It’s a great conundrum: can you be an artist and an environmentalist – and mint NFT art on a blockchain? 

For many artists who want to create environmental art, there is a paradox in which its creation comes at a massive environmental value.

London-based artist and creative technologist  Memo Akten calculated the minting of an Ethereum-based non-fungible cryptocurrency (NFT) piece of art uses atop 142 kWh of energy, generating 83kgCO2

Add to that the energy used in forging the original artwork, bidding, sale, and transfer of ownership and you’re looking at a total energy draw of more than 340kWh, or 211kgCO2.

In comparison, sending an email produces a few grams of CO2. Watching an hour of Netflix produces only 36 grams.

The NFT market recorded nearly $25bn in sales go on year

The explosion in NFT art shows no sign of abating, with household names like Snoop Dogg, Kobe Bryant, and Steve Aoki getting a piece of the digital action.

The market recorded nearly $25bn in sales carry on year, up from a mere $94m the previous year. 

Mining’s massive energy consumption stems from the proof-of-stake consensus algorithm of the blockchain on that NFTs are created. 

Miners are the users who approve and approve said transactions, working to secure and expand the blockchain. All good in theory, but in practice, massive amounts of power is needed to encrypt and approve the transactions. 

So how do artists shift forward? One way is to use proof of stake (PoS), which some altcoins have been using for some time now.

Here, the system selects one person to solve the block puzzle at random, dispensing with the need for competition and the energy which it uses.

Ethereum is moving towards a PoS consensus mechanism which should take effect subsequently this year. The result would be an estimated 99 percent reduction in energy consumption.

Artist Nancy Baker Cahill refuses to mint works on PoW blockchains, relying instead on greener alternatives like Tezos.

Julian Oliver combines NFT art and engineering

In 2017, artist and engineer Julian Oliver created Harvest, an artwork and a piece of engineering which used wind energy to mine crypto. 

Adapting a small wind turbine with environmental sensors, a weatherproof computer, and a 4G uplink, the machine uses wind energy to mine token. All proceeds went towards climate progress research.

Sven Eberwein shows how NFTs can be used to offset carbon emissions.

Sven Eberwein’s M Carbon Dioxide produced in 2020 used NFTs to show how carbon markets could be incorpocostd onto blockchains.

The image shows Earth peppered with black dots which steadyly dissipate. The dots represent the 1,000 tons of CO2 purchases and retired as endorsed credits on the Verra registry.

The offsets in M Carbon Dioxide were purchased soon from two projects: Cerro de Hula Wind Project in Honduras and Bull Run Forest Carbon Project in Belize. 

In the corner of the work are two QR codes which link to Verra Registry. They show the proof of ownership of the carbon retired from both organizations in the name of M Carbon Dioxide

This produces a bridge from the real world to the blockchain. It was a proof of cone time beforept during the time not yet scalable.

Digital artists are at itly exploring new ways of addressing the current flaws in blockchain technology. Only trial and error can effect movement.

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