The WWF has announced the launch of their non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to gather funds and raise awareness for protecting endangered species.  

The organization hopes to ride the wave of popularity that NFTs are enjoying by creating a unique collection of digital art pieces and experiences. The campaign will specifically focus on raising awareness for 13 of the most endangered species, hopefully resulting in more money for their protection.  

To make the offer more attractive, the WWF will reward buyers with “real world experiences”, which offer people the opportunity to learn about conservationists’ work by watching or participating directly in the job done to protect animals. 

NFTs are a controversial topic, especially regarding the environmental impact they have, which has led to much backlash from environmentalists and people on social media. 

What are people complaining about?

Many are visibly upset with the announcement of the WWF. People concerned about the environment claim that anything related to NFTs and the blockchain will leave a massive carbon footprint no matter what measures are taken.

Others voice problems because the WWF is involved with a trend seen as a “Ponzi scheme” and a “scam.” Finally, many social media find it hypocritical for an organization to protect animal rights to use animals in a campaign that monetizes their lives and doesn’t question the system that led to this problem. 

This backlash may not just be a short expression of disapproval, as many have threatened to boycott the WWF. Following the announcement, donators have claimed they will stop giving funds to the organization, people on social media have unfollowed the WWF and written extensive articles critiquing the campaign. 

Can NFTs be environmentally-friendly?

The WWF is defending its campaign by claiming that the NFTs will use Polygon, an environmentally-friendly version of the popular Ethereum. According to their calculations, Polygon has such a tiny energy consumption that one transaction has the carbon footprint of a glass of water. 

Like cryptocurrencies, NFTs are verified on the Ethereum blockchain, a digital ledger for transactions, and this requires a massive amount of energy to maintain. 

For years, software developers for Ethereum have been developing alternatives with bold promises to reduce emissions to 1/100 000 of what they currently are. In the present, the fact remains that the Ethereum blockchain uses enough energy to surpass the annual emissions of Sweeden. 

Experts claim that even if the transactions are not directly tied to the Ethereum blockchain, all payments are with cryptocurrencies. People will most likely continue to buy ethereum to spend on the non-fungible tokens offered by the WWF. 

The result is a high carbon footprint and also an endorsement from the WWF to NFTs and cryptocurrency payment. Those actions signal that their campaign may not be as environmentally friendly as they claim it to be.