WWF UK had embraced the NFT circus with their Tokens for Nature collection. However, even before the fundraiser began, the venture generated a reaction from environmentalists concerned about its carbon imprint. WWF called off the sale within a few days.
The NFAs (Non-Fungible Animals) initiative attempted to raise a large amount of money and build awareness of endangered wildlife. The quantity of rare animal photographs for sale is related to the approximated number of animals remaining in the wild.
As per one assessment, NFTs emit more carbon dioxide than Singapore due to their energy usage. Most NFT producers use Ethereum, a blockchain platform that employs an energy-intensive computational feature called mining. Mining equipment take turns verifying payments and predicting the composition of a long chain of randomly produced digits. The machine that successfully indicates the sequence first receives a prize in ether.
However, unlike normal NFTs, WWF alleged that its NFAs were “eco-friendly.” According to the charity’s sustainability declaration, selling all 8,000 or so NFAs would have a carbon impact comparable to a carton of milk or six eggs.
The explanation for this little effect, they argued, was a sophisticated blockchain program named Polygon, which would have enabled WWF’s initiative to engage with the Ethereum network less directly. Therefore, the WWF wouldn’t have to shoulder as much blame for Ethereum’s massive carbon footprint.
The WWF’s estimate was questionable since Polygon relies on Ethereum contracts to provide critical services such as transferring holdings between Ethereum and Polygon and setting checkpoints between the two.
As per Alex de Vries of the crypto tracking website Digiconomist, the imprint of the WWF’s program was approximately 2,100 times larger (12,600 eggs) than the charity’s projection.
Charities must also consider second-order impacts. The amount of carbon emitted by Ethereum is unrelated to the number of transactions on the blockchain. PoW mining is responsible for Ethereum’s unsavoury image. The collection may push up the price of Ethereum by increasing the excitement around NFT marketplaces. This would incentivize more PoW mining, raising the entire carbon footprint of the ecosystem.
The first purchasers of NFAs would do so through the WWF’s specialized website. However, buyers can reoffer the NFTs on OpenSea, a prominent NFT trading platform that accounts for approximately 20% of Ethereum’s transactions.
The WWF is hardly the first to reconsider its stance on cryptocurrency donations.
After seven years, Greenpeace stated that it would no longer accept bitcoin payments in 2021. Friends of the Earth quickly followed suit. The WWF controversy forced International Animal Rescue, a wildlife nonprofit, to indefinitely put its NFT fundraising efforts on hold. Internet organizations Mozilla and Wikipedia have also reviewed their crypto-giving methods based on global warming.
Numerous NFT-friendly blockchains do not contribute to carbon emissions. Despite this, research suggests that organizations can’t raise funds through NFTs without getting their hands dirty.
According to research, cryptocurrencies can potentially limit the operations of conservation organizations. In 2018, WWF collaborated with AidChain, a blockchain development company. AidChain advised WWF to engage their service providers with AidCoin to promote openness in the contributor monitoring process. Donors may then monitor and control how their contributions were used by employing an Ethereum smart contract.
Networks such as this can enable non-technical crypto contributors to attach actual requirements to their donations. If the conditions are not satisfied, the funds will be forfeited. Excellent for the donor but terrible for the charity’s conservationists.
Finally, conservation organizations should do their research before succumbing to the crypto-giving excitement. Animal images and cryptocurrency may appear to be a pleasant method of raising funds. However, blindly hopping on the blockchain trend risks tying their hands as long-standing donors shift their funding elsewhere.