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The Carbon Drop

Last month, after a difficult but necessary conversation about the insane CO2 footprint of most* CryptoArt and the lack of transparency from Ethereum platforms, we teamed up with friends and artists to try addressing this issue.

Together with Beeple, Gmunk, Refik Anadol and others, we’ve invested time and efforts to raise awareness on the impact of #NFTs, to mitigate our individual footprints and we donated artworks to raise funds for the Open Earth Foundation. We expected similar efforts from the platform hosting the project, but Nifty Gateway has shown no interest in reducing their own impact.

The second most polluting NFT platform of all has failed us, again.

Considering their lack of action, I decided to step out of the CarbonDrop.

*While the Ethereum network is inefficient and wasteful by design, Low-energy consumption CryptoArt solutions are available today, see the end of this post.

Personally, my main interest in this project was to push Nifty Gateway’s  “new system”, a technical solution supposed to reduce their CO2 footprint by 99%. But Nifty Gateway did not deliver.

The “new system” was supposed to be ready early March, and is now delayed until mi-April (?).

The second most polluting NFT platform of all.

In February alone, Nifty Gateway had an estimated footprint of 2,500,000 kg of CO2 (data collected and reviewed by the #CleanNFT community). They are currently on track to, at least, double their footprint for March.

Nifty Gateway is the second most polluting platform right after OpenSea, according to this research by Kyle McDonald. It may become the single most polluting platform in the upcoming weeks.

These emissions are expected to double again in March.

These calculations are based on the Carbon.fyi methodology, taking into consideration the mining infrastructure, their energy sources (fossil, renewables) to make precise correlations between gas use, network load, and estimate the impact per transaction.

While these numbers may not be 100% accurate, as it’s technically impossible to track all variables, this gives us an idea of the magnitude of the problem, and informs us on the urgency to address it.

Open editions are the worst.

We asked Nifty Gateway to put on hold their open editions until their “new system” is ready. This could reduce their CO2 footprint by thousands of Tons. They refused.

Joshua from RenderToken has worked on offset calculations and offered some ‘green certificates’ up to 500 Tons on behalf of the artists, but all our efforts are being cancelled out by the platform, as a single open edition, happening on the same day as the fundraiser, emitted 71 Tons of CO2 already.

Too little, too late

Nifty Gateway’s ‘new system’ was expected to be very ambitious:
I was hoping for L2 scaling or PoS sidechains. Instead, they might just switch contract types (from erc721 to erc1155). While this would lower the footprint of editions, this may not have any effect on the single artworks.

As a climate activist, I can’t support the second most polluting platform of all. I would be sending a misleading signal to the community, and this could be seen as Greenwashing.

I know many artists were waiting for Nifty Gateway to address this issue, and hoping for significant results, but no progress has been made so far.

I encourage all artists to release their works on lower-energy platforms instead: Hicetnunc, the booming platforms for #CleanNFT, has an environmental impact 1000 times smaller.

What we can do, right now:

  • As artists, we should stop releasing on polluting platforms (Opensea, NiftyGateway, SuperRare, Makersplace, Foundation, KnownOrigin etc..) to urge everyone to move to more environmentally friendly ones (Kalamint, HicetNunc, Polkadot, Sign-Art..)
  • Pressure the polluting platforms (tweets, emails etc..) to urge them to lower their impacts by implementing solutions: L2 scaling, sidechains, etc..
  • Join the #CleanNFT community to share knowledge and discuss this topic.

Press coverage

I spent the past month working on this topic with various media, here are some articles mentioning this story:

New York Times: NFTs Are Selling for Millions. Are They Warming the Planet, Too?
Wired: NFTs Are Hot. So Is Their Effect on the Earth’s Climate
Art Forum: Chain Reaction
Art News: […] NFTs: ‘This Is a Decentralization’
Hyperallergic: Does Carbon Offsetting Really Address the NFT Ecological Dilemma?
Hyperallergic: As NFT Sells for $69M, Artists Question Environmental Impact of Blockchain
Dezeen: NFTs will usher in a “creative and artistic renaissance” say designers
ABC news: NFTs are setting the creative world alight. Are they also bad for the planet?
L.A. Times: $69 million for digital art? The NFT craze, explained
The Independant: The new ‘bitcoin for Art’ trend explained
Engadgets: NFTs are both priceless and worthless
Gizmodo: How to Fix Crypto Art NFTs’ Carbon Pollution Problem
Cultbyte: It’s Time to Rethink. The Carbon Cost of the NFT Boom
Business of Business: The blockchain “scaling” civil war is underway—and the battleground is carbon
Flash ART: Toward a New Ecology of Crypto Art: A Hybrid Manifesto


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