This comes almost as an unplanned part two to my article on the environmental costs of NFTs. As was pointed out in the comments, clean NFTs are a thing. This got me wondering, why are we not using them? Why aren't artists jumping to clean NFT platforms?
I must come clean and say that I did not plan to write anything more about NFTs. When I wrote my article on the immense and unnecessary environmental harm of NFTs (Non-Fungible Token), I was depressed by the time I finished. The figures were properly shocking, despite me knowing that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are extremely harmful. I admit I didn't know the extent to which they were harmful before writing the article. When the article went live, it started an interesting discussion around the topic of NFTs (among other things). As was pointed out in the comments, clean NFTs are a thing. This got me wondering why are we not using them. Why aren't artists jumping to clean NFT platforms? And I think the answer is fairly simple: because we don't know about them. In this article, I aim to outline the differences between dirty and clean NFTs, as well as shed light on some new clean NFT platforms that don't pollute the planet because of the currency they use for their transactions.
What Is a Dirty NFT?
Most popular NFT platforms are based on the Etherium (ETH) cryptocurrency. Most bids that are placed are indeed in ETH. However, ETH has one large problem and has had it for quite some time: it works on the proof-of-work principle. Proof-of-Work (in simplified and understandable terms) entails a few miners competing in solving a puzzle that will let them add a block to the blockchain. The miner must verify that certain computational effort was done in order to complete a task. The verifier should be able to verify that very quickly. With cryptocurrencies, this is verified via a puzzle that is hard to solve and easy to check. The problem with this is that it requires significant amounts of electrical energy to be able to compete in these puzzles. You'd be surprised by the CO2 emissions that dirty NFTs generate.
What Is a Clean NFT?
Clean NFTs are, at their core, different from what dirty NFTs are. Clean NFT platforms use cryptocurrencies that are not based on proof-of-work, but instead on proof-of-stake. Proof-of-stake gives the chance of winning a new block to someone who has more money in their wallet. Proof-of-stake is based entirely on how much stake the user has in the currency. The way this works is that validators are tasked with confirming that the new block is following the rules. While doing so, they are restricting usage on some of their ether in order to be able to complete the operation. In order to make sure that validators are not adding false blocks, penalties are in place. If a false block is found, the validator loses its restricted ether. Moreover, if they are offline for a long time, a small penalty is issued too. Sources cite that Ethereum 2.0 will require 32 ETH (around $69,000) staked in order to be a validator. This doesn't use up nearly as much electrical energy. It is claimed that in order to be able to insert a false token, the person would have to own at least 51% of all ether(ETH) in the world. 51% attacks are way out of the scope of the topic of clean NFT platforms, so are the economic problems around the idea of Proof-of-Stake.
What Clean NFT Platforms Are There?
There are several platforms that are luckily gaining popularity at the moment. They use a mix of different Proof-of-Stake variations. These platforms are very new, with some launched under a month ago. While major artists are not jumping to them at the moment, I am optimistic that given enough coverage, we can make an impact and popularize platforms that don’t use proof-of-work. All of these platforms support sales of photographs as digital art, making them very useful for photographers who are concerned about the environment but interested in NFTs.
hic et nunc
hic et nunc is one of the most popular platforms. Having just launched, it already is selling impressive artwork. There are a lot of new drops every day, which attracts potential buyers. Although I haven't minted an NFT myself, the process of it seems very intuitive and available to anyone interested. This removes the "exclusivity by invitation" marketing stunt that some platforms have. The currency used is Tezos, which is environmentally friendly when compared to Ethereum.
Another platform that photographers (among other artists) can use to mint and sell NFTs is Pixeos. Marketing themselves as the art experience of the future, Pixeos promises secure transactions and an unmatched experience for both artists and buyers. It is worth noting that Pixeos supports NFT photography sales from professional photographers only. This suggests that the NFTs are carefully selected in order to attract a certain kind of buyer. Pixeos uses EOS blockchain (not to be confused with Canon’s cameras).
There is still a long way to go before NFTs can become environmentally secure streams of income for photographers. There are a lot of clean NFT platforms, but because they have been launched only recently, they are not popularized yet. There are certain problems with proof-of-stake as well that mostly pertain to regulating inflation among other economic phenomena. All in all, NFTs are a great idea that has a lot to offer artists; however, at the time of writing, all popular NFT platforms are using currencies that are very harmful. The environmental impact of NFTs is unnecessarily high; however, hopefully, as new NFT platforms gain traction, that can be reduced.
What do you think about clean NFT platforms? Are they the future of the art industry? Will many fine art photographers jump to them and sell their work there? Given enough time, will clean NFT platforms replace the current dirty ones?
Share this article and help photographers make a more environmentally conscious choice when minting NFTs!