What are the challenges for web3? Environment Solutions explored: Changes in the space

Solutions explored: Changes in the space

So far in this chapter about the environment, we’ve mostly talked about Ethereum.

It is the most recent (and significant) example of how blockchains can reduce their impact on the environment.

In this lesson, we'll cover several ways blockchains are trying to evolve past their energy-hungry proof-of-work ways.

Updating Ethereum: The Merge

The nickname for Ethereum’s changed from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake

Ethereum is by far the most popular blockchain for NFTs and has been for several years.

Until The Merge, Ethereum was a proof-of-work blockchain much like Bitcoin still is. It required miners to validate transactions on the network. Transactions, in this case, refer to sending tokens to other users, buying or lending on DeFi protocols, or trading NFT assets. The more complex the transaction, the more energy is used. It's for this reason that many voiced their concerns about the environmental impact of NFTs.

Ethereum has transitioned away from the proof-of-work consensus mechanism and is now using proof-of-stake.

Ethereum under PoS uses around 99.95% less energy (says the Ethereum Foundation in 2021), addressing many of the environmental concerns surrounding NFTs and the Ethereum blockchain in general.

This means that instead of using energy-intensive miners, participants can validate transactions by staking or “locking in” their ETH into a smart contract.

Remember: this process is not needed for buying, selling, or minting NFTs but it’s worth being conscious of the environmental impacts of our actions.

However, other solutions are being developed to address these issues as well.

Layer 2s

Some blockchain developers have looked into lowering the carbon footprint of Ethereum through layer-2 solutions.

A layer-2 solution is a blockchain built on top of Ethereum that essentially processes several transactions together and then writes the data onto the Ethereum blockchain itself.

This reduces the amount of energy needed to process transactions while allowing users to benefit from the security measures of the Ethereum blockchain.

Some popular layer-2 solutions include:

  • Polygon
  • Arbitrum One
  • Optimism
  • Boba Network
  • Immutable X

Alternative steps to tackle the environmental impact of blockchains

Additionally, certain NFT projects and brands tackle this through their internal commitments to sustainability. Here are some solutions explored by WoW to stand in solidarity with the global fight against the climate crisis:

  • Carbon offsetting: WoW has taken the steps to offset our entire historical carbon footprint from both our genesis WoW and WoWG drops - a total of 2163.8 tonnes of CO₂. Our offsets have been purchased through the strictest carbon standard (Plan Vivo) and are directed to Trees for Global Benefits (a long-running cooperative carbon offsetting scheme in Uganda).
  • Educating and empowering: the WoW Foundation is leading the efforts to educate and empower people around the world about the climate crisis. This can enable users to make more informed decisions about the blockchains with which they choose to interact.
  • Donating to climate justice solutions: WoW has pledged to donate 10% of primary sales and 25% of secondary sale royalties to causes from our WoW Galaxy collection to support climate justice initiatives, including major environmental projects like the Great Green Wall (an 8000km green corridor across the Continent), renewable energy and ocean conservation.

Alternatives to Ethereum

The cryptocurrency industry has seen tremendous growth over the past few years and so it is perhaps unsurprising that there are now several Ethereum alternatives on the market that offer similar features.

While Ethereum only became a proof-of-stake blockchain after the Merge in September 2022, these alternative blockchains have been this way from their inception.

These other blockchains may not have the same level of adoption as Ethereum, but it’s always worth keeping up to date with the market to make more informed decisions.

Some of the most popular alternatives include:

  • Solana
  • BNB Chain
  • Avalanche
  • Polygon

Regardless of what blockchain is used, we must keep stepping in the right direction, in web3 and beyond, our planet needs more responsible action.

What can I do to reduce the environmental impact of my Web3 activity?

As a community member, collector, or trader:

  • Talk to your project creators: ask how they are supporting environmental initiatives with their project
  • Connect with your fellow community members: brainstorm and ideate what can be done on a community level to offset the environmental impact
  • Offset your footprint: Calculate your impact on the environment via this tool from DOVU and offset accordingly with a local or trusted carbon partner.

As a project creator, project staff, or advisor:

  • Be proactive with your environmental impact: Understanding your project’s impact must be a proactive effort, not a reflective measure. See how you can introduce genuine measures into your roadmap and future actions or engage your community to ask how they want the project to be offset.
  • Ask questions: talk to your colleagues and leaders about what the project is doing to mitigate its impact. Awareness is always the first step before action.
  • Don’t compromise: The well-being of our and future generations lay upon the actions we take today. Taking shortcuts or being fraudulent in environmental reporting only works against our interests.
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