Ecosapiens, a Web3/NFT project enabling consumers to make a positive impact on the climate, raises $5M to build its marquee product, the world's first carbon-backed NFT. Backed by Collab + Currency, Boost VC, Slow Ventures, Menlo Ventures, CRV, Alumni Ventures Blockchain Fund, Climate Capital, Chaos Ventures, UpHonest Capital, Ben Taft's Genius Fund, Ovo Fund, among others.
The tiny bright speck in the image above—about one pixel in size—is the Earth, in a February 1990 photo from the Voyager 1 space probe, at a distance of 4 billion miles. It’s our home, the Pale Blue Dot. In the words of Carl Sagan:
Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you’ve ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there—on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
This is the only home we’ve had; the only home we’ve got. And it's dying.
For centuries, fossil fuels played an undeniably outsized role in advancing human progress and achievement. The miracles powered by fossil fuels, however, came with a price: the release of greenhouse gasses from human-based activities, most notoriously CO2, is directly leading to a rapid increase in the global average temperature. The warming of the planet, which currently sits at 1.1°C (2°F) as compared to pre-industrial times, hurts everyone. By the United Nations’s current estimates, warming in excess of 1.5°C is likely to produce the worst consequences of climate change, including:
Species loss and destruction of entire ecosystems
More frequent and intense natural disasters
Human displacement (mass climate migration and refugees)
Rising sea levels
In order to hedge the temperature increase to no greater than 1.5°C, we need to stop emitting CO2. Unfortunately, the math reveals that ending all CO2 emissions today won’t be enough to reach that goal: we actually need to suck carbon out of the atmosphere through nature-based or engineered sequestration.
The good news is that much of the technology exists (and has descended the cost curve) to shrink and eliminate our carbon output. A sophisticated and efficient global carbon market, however, is key to incentivizing the shift to a zero-carbon economy.
The concept of a carbon market was unveiled in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol as a mechanism to incentivize carbon emissions reduction. By placing a price on carbon, the Protocol presented a unique environmental commodity on an international scale.
A carbon credit (in its original design) represents a permit to emit 1 ton of carbon; credits are allocated by a governing agency each year. Companies with an excess of credits (from more-efficient or sustainable operations) can sell their credits to less efficient companies that need to emit more carbon than their allocated credits permit. The greener companies make a profit, thus reducing the cost of their products; the less eco-friendly companies, in turn, have higher prices for their end products.
The higher the price of a credit, the more incentive a company has to reduce its emissions—either because they can gain additional revenue from selling their unused credits, or because buying credits on the open market leads to reduced profits or higher prices.
These government-run carbon credit schemes, usually referred to as cap-and-trade, exist in the EU, California, and (most recently) China. There’s a similar regulatory credit program in California for the production of electric vehicles (EV). Companies earn credits for each EV they produce, and if they fall short of their target, they must buy the necessary credits from a company that has made many EVs and thus generated extra. Tesla earns between $350M and $500M each quarter by selling their EV regulatory credits to other car makers.
A few major trends have changed the carbon landscape since the 1997 Kyoto Protocol:
1) It has become cheaper for companies to go green: renewable energy, batteries, and sustainable materials have moved down the cost-curve, as Moore’s law predicts.
2) Consumer preference has shifted toward sustainable/eco-friendly companies and research has shown that they are willing to pay a premium.
3) The price of carbon has gone up dramatically, making it more painful to not reduce emissions.
Overall, the lay of the land in 2022 looks like this: eco-friendly companies are seeing their revenues rise, the cost to become green has gone down, and getting into the carbon credits business has grown more attractive.
There are only a few of these large-scale, mandatory carbon marketplaces. However, there is a voluntary market for carbon offset credits that individuals and companies can engage with to counterbalance their emission-generating activities and reduce their environmental footprint. For example, if Company A’s activities result in the generation of x tons of carbon, the company can go to one of the carbon offset marketplaces and fund an endeavor, such as reforestation, that removes x tons of carbon from the atmosphere and thus offsets the effects of its business activities. The company can then declare that its operations are “carbon neutral” or “net zero.”
Not all carbon offset credits are created equal. There are three derivatives of offsets:
Carbon abatement: credits issued for shrinking emissions
Carbon protection: credits issued to avoid the creation of emissions
Carbon removal: credits issued for capturing carbon emissions
While early carbon schemes focused on abatement, in our view, removal and protection are by far the most quantifiable way of ensuring that the carbon balance sheet is actually changing.
