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Why Are NFTs Bad for the Environment? A Deep Dive into Tezos vs. Ethereum

Explore why NFTs are bad for the environment through a comparison of Tezos & Ethereum. Delve into blockchain’s impact and sustainability solutions.

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Why Are NFTS bad for the environment?

As the digital frontier expands, one phenomenon stands out: the rise of NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens). But with their rise, a question emerges: Why are NFTs bad for the environment? The answer largely traces back to Ethereum, a pioneering blockchain platform that has facilitated most NFT transactions.

Historically, Ethereum employed the Proof-of-Work (PoW) consensus mechanism, which demands substantial computational power and energy to validate and record new transactions, leading to significant carbon emissions. This energy-intensive approach drew criticism for its environmental cost. However, Ethereum has now transitioned to the more efficient Proof-of-Stake (PoS) mechanism.

Yet, it’s noteworthy that while Ethereum underwent this transformative shift, Tezos has been a beacon of eco-consciousness from its inception, having always utilized PoS. This preemptive choice by Tezos underscores the environmental toll Ethereum might have avoided had it adopted PoS sooner. In this article, we’ll dissect the environmental nuances of these two blockchains, highlighting the long-term implications of their technological choices and how they’ve impacted the world of NFTs. Join us on this exploration of blockchain’s green journey and the comparative sustainability of Ethereum and Tezos.

The Extensive Infrastructure of PoW Mining

Proof-of-Work, as a consensus mechanism, necessitates the use of a substantial amount of hardware, often resulting in vast, specialized mining farms.

  1. Mining Farms: These are dedicated facilities filled with thousands of specialized hardware devices called ASICs (Application-Specific Integrated Circuits) or, in earlier days, high-end graphic cards. These farms are strategically located in regions with cheap electricity, as their operations run 24/7, consuming massive amounts of power.
  2. Energy Consumption: The scale of energy used by these mining farms can be comparable to that of entire countries. For instance, some estimates have suggested that the Bitcoin network, which relies on PoW, consumes more electricity annually than countries like Argentina or the Netherlands. This is because the cryptographic puzzles that miners must solve in the PoW system are designed to be computationally difficult, requiring the collective effort of thousands of machines constantly crunching numbers.
  3. Cooling Requirements: Beyond the direct power usage of mining equipment, these machines generate an immense amount of heat. Consequently, additional energy is expended on cooling systems to prevent overheating and ensure optimal hardware performance.
  4. Hardware Production and Waste: The production of mining hardware involves resource extraction, manufacturing, and transportation, all of which have their own environmental impacts. Moreover, as newer, more efficient models are developed, old equipment becomes obsolete, leading to electronic waste.

Environmental Implications:

The sheer scale of energy consumption by PoW-based cryptocurrencies has sparked concerns about their carbon footprint. If the source of energy is non-renewable, like coal, the environmental impact is significant. This intensive energy consumption, combined with the continuous demand for more efficient hardware, has led many in the blockchain community and beyond to question the sustainability of PoW in the long run. It’s these concerns that have driven interest in alternative consensus mechanisms, like Proof-of-Stake, which aim to secure networks with a fraction of the energy cost.

Tezos: Pioneering Environmental Responsibility from the Outset

Tezos stands out in the blockchain realm as an archetype of energy efficiency. From its inception, the Tezos blockchain was designed with sustainability in mind. Employing a Proof-of-Stake mechanism from the start, Tezos has consistently demonstrated an energy footprint equivalent to merely 17 global citizens. The deliberate choice of PoS over energy-intensive PoW not only sets Tezos apart but underscores its commitment to a sustainable future.

Historically, Tezos has maintained an unwavering commitment to its moral compass, favoring environmental consideration over transient trends. An example of this dedication is evident in the Tezos blockchain’s 70% increase in energy efficiency on a per-transaction basis between 2020 and 2021. As an evolving platform, Tezos continues to streamline its operations to further reduce its already minimal carbon footprint. A glance at the network’s operations from October 2022 to September 2023, as provided by TzStats API, showcases its remarkable scalability. Even as the number of transactions swelled, the network’s energy consumption saw a proportional decline.

To validate these claims, Tezos has undergone rigorous assessments. PwC’s Tezos Life Cycle Assessment, aligned with ISO 14040 and 14044 standards, provides a thorough examination of the blockchain’s carbon footprint. The study brought to light various facets of Tezos’ operation. It highlighted that in 2021, running a node as a baker for a year emitted roughly 161 kg CO2 eq. Moreover, the consensus protocol of Tezos is structured such that its energy consumption doesn’t skyrocket with an increase in the number of transactions. The findings attest to Tezos’ impeccable track record of environmental responsibility.

