Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+ Join today!.
It seems like almost everyone, from musicians to politicians to fast food brands, has been getting in on NFTs – but questions persist about the market and potential consequences for the environment. Now, some vegan advocacy organizations are experimenting with the technology, hoping they can turn the crypto craze into positive change for animals.
One of those is Switch4Good, a nonprofit organization that encourages people to go dairy-free. Dotsie Bausch, an Olympic silver medalist in track cycling and executive director of Switch4Good, says she and her husband have been researching and buying crypto since 2017. She’s currently working with three artists to create work to be sold in Switch4Good’s future NFT store.
“The [NFT] space is very much moved by collectors themselves and they are looking for art that is going to stand the test of time and an organization and artists that are going to really keep pushing forward,” Bausch says. “Could we put together a group of artists to help disrupt the way people think about the animals they put on their plates?”
Bausch says 100 percent of the profits will go towards either Switch4Good or other nonprofits in the vegan and plant-based world, but the exact details haven’t been worked out yet.
“My real hope and goal is that we are able to turn into a funder in the movement,” she says. “There are some wonderful really small nonprofits – only at $250,000 per year size – that are just doing beautiful work.”
Major food corporations like Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, and Taco Bell have already released NFTs, all promising to donate proceeds to charities. Feel Foods, a Canadian plant-based food company, announced their own NFT launch in January. The tokens, inspired by plant-based influencers, were available to buyers of their Black Sheep Vegan Cheeze. Smaller projects like VeganNFTs and FlamingoWoos also claim to be using NFT sales to raise money for animal sanctuaries and organizations.
While some of these projects may raise significant funds for charitable causes, the technology underpinning the transactions can have environmental drawbacks. The most popular blockchain, Ethereum, has received significant criticism for its carbon footprint. Verifying the transactions uses a process called mining, which involves complex computer systems and can use a lot of energy. Some experts estimate that Ethereum uses more energy per year than the Netherlands.
But things may be getting a bit greener. Ethereum leadership has announced plans to shift its technology from a “proof of work” model – the same used by Bitcoin – to the less energy-intensive “proof of stake” model. Fortune reports that the transition, currently being tested, is expected to result in a 99 percent reduction in the energy use associated with each Ethereum transaction. Other “proof of stake” blockchains currently in the market include Solana, Algorand, and Tezos.
Even after Ethereum makes the switch, there will always be some footprint associated with any digital transaction. But for Switch4Good’s Bausch and others, that is an acceptable trade-off.
“You simply can’t do business without making some kind of deleterious impact or having some semblance of a carbon footprint. An ecological abolitionist approach is not our modus operandi, although living in a cave and using papyrus scrolls does sound fascinating,” reads a statement titled “Perspective and Stance on NFTs and the Environment” emailed by Bausch to Vegetarian Times. “As we incorporate NFT art into the spectrum of offerings as Switch4Good, we are doing our best to make positive, incremental changes and spread awareness in an imperfect world as big-hearted, passionate, flawed individuals.”
Some industry-watchers have noted in recent weeks that the market for NFTs appears to be cooling, with Bloomberg reporting a drop in daily sales volume of 83 percent from January to March of this year. Bausch said she doesn’t see that as a deterrent, but rather as “an opportunity.”