Are NFTs Bad For The Environment? – Understanding The Environmental Impacts Of NFTs And Exploring Other Options – NFTs are created using blockchain technology and the way they are created can consume high energy. Since most of the NFTs are built on Ethereum and the Ethereum transition is proof-of-stake, which requires a vast amount of energy. Blockchains that require an energy-intensive process, like the creation of NFTs,  can generate excess carbon if they consume energy from non-renewable sources. The process of minting NFTs depending on the blockchain often requires vast levels of electricity consumption and also generates carbon which is considered to be harmful to the environment. 

Keep reading to understand more about why NFTs bad for the environment, how NFT production consumes energy, and learn how to compare and calculate the energy consumption by blockchains to move towards eco-friendly trading.

What are NFTs?

NFT stands for ‘non-fungible token’ which means that the tokens are unique and can not be traded for something else. Most NFT crypto art is based on blockchain technology, Ethereum in particular, and is paid for in ETH, which is the second-largest cryptocurrency.

These digital tokens can represent almost any physical asset like videos, virtual properties, images, and a lot more and sell for thousands or even more. 

The CEO of Twitter Jack Dorsey sold an image of his first tweet for £2.1 million. 

Each of the NFTs minted has a code behind which makes it unique and rare. What makes NFTs all the more popular among creators is the fact that it retains the copyright of the artwork of the artists even after it’s sold.

Though NFTs are extremely popular as a status symbol or as an extra source to make profits, there are some environmental concerns related to their minting process. 

Read below to know more about the energy consumption on NFTs and how they affect the environment. 

What is the NFT environment impact?

In this section, we will cover some of the basics of NFT transactions and how it affects the environment. 

NFT and Blockchain 

You might already know that NFTs are based on blockchain technology, but to understand the NFT carbon footprint and environmental impact, we need to explain why NFTs require the use of a blockchain network. This will also help answer the question – Are NFTs bad for the environment?

The first transaction that occurs in the marketplace is when a new NFT is minted. Minting refers  to the creation of a new NFT on its respective blockchain. The transaction will be posted to the newly minted NFT on the network, which will be validated by miners.

Miners are paid transaction fees which are covered by the person who mints the NFTs. These fees depend on the network, and blockchain on which the NFT is created. 

Now, when a buyer purchases an NFT from an online marketplace, the seller transfers the non-fungible token to the user’s private wallet or crypto wallet. Once again, this also requires another transaction on the blockchain that must be validated by a miner. 

therefore, every time that there is a movement of the NFT from one wallet to another, a transaction occurs and the fees keep on increasing keeping in mind that some NFT collections consist of thousands of individual tokens. 

Proof of work mechanism

As mentioned above, the majority of NFT crypto art is based on the Ethereum blockchain. It is important to understand two mechanisms of minting NFTs which are practiced by blockchain networks – proof of work and proof of stake. 

Before its recent merge to proof-of-stake, Ethereum was utilizing the proof-of-work mechanism. 

Let us understand the proof of work mechanism in detail:

Proof of work was first used by bitcoin as a consensus mechanism to verify new transactions, add them to the blockchain, and create new tokens. It is “proof of work” because it requires a huge amount of processing power. While they are secured and verified by virtual miners around the world they are considered extremely bad for the environment due to the process through which they confirm the transactions and validate the blockchain miners.  

Proof of stake mechanism 

The newer consensus mechanism is called proof of stake, and it powers Ethereum 2.0, Cardano, Tezos, and other cryptocurrencies. It is the upgraded version of Ethereum and aims at employing a faster and less resource-intensive consensus mechanism. The goal of proof-of-stake is to maximize speed and efficiency while lowering fees. 

The proof of stake system has a similar function to proof of work’s mining. In this mechanism, the network participant gets selected to add the latest batch of transactions to the blockchain and earn some crypto in exchange. 

The proof of stake blockchains employs a network of “validators” who contribute or “stake” their own crypto in exchange to get new transactions validated, updating the blockchain, and even allowing them a chance to earn a reward. 

Below is the typical process of the transaction:

  • Each ‘block’ on the blockchain network contains a huge amount of transactions, which include both cryptocurrencies as well as NFTs
  • To verify whether the transaction is valid or not, miners have to solve ultra-complex mathematical equations. 
  • These equations are so complex that it becomes almost impossible for humans to solve them without the help of a computer and specialist device. 
  • Now, the technology which is used by the miners to solve the proof-of-stake transactions requires a vast amount of electricity as the equations are quite confusing to solve.
  • The increased consumption of electricity serves as a serious threat to the environment owing to carbon emissions and other factors. 

The above example, therefore, highlights that much-needed energy is being wasted on validating transactions. 

Why are NFTs bad for the environment?

NFTs themselves are not bad for the environment, but how they are created has several environmental causes attached to them. Here’s a look at how NFTs are made:

NFT Minting 

The process of creating NFTs is known as minting. All the NFTs are minted using a marketplace like opensea or Binance, where a creator uploads the NFT information, which is then converted into tokens and then stored in the blockchain. Tokenization is the process of generating keys for an asset. The NFT is minted through this process.