A Closer Look: The PwC Tezos Life Cycle Assessment

Tezos’ claims of environmental responsibility aren’t just anecdotal; they’re grounded in empirical research. One of the most comprehensive evaluations of Tezos’ carbon footprint comes from a study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers Advisory SAS (PwC) on behalf of Nomadic Labs, a core development team on Tezos.

Scope and Framework: This Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study adhered to the rigorous requirements of ISO 14040 and 14044 standards, providing a detailed analysis of the blockchain’s carbon emissions and its broader environmental impact. The study primarily focused on three functional units:

Running a Node as a Baker: The practice of “baking” is pivotal in the Tezos ecosystem. This evaluation determined that running a node for a year as a baker resulted in the emission of around 161 kg CO2 eq.

Equivalent to: Driving a car for around 400 miles (based on an average emission of 404 grams of CO2 per mile for a passenger vehicle in the US).

Another comparison: This is similar to the CO2 emissions from charging a smartphone approximately 20,000 times (assuming a charge emits about 8g of CO2).

Making One Transaction: Transactions, being the lifeblood of any blockchain, were scrutinized for their environmental cost. A single transaction on Tezos was found to emit a mere 2.46 g CO2 eq.

Equivalent to: Boiling a kettle for a cup of tea/coffee emits roughly 15 grams of CO2. So, a single Tezos transaction is like boiling a kettle for 1/6th of its full capacity.

Another comparison: It’s roughly equivalent to sending 20 emails (assuming a single email emits around 0.12 grams of CO2).

Smart Contract Execution: Consuming one gas unit for executing a smart contract produced an even lower 2.44E-4 g CO2 eq.

Equivalent to: This is a very minuscule amount. To understand this comparison, let’s put it this way: If sending an email is equivalent to 0.12 grams of CO2 (as per the above assumption), then executing a smart contract on Tezos would be like sending just 1/500th of an email.

Another comparison: It’s roughly equivalent to browsing the web for a few seconds.

Time Span: The study critically analyzed data from the calendar year 2020 and the period from January to mid-November 2021, ensuring a relevant and contemporary snapshot of Tezos’ operations.

Impact Over Time: One of the most encouraging findings was the testament to Tezos’ scalability and its commitment to continuous improvement. Even with a similar number of bakers and a more extensive service offering in 2021 compared to 2020, the environmental impact per transaction showcased a significant decrease.

Environmental Breakdown: When dissecting the factors contributing to Tezos’ environmental impact, the study found that baking equipment was responsible for around 58% of the impacts. In contrast, for the consumption of minerals and metals, Internet access equipment shouldered 55% of the environmental burden.

Optimizing the Baking Process: The study offered actionable insights on further reducing the environmental impact of baking. Utilizing shared resources through cloud computing or single-board computers can cut greenhouse gas emissions by 51%-78% when compared to individual laptops. Additionally, the deployment of second-hand equipment can further decrease the greenhouse effect by up to 26% and reduce mineral and metal consumption by a whopping 85%.

The Geographical Influence: Location matters, especially when evaluating environmental impact. The electricity mix associated with a baker’s location emerged as a pivotal factor. For instance, relying solely on a French electricity mix could diminish the greenhouse effect impact by 66%. Conversely, using an average global mix might elevate it by 50%.

Ethereum: A Legacy of High Energy Consumption

If one wonders, “why are NFTs bad for the environment?”, Ethereum’s historical burden provides insight. Unlike Tezos, Ethereum initially adopted the energy-intensive Proof-of-Work (PoW) consensus mechanism. Though PoW gave Ethereum its foundational security, it heavily contributed to why NFTs got their environmentally unfriendly reputation.

Before Ethereum’s transition to PoS, its energy consumption was alarming, emphasizing why many believe NFTs are bad for the environment.

Let’s take a look at Ethereum to view the carbon debt accumulated before the transition to POS:

Yearly Emission from Node Operation

Tezos Node:
Emissions per node: 161 kg CO2 eq. annually.
Equivalent to: Driving a car for around 400 miles (using the 0.404 kg CO2e per mile average for a passenger vehicle in the US).

Ethereum Node (pre-PoS transition and assuming around 10,000 nodes):
Emissions per node: 1,101.6 tonnes CO2e annually.
Equivalent to: Driving a car for approximately 2,727,273 miles (using the 0.404 kg CO2e per mile average). That’s akin to circumnavigating the Earth over 100 times!

