Are NFTs Creating the Next Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

In a time of the pandemic, Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) are helping artists create financial value for their work online. Digital artworks that draw plenty of online engagement, but not much income, can now be sold for thousands of dollars.

NFTs are digital assets that can represent real-world objects. These could be anything from art, music, and even online game items. NFTs are bought and sold online using cryptocurrency or fiat payments.

With lockdowns and quarantines adding to the struggles of the art world, artists are now using NFTs as a medium to express their creativity.  The NFT facilitates the parts of the business artists traditionally failed at; collecting payment, timestamping intellectual property, and registering future royalties. 

NFT marketplaces such as OpenSea, SuperRare, and Nifty Gateway allow artists to sell or auction their artworks online. NFTs, however, are also known for their ridiculous energy consumption. The Ethereum blockchain, which the marketplaces listed above are built on, is notorious for using a Proof of Work (PoW) algorithm, which is energy-intensive and ecologically destructive. 

For years, Ethereum has promised to upgrade to a Proof of Stake (PoS) algorithm, but as of the moment, it still uses PoW. As you read this article, thousands of PoW NFTs are getting sold—releasing carbon emissions and contributing to global warming.

According to research by Memo Akten, a single-edition NFT uses about 340 kWh of energy. This is equivalent to an EU resident’s electricity consumption for one month. Its emissions are said to be equivalent to driving for 1000 km or flying for 2 hours. 

In other words, NFT marketplaces running on PoW blockchains are directly contributing to climate change. People are forgoing long-term responsibility for short-term profit. If left unchecked, this could create an environmental problem much like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. 

It’s a crazy example, but because the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is so far from any country’s coastline, no nation will take responsibility or provide the funding to clean it up. In the same way, the blockchain is a decentralized system. The advantage of this is that no central authority can control it. 

The downside? No one will take full accountability for the ecological destruction it could leave behind.

This begs the question, are PoW NFT marketplaces the digital version of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

Alternatives to PoW

The main reason NFTs are an environmental nightmare is that they’re largely bought and sold in marketplaces built on Ethereum. Ethereum’s PoW system acts as a security system since transactions on the network do not have a third party. To validate Ethereum blockchain transactions, people called “miners” use high-powered computers to solve complex mathematical puzzles. The more powerful the computer, the faster it can verify transactions.

When a miner validates a transaction, he/she is rewarded with Ethereum’s cryptocurrency, ETH. As of writing, 1 ETH is equivalent to more than $4,000. There is a huge incentive for using energy-intensive machines in the crypto space.

To remedy this, some platforms have moved to alternatives to PoW. Two of these known alternatives are Proof of Stake (PoS) and Proof of Authority (PoA).


Proof of Stake

In PoS, a validator is randomly chosen based on how much stake they commit to a network.


In PoS, a person validates transactions based on how many coins he/she hands over or “stakes” to serve as collateral to become eligible validators. The more coins someone stakes, the higher their chances of earning more coins. A popular example of PoS is Polygon (formerly known as Matic)


Proof of Authority

In PoA, moderators have to meet a certain standard and must be ready to invest their personal funds.


PoA, on the other hand, chooses a limited number of validators. These validators are selected based on their reputation. PoA is more energy-efficient because it does not need powerful computers that use up a large amount of energy to perform validation. Real Items used to be built on a PoW blockchain but has fully moved to the Vechain blockchain which uses the PoA system to create NFTs. Check out these environmentally friendly NFTs in the Real Items Marketplace.


How to sell NFTs responsibly

Artists worldwide now understand the need for a cleaner alternative. Although NFTs are only a tiny part of global emissions, it shines a light on people’s actions in the crypto space. These actions are a reflection of the mindset needed for a larger-scale systemic change. Until Ethereum releases its PoS version, it’s worth considering other healthier alternatives to mint NFTs.

As a platform that uses PoA, the Real Items marketplace allows artists, brand owners, and Shopify store sellers to sell their NFTs responsibly. Aside from reducing power consumption, this system also saves time. Once a node is verified to be genuine in PoA, it stays that way as long as this node is part of a system. Because of this, PoA doesn’t use up extra time or energy re-verifying nodes. By simply minting and selling your NFTs in the Real Items marketplace, you are taking responsibility and ensuring that your products do not harm the environment.

Real Items now proudly creates NFTs for sustainable and eco-friendly enterprises like Livecanna and Plastlo. Our NFTs also provide traceability and proof of origin for one of the world’s rarest and most expensive coffee, Jamaican Blue Mountain (JBM) Coffee. If you want to make sure that your JBM coffee is authentic, look for the Real Items QR code that you can scan with your smartphone camera.

For creatives who have physical artworks, the Real Items platform can also turn your products into “Phygitals.” Phygital products both have a physical and digital identity (NFT).


Mona Lisa NFT

Example of a phygital artwork. Real Items can create NFTs of your physical artwork which can be used to prove ownership.


Want to turn your artwork into a phygital? Contact us here for a free demo.

Our planet is deteriorating as you read this article. Tons of plastics are being dumped into the ocean every day. By simply minting, buying, or selling NFTs in PoW marketplaces, we increase the planet’s temperature and contribute to climate change. In a sense, our individual actions collectively create a digital version of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

It doesn’t have to be this way. 

Real Items supports creativity and believes that artists should be able to receive the profits they rightfully deserve. This process, however, does not have to destroy the planet. That is why we have opened our platform to environmentally conscious artists, Shopify store owners, and enterprises to tell their stories.

Real Items is a growing team, and we need your support in building a better, cleaner future for the generations to come.

If you know a responsible artist who would like to sell their NFTs in Real Items’ responsible and ethical platform, refer them to our dedicated team HERE. We also welcome your opinions, ideas, and suggestions on cleaner NFTs in our community. Join our Discord for instant access to the Real Items community.

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