While the art world isn't hiding its current infatuation for non-fungible tokens (NFTs), they are being increasingly criticized for their massive requirements in terms of electricity. Some market players are starting to think about alternative, more environmentally friendly sales platforms.
It's no secret that collectors are particularly fond of NFTs, the unique digital tokens that are said to be tamper-proof property titles. One collector even spent $69.3 million to acquire an NFT work by Beeple, "Everydays: the First 5000 Days," at Christie's. But this is just the tip of a huge industry that is growing. Lesser-known artists regularly sell their digital works for thousands of dollars on platforms that specialize in NFTs, such as OpenSea, Makersplace, Nifty Gateway and SuperRare.
However, these transactions are extremely energy-intensive. As proof, the record sale of Beeple generated 78,597 kilos of CO2 emissions according to the Art Newspaper. That's the same amount of electricity used by more than 13 households in a year. And this is far from an isolated case. Canadian singer Grimes was heavily criticized after selling her NFT art for $6 million on Nifty Gateway... while producing 70 tons of CO2 emissions.
More ethical sales platforms
Faced with the scale of the phenomenon, some blockchain players have decided to rethink the sales platforms specialized in NFTs to make them more eco-friendly. ConsenSys, HENI Group and Heyday Films have thus launched Palm , an alternative network claimed to be 99% more energy efficient than the current Ethereum blockchain. Joe Hage, the owner of Heni Publishing, and David Heyman, the founder of Heyday Films, are also involved in this initiative.
Damien Hirst is the first artist to inaugurate Palm with "The Currency Project," a project on which the Briton has been working for five years. It consists of 10,000 works on paper, associated with NFTs, and "challenges the concept of value through money and art." Themes that resonate with the mission of Palm, according to Damien Hirst. "Palm is by far the best platform for me. It's new and art focused, it's the most environmentally friendly, and it is quicker and cheaper to use. With Palm, artists can invent the future," he said.
Dan Heyman, Palm's co-founder, agrees. "We've only just begun scratching the surface of what NFTs mean for creators. It's incredible to partner with Damien Hirst on 'The Currency Project,' which really demonstrates what NFTs can do. Our hope is that by developing marquee projects such as this with iconic artists, creatives and catalogs ... we can empower everyone in the business of creativity to bring their most imaginative works to life, access audiences directly, and transform the creative industries in a way that is scalable, equitable and efficient."
While it will be difficult to offset the carbon footprint emitted by NFTs to date, some artists are considering alternative models to limit their impact on the environment. This is notably the case of Irish artist John Gerrard. He recently put his first NFT artwork, "Western Flag (NFT)", on sale on the Foundation platform.
A unique feature is that this non-fungible token is described as "superneutral" for its lack of carbon footprint. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of "Western Flag (NFT)" will also be donated to regenerate.farm, an emergency crypto-fund created by John Gerrard and dedicated to soil restoration and post-oil farming practices in his native Ireland.