Difference: The discrepancy in CO2 emissions between operating a single Tezos node for a year and operating one Ethereum node (before the PoS transition) for a year equates to the emissions from driving a car an extra 2,726,873 miles.

Another Angle: The CO2e emissions from a single pre-PoS Ethereum node are roughly comparable to the yearly energy consumption of 10 average American homes.

It’s vital to remember that while this comparison offers a stark contrast between the environmental footprints of the two blockchains’ nodes, Ethereum’s transition to PoS has significantly reduced its environmental impact. Nonetheless, the data helps to underscore the historical environmental burden of Ethereum’s PoW system. 1

Comparison:

Given Ethereum’s annual carbon footprint before its transition to PoS was 11,016,000 tonnes CO2e and assuming they had around 10,000 nodes:

Ethereum’s emissions per node: 11,016,000 tonnes CO2e divided by 10,000 nodes equals 1,101.6 tonnes CO2e per node annually.

Tezos’ emissions for a node are 0.161 tonnes CO2e (or 161 kg CO2 eq) per year.

Comparing Ethereum’s emissions per node to Tezos’: 1,101.6 tonnes CO2e/0.161 tonnes CO2e ≈ 6,840. Ethereum’s emissions per node, with the assumption of 10,000 nodes, were approximately 6,840 times higher than Tezos’.

An Ethereum Transition To POS

The Crypto Carbon Ratings Institute (CCRI) estimated that the transition to PoS drastically reduced Ethereum’s yearly electricity consumption and carbon footprint. They estimated that the shift to PoS slashed Ethereum’s yearly electricity consumption by a whopping 99.988%. Similarly, the carbon footprint plummeted from 11,016,000 to 870 tonnes CO2e, a staggering decrease of about 99.992%.

If Ethereum’s PoW emissions were 100 units, then after transitioning to PoS, it was reduced to just 0.008 units, emphasizing the drastic cut in its carbon footprint.

However, this stark contrast underscores the significant carbon debt Ethereum accumulated during its tenure with PoW. While the present PoS iteration of Ethereum is considerably greener, its historical high energy consumption cannot be overlooked. This legacy casts a shadow on Ethereum’s sustainability claims and raises questions about the environmental damages incurred during its PoW phase.

Ethereum’s Present and Future: A Green Mirage?

While Ethereum’s recent endeavors in environmental consciousness, such as the transition to proof of stake, ReFi, and Solarpunk movements, are commendable, the carbon-laden past makes it hard to shift perspectives. Platforms like Gitcoin aim to promote eco-friendly projects on Ethereum, which is a step in the right direction, but how many of these projects need to be created before the past emissions can be effectively countered?

Conclusion: Tezos vs. Ethereum on Environmental Grounds

Understanding why NFTs are bad for the environment requires examining the blockchains they operate on. Tezos, with its eco-friendly approach from the outset, emerges as a beacon. In contrast, Ethereum, despite recent changes, is still haunted by its energy-intensive past, reminding us of why NFTs gained their environmentally harmful reputation.

When assessing the environmental impact of NFTs or any blockchain activity, the underlying network’s energy consumption plays a pivotal role. Tezos, with its consistent eco-friendly approach, emerges as a more responsible choice for blockchain entrepreneurs. On the other hand, Ethereum, despite its recent green metamorphosis, remains entangled in its energy-intensive legacy.

However, beyond the mere energy metrics, Tezos embodies a vision for the future of NFTs and blockchain technology. Its continuous innovation and the community’s philosophy geared towards sustainability position Tezos as a beacon for the next wave of blockchain applications.

What Tezos underscores is a fundamental truth that doesn’t need a lie detector test to prove: NFTs, by their inherent nature, don’t have to be environmentally detrimental. The Tezos ecosystem has demonstrated that with the right infrastructure and community ethos, blockchains can sustainably support the vibrant world of NFTs. Its efficient upgrade mechanism, enabled by on-chain governance, allows for rapid adoption of environmentally friendly innovations. The community’s intrinsic values further amplify these technological advancements, ensuring that as the NFT realm expands, it does so on a platform that prioritizes the planet.

As we venture further into the digital age, NFTs will likely play a significant role in art, ownership, and digital rights management. Tezos offers a glimpse into a future where this vast potential doesn’t come at the planet’s expense. In this context, embracing platforms like Tezos represents not just an environmental choice but a testament to the potential of harmonizing technological advancement with ecological responsibility.

