Isaac Newton’s third law of motion states that there’s an equal and opposite reaction for every action. In simpler terms, any cause will always have an equal effect; introduce change, and there will be either obedience or retaliation. This law is evident in the environment, and anything mankind does, for better or worse, has a by-product.
With that said, there’s a lot of criticism surrounding the adverse effects of non-fungible tokens or NFTs on planet Earth. The naysayers point out the increased carbon footprint from additional machines that store these digital assets. It’s as if this emerging market is the mastermind in destroying the planet. Those who make such claims have their facts twisted.
Unfortunately, there are industries we can’t live without that contribute to Earth’s demise and, in particular, its climate. These industries produce goods for consumption and harm nature through the use of these products and the raw materials used to create them. Even production processes can contribute to this problem. We have compiled a list of seven industries that are ticking time bombs for our planet regarding this issue.
1. Oil Industry
Using energy is inevitable — driving your car, cooling your food, powering your lights. Deliveries also rely on fuel for transport, and manufacturers can’t materialize products like plastics and medicines without oil. While fuel is an undeniable necessity, a rising population increases the demand for it. In 2006, the world used 85 million barrels of oil per day. Fifteen years later, this is in the range of 100 million.
With more fuels burned, more carbon dioxide is introduced into the atmosphere, which, in turn, elevates the Earth’s temperature. Since 1965, 20 top companies account for 35% of methane and carbon dioxide from the energy sector. Meanwhile, 12 of these companies are responsible for 20% of greenhouse gas emissions over that same span.
Furthermore, marine life is suffering due to oil spills, not to mention the residents around these bodies of water. They may fall victim to various illnesses, and these companies are still not being held liable. Investing more in renewable energy is the best way to reverse the trend. Limiting the use of plastics will drastically reduce fuel dependency as well.
Agriculture is even trickier to criticize than the fuel industry because it produces our food. However, just like the oil industry, the demand for meat and dairy products is growing, and producers continue to feel the pinch. Sadly, the world is finite, and we have no option but to ask ourselves if Earth can sustain this ever-growing consumption?
The agriculture industry is responsible for 13% to 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions. A majority of the emissions come from cow manure. Transportation of products, fermentation, and feed production also contribute to the problem. Likewise, land burning for agriculture destroys the trees that process and sink carbon dioxide. This leads to elevated CO2 levels in the atmosphere. You can help address this concern by eating organic meat. Going vegan is also a healthy and environmentally friendly lifestyle that can aid in this problem.
3. Fashion Industry
If you think that the clothes you wear don’t harm the environment, think again. The fashion industry contributes ten percent of global carbon emissions. Discarded clothes do not decay — even if you recycle them for another purpose, they still won’t wither. However, fast fashion is the biggest culprit of them all because these products are made from cheap plastic fibers. On top of that, the factories used for manufacture often use coal and gas.
Deliveries courtesy of postal services like UPS and FedEx also add greenhouse gas emissions that are equivalent to seven million cars. The high turnover of clothes due to fashion seasons, and the ability to quickly cycle through fashion trends, does not help either. That said, around 85% of textiles go to waste because they are out of season. Even natural fibers such as cotton take enormous amounts of water to make just one shirt or pair of jeans.
Around 700 gallons of water is needed to make one cotton shirt. Meanwhile, a pair of jeans will need 2,000 gallons. To address this concern, you can purchase second-hand clothes from vintage shops. Renting clothes for one-off occasions is a good option as well. Finally, remain confident even if fashion magazines describe your attire as out of season.
4. Food Retail
The world’s increasing appetite is elevating the carbon footprint of the retail food industry. Food consumption leads to massive amounts of food waste. In the UK alone, 1.9 million tons of food waste are collected every year. But aside from the food itself, the packaging also harms life.
Retailers contribute around 800,000 tons of plastic waste annually — that’s enough garbage to fill Greater London with a dumpsite of over two meters high. Unfortunately, marine mammals die because they swallow this waste. These are the unlucky ones from the estimated 56% of marine life that have consumed plastic. Likewise, there are also harmful chemicals in microplastics that can lead to impotence or disease.
Sustainable packaging will help reduce one-time food packaging. We must use reusable shopping bags instead of plastics. Today, even stores allow you to refill products into a bottle or canister, avoiding the need for single-use plastics.
Land, air, rail, and sea transportation account for 24% of the Earth’s carbon dioxide emissions. Out of that number, 40% is courtesy of commercial cargo, while the other 60% is public transportation. Contrary to popular belief, airplanes contribute fewer emissions (16%) than the other modes of transport. Emissions from cars are much worse because there are more of them.
You can help cut transportation emissions by taking public transportation instead of driving your car. Shortening your travel time and limiting international travel are promising approaches too.
Talk about an ensemble of pollution! City dwellers are used to seeing construction sites regularly. However, construction contributes to air, water, and landfill pollution. Heavy equipment also brings noise pollution, which can be distracting, but the raw materials used for construction place a death sentence on Earth as 400 million tons of raw material are used every year.
Construction extracts natural resources like wood and fresh water, and it also contributes to global waste. Moreover, clearing trees destroys animal habitats. Therefore, there must be a conscious effort from the community to preserve wildlife and replenish lost trees.
How does technology destroy the climate when it is also the basis for renewable energy? Using mobile devices, smart televisions, and any other gadget comes with a price. These devices need electricity to run, which drives up the energy demand. No wonder these items may contribute to 3.5% of global emissions in 2020, a figure that is much higher than in shipping and aviation. Shifting into sustainable energy and green solutions will help reduce this industry’s emissions.
The Stigma around NFTs
While NFTs have allowed digital artists, creators, content writers, and the general public the ability to make a living out of their creations, critics have been quick to judge the platform for its carbon footprint. NFTs, short for non-fungible tokens, have been catalyzing the success of platforms that hadn’t seen success in ages.
Interestingly, most arguments are based on NFTs using blockchain technology and the proof of work consensus protocol. While blockchain solutions like Ethereum and Bitcoin may have a drastic carbon footprint, NFTs are entirely different. Yes, some NFTs rely on the same Proof of Work consensus protocol that Bitcoin and Ethereum use; however, most NFTs are shifting towards the Proof of Stake consensus protocol that dramatically decreases its detrimental impact on the environment. Interestingly, Ethereum is expected to roll out its Casper Protocol which will be shifting from the underlying proof-of-work consensus protocol to the proof-of-stake consensus protocol.
Moreover, there is a widespread misconception that NFT transactions, like other PoW-based cryptocurrencies, need to go through a mining process that deters the environment as it verifies the transaction. However, that’s not technically true. NFTs are essentially exchanged for existing cryptocurrencies or existing NFTs.
Consequently, the NFT community is actively working on reducing its footprint by investing in projects that are working hard to save the planet. The widespread misconceptions are nothing but acts of misjudgment by critics and people without getting into the specifics of the technology and ecosystem. Therefore, it’s highly recommended to perform your due diligence.