NFT Listing 

After the NFT is created and stored on the blockchain network, the creator put it on display in the marketplace for the buyers. This is known as listing. The NFT can be listed at a set price or auctioned.

NFT Purchasing 

The listed NFTs are available for users to buy in the marketplace and so when any NFT or crypto art is purchased, a blockchain transaction is initiated. The blockchain network starts its work and begins the process of validating the transaction and transferring ownership of the NFT to the new owner.

Read guide on how to create and mint NFTs on popular NFT marketplaces. 

Why do NFTs use so much energy? 

Now if you are wondering how this process impacts the environment, then it is vital to understand that in the above-mentioned process each step charges a transaction fee, either the gas fee or the transaction fee to process the purchase. Now, whenever a transaction is initiated it requires the miners to solve complex calculations which require a lot of energy and electricity consumption, hence becoming an environmental concern. 

IMPORTANT: A single NFT transaction on the Ethereum blockchain emits almost 0.02 kg of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to almost 3 hours of watching YouTube. 

What is the NFT carbon footprint?

As mentioned previously, the proof-to-work mechanism causes a lot of energy consumption which leads to a release of carbon, which is considered quite harmful to the environment. While it is not possible to determine the exact ecological loss due to the minting of NFT crypto art precisely, different estimates can give us an idea of the total NFT carbon footprint. For example, if we draw out an NFT energy comparison then the weight of a single-edition artwork on Ethereum is 220 pours (100Kg) of CO2, almost equivalent to a 1-hour flight. 

To determine the exact carbon emissions there are various NFT energy consumption calculators like It is one of the most popular energy consumption calculators. It allows users to check it can check individual carbon emissions through their website and also provides separate calculators for individuals, small businesses, and more. The users can also check the country-wide carbon emission footprint.

What are the options to reduce energy consumption?

While it is true that minting NFTs requires energy, it need not be intensive all the time.  Blockchain platforms using the proof-of-stake operating method can generate NFTs without excessively using electricity and negatively impacting the environment. There are other alternatives as well that creators can keep in mind while minting NFTs. 

Carbon Neutral

NFT buyers can contribute to reducing carbon emissions by purchasing a carbon-neutral NFT. Carbon neutrality here refers to activities like, installing renewable energies or tackling projects that extract CO2 from the atmosphere. Not only can NFT buyers but also creators can take a stance to help reduce their carbon footprint. For example –  Beeple, the digital artist who created and sold the most expensive NFT, has pledged that his art will be carbon-neutral. 

Choosing the Proof of Stake system

As we have already discussed above, The Proof of Stake system is the most energy-efficient mechanism in the blockchain network. It requires less energy and relies on staking nodes to validate transactions. Now, even the most popular blockchain Ethereum is shifting to a Proof of Stake system that will substantially reduce its energy consumption. Also, blockchains running on clean energy would save a lot of gas and reduce carbon emissions. 

Using renewable energy sources

Renewable sources of energy go a long way in reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment. Burning fossil fuels like gas to produce more electricity, serves very harmful to the environment. Therefore, technologies must shift towards renewable sources for generating clean energy. Emissions-free renewable energy from sources like hydropower, wind energy, and solar energy can change the face of NFT trading and make it last longer than it already does. 

Several NFT creators have also dedicated a small number of their profits from their crypto art sales to renewable energy projects to power blockchain transactions.

Use energy-efficient blockchains 

A majority of the creators mint NFTs using the Ethereum blockchain, but it can be harmful to the environment. Various other blockchains consume less energy and electricity than Ethereum and are also cost-effective. Blockchains like Solana, Cardano, Tezoz, and more can be effective alternatives to reduce the NFT carbon footprint. 

Tezos powers the popular NFT marketplace Rarible, which offers various environmentally-friendly NFTs.

Final Thoughts 

Energy consumption can be a complex subject for beginners in NFT trading, however, it should not be ignored in any case. Miners that use fossil fuels to validate the transactions cause severe environmental impacts. The energy consumption on NFTs based on renewable energy like solar, thermal, hydro, or nuclear energy, can be considered more environmentally friendly than those that use fossil fuels. 

NFTs have received critical comments from major organizations to go green and shift gears towards a more environmental consensus. Therefore people have become more aware of the Proof-of-Stake mechanism and the use of blockchains other than Ethereum like Solana, and Tezos that have very low energy usage.


Q1. How Much Energy Do NFTs Use?

Ans: Minting an NFT on the Ethereum blockchain uses 0.03 kilowatt-hours of electricity which is equal to three hours of watching YouTube. Minting one on a proof-of-work blockchain uses the same amount of electricity used by an average household in 47 days.

Q2. Why is the gas fee so high for NFTs?

Ans: NFT minting gas fees depend on the traffic of the network, the time taken to complete the transaction, and the current price of ETH. The gas fees peak during periods of high demand as users competes to get their transactions easily.

Q3. Is NFTs bad for the environment?

Ans: minting NFTs involves intensive- energy consumption, due to which is considered to be harmful to the environment.

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