Many companies across a number of sectors have taken a cue from cap-and-trade schemes and view the goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions as a net-positive to their bottom line. Over 300 global companies—PepsiCo, Amazon, VMWare, and others—have committed to reach net-zero emissions by 2040 via the Climate Pledge. According to the Taskforce on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets, the voluntary market for carbon credits could be worth more than $50 billion by 2030.
As residents of the Pale Blue Dot, we care about the planet—so why is it difficult for us to design a low-carbon life even in this environmentally conscious moment? The mismatch between intentions and actions is largely due to the fact that eco-friendly goods and services tend to be inaccessible, expensive, or inferior relative to their carbon-creating counterparts. For example, when traveling from Boston to Washington, DC, a round-trip flight that emits a large amount of CO2 per mile is much faster than an electrified, lower-carbon train that will cost just as much (or more). This paradoxical reality is equally true with sustainably farmed food (expensive), sustainable fashion (expensive), and many other consumer spending sectors. Being eco-friendly shouldn’t be a luxury item—but in 2022, that’s the reality.
Another reality about purchase behavior is the extravagant value consumers place on image, story, and cultural significance. Tesla’s success cannot be decoupled from Elon Musk’s ability to crack the code of making eco-friendly cars extremely cool; in fact, the company’s mission statement includes the phrase “compelling mass market electric cars.” Consumers want to be part of the Tesla club and that of its larger-than-life leader. Following brand and image, people buy Teslas out of utility—owners save money on gas and maintenance while at the same time getting superior performance. Zero-emissions, however, is not a top reason behind people’s Tesla purchase, because the term zero-emissions, in and of itself, doesn’t create utility for consumers. Tesla’s making zero-emissions cool has been the company’s way of working around that lack of immediate utility.
What successful climate-forward brands (e.g., Patagonia) do is make environmental exceptionalism culturally significant. When a consumer wears Patagonia or drives a Tesla, what they’re secretly—even unconsciously—hoping for is that people perceive them to have a positive character and value system.
Cheaper OR financially attractive
Bringing it all together, this is our framework for unlocking the consumer-climate economy. Sustainability needs to be seamlessly integrated into a consumers life, derive financial results, and has to have social and cultural benefits -- across any product category (how we move, how we eat, how we spend, etc.) If these conditions are satisfied, we strongly believe that consumers DO pick the impactful choice.
A shopper with the means, patience, and desire can move the needle a bit by supporting the local farmers market, driving electric or taking public transport more often, or sticking with eco-friendly brands or those that leverage technology in ways that improve carbon efficiency across the value chain. But we believe that altering behavior at that small magnitude doesn’t scale—and if it doesn’t scale, true planetary-level impact isn’t possible.
Another approach to reducing one’s carbon footprint, however, is to purchase carbon offsets. There are many schemes like the last-mile “offset this flight” purchase on United.com, or the ability to offset shipping options on Shopify. The reason these “offset your footprint” point-of-sale solutions haven’t taken off is simple: not only is it a net cost to the consumer, but it’s also not obvious where and how significant the impact will be, nor is there a way to repeatedly “feel good” about that charitable action. While a consumer might select such an option every now and then (or just once as an experiment), it’s likely a niche behavior that will never capture the mass market, and therefore its potential for impact is limited.
To make carbon offsetting attractive to consumers, it has to align with consumer incentives (time, money, joy):
Financially Attractive: Carbon offsets must appreciate in value.
Social Utility: The form factor needs to be culturally and or visually attractive.
1-click Easy: The purchasing process must be a frictionless UX.
Let’s raise the bar, though. In order to make offsets widely attractive to consumers, they also need to accrue in value, be easy to access, and function as a clear and public representation of their value system. And, of course, they need to make a difference.
Eco: good for the environment
Sapien: of, relating to, or resembling modern humans
The solution to our current carbon crisis lies within a Venn diagram, at the fragile intersection of humanity, nature, and technology. It is from this deep appreciation of interconnection that Ecosapiens are born.
