Eco Impact of NFTs

How bad for the environment are NFTs?

The popularity of Non Fungible Tokens (NFTs) has grown massively in recent times, the crypto artwork industry is estimated to have made over $13 billion dollars in sales, and individual NFTs have sold for millions. Consequently, more and more people are finding out how to buy an NFT and get in on the gold rush.

Under the excitement and financial gains, a dark secret lies at the heart of the NFT and cryptocurrency world. This is the huge negative impact that NFTs have on the environment, in a time where the world is becoming very worried about the impact of global warming, this seemingly harmless world of online trading is becoming an increasingly big problem. NFT artist Memo Atken estimates that one NFT artist's half a year NFT carbon cost is equivalent to driving a car 838 thousand kilometers, or boiling a kettle 3.5 million times.

Over its lifespan, it is estimated that an average NFT will produce 211kg of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere as a result of the process of creating and purchasing the digital artwork. A single tree can offset 60kg of CO2 on average, therefore it will take 3.52 trees to offset the life of an NFT. Although the carbon impact of much of the NFT process is unclear, the elements that we do know the cost for have a great impact on the environment.

By studying the sales of a number of the most popular NFT collections, we have been able to identify the NFTs with the greatest carbon cost, and worst environmental impact.

How much carbon dioxide do NFTs produce?

Minting a brand new NFT has a massive negative impact on the climate, the carbon cost of blockchain mining is immense. Moreover, as there are thousands of crypto miners across the world attempting to win the race, adding any NFT to a blockchain uses around 83kg of CO2 (1.38 trees). Therefore, all primary mint sales of NFTs have this cost, regardless of their financial value.

Once the NFT has been mined, added to a blockchain and minted, the carbon cost of each individual piece continues. Every time a bid is submitted for an NFT it costs 23kg of CO2 (0.38 trees), every sale of an NFT produces 51kg of CO2 (0.85 trees), and every transfer of an NFT produces 30kg of CO2 (0.5 trees).

Secondary sales of NFTs also have a large carbon cost. The sale of an NFT will produce 51kg of CO2 (0.85 trees) on average, additionally 30kg (0.5 trees) is used for the transfer of ownership. Therefore every secondary sale of an NFT produces 81kg of CO2 (1.35 trees).

Calculate the impact of your NFTs

How much impact is your NFT portfolio doing to the environment? By entering the total number of NFT transactions you have made into our calculator, you can discover the environmental cost of your purchases.

Your NFT portfolio is producing

xx,xxxkg

of carbon

The number of trees to offset your NFT collection of x NFT’s x.xx trees

Top five most damaging NFT collections

1
CryptoKitties
240m

kg of CO2 produced

4m

trees required to offset

CryptoKitties is the NFT collection which is the second worst for the environment as it has produced 239.83 million KGs of CO2. There have been 2.02 million primary sales, and a further 892,390 in secondary purchases of NFTs in this collection. This produces 167.55 million, and 72.28 million kg of CO2 respectively.

2
Sorare
35m

kg of CO2 produced

580,337

trees required to offset

Despite having produced over 200 million fewer KGs of CO2, Sorare is the collection that has the third biggest eco impact. Sorare produce NFTs of footballers, digital trading cards for a modern age. There has been just under 250,000 primary sales of Sorare NFTs, producing 20.71 million KGs of CO2. Meanwhile, the near 175,000 secondary sales accounts for a further 14.11 KGs.

3
Axie Infinity

(Pre-migration)

27m

kg of CO2 produced

461.951

trees required to offset

Before Axie Infinity's migration to the Ronin network it had 336,764 sales on the Ethereum network which produced 27 million KGs of CO2, 18.22 million from the primary sales and 9.49 million from the secondary sales. The main point with Axie infinity is how bad it could've been if they had stayed on the Ethereum network.

4
Art Blocks
23.1m

kg of CO2 produced

385,451

trees required to offset

Art Block NFTs have the fourth highest eco impact of any collection, there have been around 150,000 art blocks minted, and a further 131,000 secondary sales. These dales have had total carbon emissions of over 23 million KGs of CO2, 12.5 million from the primary sales, and 10.62 in secondary transactions.

5
The Sandbox
11.6m

kg of CO2 produced

192,912

trees required to offset

The sandbox is yet another gaming NFT collection to have had a major negative impact on the environment from Carbon production. 75,614 primary sales of newly minted Sandbox NFTs have caused 6.28 million KG of carbon dioxide to be produced, secondary sales of the collection have contributed a further 5.3 million KGs.

The most damaging NFT collections

Primary Sales Primary Sales Carbon Costs* Secondary Sales Secondary Sales Carbon Costs* Total Number of Sales Total Carbon Cost of Collection* Number of Trees Needed to Offset Carbon Cost of Collection (Each tree absorbing 1000kg of CO2 in 100 years) *kg of CO2

Collection

What can be done? A success story

On April 29th 2021 Axie Infinity started it's migration to the Ronin blockchain, away from the Ethereum Blockchain. Up to this point there had been an estimated 336,764 sales causing 27.7m kg of CO2 requiring an offset of 461,951 trees.

The Ronin blockchain uses 0.0000015 kg CO2 per transaction an enormous amount less than the Ethereum blockchain.

To date there have been 18,576,109 sales in the Axie Infinity collection, on Ethereum this would have produced 1.5 billion kg CO2 and would require 25.3 million trees to offset.

By switching to the Ronin blockchain, Axie Infinity have saved...
24,909,874 trees

Instead of generating 1,494,592,481 kg CO2 through trades they've have used just 27 kg CO2 through it's environmentally friendly focused blockchain.

On average a single tree can process:

0.06t

(60kg) of CO2 in its lifetime

1.37 trees

are needed to offset one NFT sale

An average acre of forest (2,500 trees) can process

144.64t

(144,640 kg) of CO2

An acre of forest can account for the carbon emissions of around

1,764 NFTs
1.37m trees

would need to be planted for 1m NFTs

6.85m trees

would need to be

planted for 5m NFTs

Cost of NFTs in the natural world

As the NFT world becomes more and more popular, and more and more money is poured into it the industry will exponentially grow. This will have a devastating effect on the environment, but how big would the NFT world have to get for the natural world not to be able to cope with it?

It is believed that there are currently just over 3 trillion trees around the globe, a vast amount. Although the number of trees is dropping by around 25 billion a year due to deforestation, the current amount can offset around 180 trillion KG of CO2. The number of NFT transactions the world’s trees could currently cope with is around 2.2 trillion.

Area

Number of Trees

Number of NFTs it could cover

Methodology

The carbon cost of an NFT was found at https://qz.com/1987590/the-carbon-footprint-of-creating-and-selling-an-nft-artwork/

To calculate how many trees were needed to offset NFT carbon we used statistics from https://trees.org/app/uploads/2021/04/Carbon-Brief-External.pdf

The carbon cost of an NFT (0.211 tonnes of CO2) was divided by 144.64 (the tonnes of carbon consumed by an acre of forest) and then multiplied by 2,500 (the average number of trees found in an acre of forest). This gave us the total number of trees needed to offset one NFT’s life cycle.

We then multiplied this number by the potential numbers of NFTs to see how many trees would be needed.

The NFT collections with the biggest carbon impact were calculated by multiplying the number of primary and secondary sales by the carbon cost of each sale, then adding them together.