This Earth Day, an NFT based on an artwork by Nicole Buffett, an estranged granddaughter of billionaire Warren Buffet, is going up for sale to raise money to conserve dolphins. It is the latest in a series of NFTs created in collaboration with the Open Earth Foundation that hope to put the market frenzy for “crypto art” collectibles to good use.
“My husband Hans Lavik was a dolphin whisperer and a great supporter of dolphins,” says Molly Lavik, who commissioned Buffett’s original painting shortly after her husband died in 2018. “I thought this year, for the third year of Hans’s passing, I would transform the dolphin artwork into an NFT in support of dolphins.”
Lavik presented her fundraising idea to the Open Earth Foundation, a Marina del Rey-based non-profit that specializes in looking for ways to use emerging technology to address environmental problems. The foundation has launched a marine biodiversity program, employing artificial intelligence technology in its work to protect dolphins in the “No-Take Zone” of Cocos Island National Park off the waters of Costa Rica.
In March, the organization raised a total of $6,662,054 from the sale of NFT artworks from eight artists including one from artist Beeple–enough money to fund Open Earth’s current work for the next five years. Those sales, as well as the sale of Buffett’s dolphin-inspired NFT, are being pitched as “carbon neutral” or “carbon negative,” in an attempt to offset the eco-unfriendly image associated with the trend.
Critics have accused the crypto collectibles of having an outsized impact on the environment–even calling the sale of NFTs an “ecological nightmare pyramid scheme“–but, Open Earth Foundation executive director Martin Wainstein argues, some of that concern may be misplaced.
“NFTs are not the root cause of energy consumption, it’s the underlying blockchain, so by changing the blockchain or technology solution, the energy intensity can be significantly reduced,” Wainstein says. To address the issue, he recommends that artists and investors look to mine and transact NFTs in blockchains that are less energy intensive.
“These include blockchains that use a Proof-of-Stake protocol rather than a Proof-of-Work protocol,” he suggests. “Alternatively, less energy consumption can be created by using blockchain side-chains or what are called ‘layer two’ solutions to reduce the amount of transaction occurring in the main blockchain using PoW.”
Currently, many NFTs are linked to Ethereum, which has historically been a Proof-of-Work model, but has announced plans to shift towards Proof-of-Stake.
NFTs sold to benefit Open Earth Foundation also have carbon credits attached to the token. Wainstein says the pieces sold last month had “net negative carbon emissions” of 460 tons.
Open Earth Foundation partnered with hologram company PORTL, for which Lavik serves as an advisor, for an Earth Day event to introduce the NFT and present talks on greening the NFT economy. Video of the morning event has been posted for the public to view.