Why Are NFTs Bad For The Environment FAQs

What sets Tezos apart in terms of environmental responsibility

Tezos is a pioneer in environmental responsibility within the blockchain space. It utilizes a Proof-of-Stake (PoS) mechanism, which has a much smaller energy footprint compared to Proof-of-Work (PoW). In fact, Tezos’ energy usage is equivalent to just 17 global citizens.

How has Tezos demonstrated its commitment to sustainability over the years?

Tezos showed a 70% increase in energy efficiency per transaction between 2020 and 2021. It continually aims to reduce its carbon footprint, with data from TzStats API between October 2022 and September 2023 indicating a decline in energy use even as transaction numbers increased.

How has Tezos’ environmental responsibility been verified?

PwC conducted a Tezos Life Cycle Assessment, in alignment with ISO 14040 and 14044 standards. This detailed study confirmed Tezos’ strong record in environmental responsibility.

Why did Ethereum contribute to the question ‘Are NFTs bad for the environment’?

Ethereum initially used the energy-intensive Proof-of-Work (PoW) consensus mechanism, which heavily consumed electricity. This early adoption of PoW significantly contributed to the perception that NFTs are harmful to the environment.

How did Ethereum’s transition to Proof-of-Stake (PoS) impact its energy consumption?

The transition to PoS led to a massive reduction in Ethereum’s energy consumption by approximately 99.988%. Its carbon footprint also decreased by roughly 99.992%.

Does Ethereum’s recent green initiatives negate its past environmental impact?

While Ethereum has made significant strides through movements like ReFi and Solarpunk, and platforms like Gitcoin, its previous carbon-intensive history with PoW cannot be completely overshadowed.

What’s the difference between Tezos and Ethereum in terms of environmental impact?

Tezos has been eco-friendly from the start, whereas Ethereum, even with its recent greener initiatives, has a high energy-consuming past. Tezos is a prime example that blockchains can support NFTs without causing significant environmental harm.

What is the future outlook for NFTs in relation to environmental concerns?

Tezos showcases that NFTs, inherently, don’t need to harm the environment. With proper infrastructure and community values, blockchains can support NFTs in an eco-friendly manner. As NFTs grow in relevance in the digital age, it’s vital to choose platforms like Tezos that align technological progress with ecological responsibility.

Who conducted the study on Tezos’ environmental footprint?

PricewaterhouseCoopers Advisory SAS (PwC) conducted the study on behalf of Nomadic Labs, a core development team on Tezos.

What standards did the PwC study adhere to?

The study was prepared in line with the requirements of ISO 14040 and 14044 standards, utilizing a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach.

What aspects of the Tezos blockchain were the focus of the study?

The study focused on three functional units:
Running a node as a baker.
Making one transaction.
Consuming one gas unit for a smart contract.

What time period did the study consider?

The study evaluated data from the calendar year 2020 and the period from January to mid-November 2021.

What was the major finding in relation to the environmental impact of Tezos in 2021?

For 2021, running one node for a year as a baker emitted around 161 kg CO2 eq., while making a single transaction on the blockchain resulted in 2.46 g CO2 eq. Additionally, consuming one gas unit for a smart contract produced 2.44E-4 g CO2 eq.

Has the environmental impact of Tezos improved over time?

Yes. With a similar number of bakers and a larger service offer in 2021 than in 2020, the impact per transaction has decreased. The consensus protocol of Tezos doesn’t seem to increase its energy consumption in direct proportion to the number of transactions.

What contributes the most to the environmental impact of Tezos?

Baking equipment contributes to about 58% of the impacts. However, for mineral and metal use, the Internet access equipment stands responsible for 55% of the impact.

How can the environmental impact of baking be reduced?

Using shared resources with cloud computing or single-board computers results in 51%-78% lower greenhouse gas emissions than individual laptops. Moreover, employing a second-hand machine can reduce the greenhouse effect by as much as 26% and cut down the use of minerals and metals by 85%.

How does the location of the bakers influence the results?

The location, specifically the associated electricity mix, is a significant influencer. For example, a 100% French electricity mix can reduce the greenhouse effect impact by 66%, whereas an average world mix can increase it by 50%.

Does the Tezos blockchain protocol show potential for further environmental improvements?

Yes. The LCA suggests that the introduction and execution of green contracts and renewable energy could further mitigate environmental impact.

What sets Tezos apart from other blockchains in terms of upgrades?

Tezos employs a unique self-amending process for upgrades. This means that Tezos can incorporate new technology or features without undergoing a hard fork, making it more adaptable and efficient than many other blockchains.

