting and transactions off the Ethereum blockchain to a variety of sidechains and Layer 2 solutions with the option to later transfer NFTs to the Ethereum mainnet if desired. Related solutions are being built on other blockchains, such as NEAR, which recently received the Climate Neutral Product label.
To facilitate DeFi and NFT movement between NEAR and Ethereum, NEAR created the Rainbow Bridge. It is now the home base for two popular NFT platforms. Paras launched on NEAR in December 2020. This popular platform features NFT art card minting. Mintbase, a leading platform that began on Ethereum, relaunched on NEAR in late May.
Crypto artists are also exploring life beyond Ethereum. The Clean-NFTs Developer Community offers a handy spreadsheet of NFT platforms, identifying POS and POW chains, and adding energy-related notes. The list is a reminder that artists now have a variety of POS chains from which to choose. One crypto art crowd favorite is the Tezos chain whose NFT platforms include Hic et Nunc and Kalamint.
Hic et Nunc, in particular, has seen a powerful wave of crypto artist involvement. Claire L. Evans, writing for Rest of World, describes it as “Brazil’s DIY, eco-friendly NFT art marketplace.” She also characterizes it as a “scrappy, community-driven marketplace peopled with misfits, experimental creators, and established artists seeking a break from the big leagues.”
Judging by a variety of glowing recommendations on Twitter by such crypto artists as Tim Riopelle, Hic et Nunc has become a crowd favorite for its combination of an environmentally sustainable POS blockchain, low transaction fees and a strong community vibe. Jason Bailey, writing on his Artnome site, says he sees a “lot of the unbridled experimentation that was present in the early Rare Pepe Wallet days re-emerging in Hic et Nunc.”
These highlights from the responses of crypto artists to environmental concerns about NFT energy use reveal that artists continue to be actively involved in seeking solutions. From funding carbon offsets and technical solutions, to exploring currently available eco-friendly options, crypto artists are taking a creative array of paths forward.
Despite the often inaccurate attacks on crypto artists and the continuing misrepresentation of NFT energy use by both mainstream and crypto media, many artists have chosen to address the actual issues in a positive manner. Though these actions are unlikely to satisfy all opponents of the existence of NFTs, they should certainly go a long way in establishing the legitimacy of NFTs and crypto art to thoughtful critics.
Featured Image Credit: NFT Tree by AnonymousNobody.eth