Ecosapiens embody the notion that carbon reduction is a universal concern. Carbon reduction does not exclusively save whales, repopulate wild tigers, or plant trees; it saves the entirety of Earth’s biosphere, from the deepest tree-root systems and ocean trenches to the highest cloud forests and mountaintops.
To represent this range of biodiversity in a singular avatar, Ecosapiens are humanoid in shape but composed of an amalgamation of various flora, fauna, mineral, and technological elements, hybridizing the entire spectrum of Earth's biological kingdoms with human technology. Their bodies subtly breathe, and the plants, minerals, and fungi that grow inside and among them gently sway and glisten; these vacillations are an homage to the importance of breath and the preservation of our atmosphere.
There is a popular quote often attributed to Maya Angelou that goes, "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Feeling, one of the most potent forces of change, is fundamental to our pillars of climate action. We believe that inspiration, story, and art—as opposed to fear, uncertainty, and doubt—is the way to motivate consumers to take the leap toward driving impact. Ecosapiens are designed to be more than art; they belong in a fictional universe that links narrative art and science, enabling people to cultivate feelings for climate restoration and be inspired to take action. The EcoVerse is a place where sci-fi meets climate: imagine a superhero who grows trees 100x their normal size or prevents a volcano from erupting, rather than one who shoots lasers from its eyes.
But imagine the impact actually happening…
Each Ecosapien NFT is backed by 16 metric tons of tokenized CO2, equivalent to offsetting a year's worth of the average American’s carbon output. In this unique way, ownership of an Ecosapien is more than just a symbol and a call for climate progress—it’s an actual vehicle for carbon reduction.
To ensure that each Ecosapien collectible continues to have impact, the net-new carbon emissions generated per each mint and trade is calculated and offset perfectly forever, so long as the NFT is live on the blockchain. As a result, owners can be confident that their Ecosapien is always carbon-negative, and that their collectible will continue to offset carbon long after the mint. That being said, we also have a model that incentivizes holders/owners to increase the amount of impact their driving and gain utility in the process—we call it the Impact-2-Earn model.
As we thought of ways to allow owners to continue compounding their impact, we created the Impact-2-Earn model that aligns user fun/joy, the increased rarity of their Ecosapien, and positive climate impact. Here’s how it works: with a hat-tip to the highly successful NBA Topshot and CryptoKitties model, we are introducing events that allow an Ecosapien owner to “evolve” their character by sequestering more carbon (i.e., upgrading via carbon infusions). During a specific event period, users can purchase one of these infusions (think of it like buying an in-game potion) and evolve. Each evolution introduces a new trait with unique rarities that make your character increasingly beautiful, rare and impactful. Read the full guide to the Ecosapien 02.22.23 EcoGenesis drop and its unique mechanics.
The bigger picture: our Impact-2-Earn model has implications well beyond the carbon-collectible. We believe we can intersect the transaction layer on the web, rewarding people for making climate positive shopping decisions and climate positive behaviors and rewarding them within our marketplace. Read more about our Impact-2-Earn thesis and its broader applications within the Ecosapien universe.
We believe this model correlates three consumer incentives while activating a substantial annuity to the Ecosapiens franchise: (a) NFT rarity, (b) virtue signal, and (c) planetary impact, all moving in the same direction (up and to the right). Whether someone buys an Ecosapien to satisfy a virtue signal or to obtain unique and valuable rarities, both are fine with us: they will sequester carbon equally.
The carbon offsets underpinning each Ecosapien directly finance the highest quality, nature-based carbon projects that preserve existing carbon sinks such as forest and biodiversity conservation and projects that actively capture and store carbon, such as reforestation, regenerative agriculture (carbon soils), and blue algae production. Furthermore, we seek to continue to earn trust in our carbon by working with independent carbon rating agencies to ensure consistency, confidence, and long-term viability of our carbon. We expect to have this feature ready by public launch date. When you connect your wallet to the Ecosapien dashboard, you will always see the overview of the specific project toward which you will be driving impact. This approach guarantees consumers that impact is happening, unlike some of the more complex (and potentially dubious) approaches.
For the Alpha (EcoGenesis) Collection dropping on 02.22.23, we secured carbon credits from Kenya Soil Carbon a highly reputable climate project with benefits beyond climate action, achieving 6 of the UN’s 17 goals for sustainable development and benefiting the local economy -- all of course, while removing carbon.