How do Tezos upgrades benefit the environment?

Tezos’ ability to upgrade seamlessly means that it can quickly integrate environmentally-friendly technologies or processes. As innovations emerge in the blockchain and environmental sectors, Tezos can adopt them without major disruptions.

What is the consensus protocol of Tezos?

Tezos uses a proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus protocol. PoS is generally considered more energy-efficient than proof-of-work (PoW) protocols, which are used by blockchains like Bitcoin.

How does the proof-of-stake protocol aid in environmental conservation?

Proof-of-stake protocols don’t require the energy-intensive mining processes associated with proof-of-work systems. Thus, they consume significantly less electricity, leading to lower CO2 emissions.

Can Tezos make further upgrades to its consensus protocol?

Yes, due to its self-amending feature, Tezos can adapt and change its consensus protocol to any newer, more environmentally-friendly versions in the future.

How does the self-amending feature of Tezos encourage more sustainable development?

By allowing for smoother integration of environmental solutions and the quick adoption of energy-saving technologies, Tezos’ self-amending feature ensures that the blockchain remains at the forefront of sustainable blockchain technology.

Are there any specific Tezos upgrades that have directly benefited the environment?

Yes. For instance, the Granada protocol update improved the efficiency of the Tezos blockchain, reducing the environmental impact per transaction.

How does Tezos compare to other blockchains in terms of energy consumption per transaction?

Due to its efficient consensus protocol and the continuous improvements from its upgrades, Tezos has a lower energy consumption per transaction compared to many proof-of-work based blockchains.

What role do bakers play in Tezos’ environmental footprint?

Bakers in the Tezos network validate and publish transactions. The efficiency of baking equipment and its energy source can influence the environmental impact. Fortunately, Tezos’ design allows for optimizations that can further reduce the carbon footprint of bakers over time.

Are there future plans or strategies for Tezos to become even more environmentally friendly?

While specific future upgrades are based on community consensus, Tezos’ adaptability ensures that it can quickly integrate any emerging technology or strategies that benefit the environment.

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Why Are NFTs Bad for the Environment? A Deep Dive into Tezos vs. Ethereum

Explore why NFTs are bad for the environment through a comparison of Tezos & Ethereum. Delve into blockchain’s impact and sustainability solutions.

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  1. CO2 Emissions for Driving: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers data on the average CO2 emissions for passenger vehicles. As of my last update in 2021, the EPA estimated that the average passenger vehicle emits about 404 grams of CO2 per mile.
    Source: EPA Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator
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    Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration ↩︎

Disclaimer

Nature of Content: All content published on https://xtz.news, whether written, auditory, or visual, is for informational purposes only. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the individual authors and do not reflect the views of XTZNews or its management.

Not Financial Advice: No content on this website constitutes investment, financial, legal, or tax advice. Users should not construe any such information as a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold any investment or security or to pursue any particular investment strategy.

Accuracy and Completeness: While XTZNews makes every effort to ensure the accuracy and reliability of information, we do not warrant or guarantee the timeliness, completeness, or accuracy of the information presented. The website may contain errors, omissions, or inaccuracies. We disclaim all warranties, both express and implied, regarding the information, including but not limited to, any warranty of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

Endorsements: References to specific entities, products, services, processes, or other information does not constitute or imply endorsement, sponsorship, or recommendation by XTZNews. Blockchain technology is in a developmental phase, and the engagement with the technology and its associated entities carries inherent risks.

User’s Responsibility: Users are encouraged to conduct their own research and due diligence and to seek the advice of qualified professionals before making any investment or decisions related to content on this site. Engaging with blockchain technology, cryptocurrencies, and associated applications should be undertaken with caution, understanding the inherent risks involved.

Limitation of Liability: Under no circumstances will XTZNews or its affiliates, partners, officers, directors, employees, shareholders, agents, or licensors be liable for any direct, indirect, incidental, special, consequential, or punitive damages, including without limitation, loss of profits, data, use, goodwill, or other intangible losses, resulting from (i) your access to or use of or inability to access or use the site; (ii) any content obtained from the site; or (iii) unauthorized access, use, or alteration of your transmissions or content, whether based on warranty, contract, tort (including negligence), or any other legal theory, whether or not we have been informed of the possibility of such damage, and even if a remedy set forth herein is found to have failed its essential purpose.

Seek Independent Advice: Before undertaking any financial investments, potential investors are advised to seek guidance from independent financial, legal, and tax professionals.

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