The public collection drop (10,000 piece collection backed by 20 tonnes of carbon each) is expected to offset up to 200,000 tons of carbon by its owners at mint, which is > 2x greater than the yearly emissions of the Polygon Network or equivalent to 4.6B miles driven. To visualize this another way, 200,000 tons of sequestered carbon equates to reforesting a landmass the size of San Francisco and Oakland. As a result, the mint alone represents one of the largest single consumer purchases of nature-based carbon that makes a real difference in supporting champions in the carbon sequestration space and, ultimately, the planet. With the carbon compounding post-mint, the outcome has the potential to be even more dramatic. We plan to launch on the Ethereum network, the most popular chain for NFTs, which recently underwent The Merge. This event has decreased the chain’s emissions by ~99%. With enough support, the Ecosapiens Community could offset Ethereum’s entire historical carbon footprint.
We believe we can enable consumers to make a dent in humanity’s fight against climate change by re-imagining their lives in a lower carbon way. What we need to be doing is aligning consumer incentives with the most impactful solution, which is what we’re aiming to build. The EcoVerse is a suite of products that will be built around our thesis of aligning consumer incentives (time, money, joy, story) with what’s good for the planet. We are principally excited by opportunities that identify repeatable behaviors in consumer life that can be made sustainable or eco-friendly in a frictionless way using tech. We think this is where big, enterprise-value-creating products and meaningful impact intersect. In the simplest way possible, we are building products that let consumers live the life they want to live (à la “1-click experiences” that are financially attractive, socially useful, and effortlessly lower their carbon footprint.)
From this line of thinking, we’re excited by several possibilities for product expansion:
Climate Metaverse: Imagine a Metaverse where a tree planted digitally planted a tree in real life. A place where virtual land is backed by land in the real world—where Homo sapiens could congregate and ideate as Ecosapiens, where we could visualize what Earth COULD look like.… These are some initial ideas we have for a climate-focused Metaverse.
Learn-to-Earn: Education about the environment is the foundation that must be laid before change can happen, either in one’s personal life or via influencing policy at a national scale. Does recycling really work? How to compost? Let’s educate people about the environment and reward them for it by accruing carbon or rewards in NFTs.
EcoCard: People shop and spend daily; let’s provide them with carbon data on each transaction and reward users with carbon points for spending with lower-carbon-emitting partners, products, and services. Furthermore, we see an angle to develop this into a massive loyalty and rewards program with sustainable goods and services. Imagine getting 5% off with Impossible Foods or Patagonia per purchase. This “Brex” like value proposition can make it attractive to you to shop with values aligned companies, lower your carbon footprint seamlessly, and save you some $. We believe this needs to be an elite, black card-like experience that will impress the table when the check arrives.
Enterprise NFTs: Unique and custom NFTs backed by large quantities of carbon or specific big-ticket environmental projects. These would serve as a “certification stamp” for companies, proving they only buy the best carbon. We are also exploring a POS carbon-backed NFT for eco-friendly checkouts that unlock carbon-negative purchasing + community/loyalty membership opportunities.
Climate Investment DAO: We can allocate a pool of capital and let Ecosapien NFT holders deploy it into compelling environmental projects and become real-life watchdogs, all from the comfort of their homes. If there’s an oil spill off the coast of California, Ecosapiens can congregate to send real dollars toward remediation. Alternately, Ecosapiens can vote to deploy capital toward an exciting investment opportunity in a carbon-capture company.
Many more ++
We are on a mission to build a full-stack platform to enable consumers to make a difference in the environment in a 1-click fashion. Every product we explore is designed to align impact and enterprise value.
Ultimately, the real asset of the Ecosapien NFT collection is enormous: the citizens of the planet, a collective of climate benefactors, former Homo sapiens and future Ecosapiens, fused together to serve the environment. The Ecosapiens Community. Our mission is to give consumers the tools to fight for and protect our Pale Blue Dot—the only home we’ve ever known—for generations to come.
Nihar is a storyteller and film nerd at his core who has spent 6 years in venture capital reading the scripts of great founders. He was previously on the team at Menlo Ventures, where he spent time studying consumer and fintech, and co-developed the firm's ESG thesis that led him to fall in love with climate tech. He has been ripping the hair out of his head over the past year trying to answer the following question: “Why is it so fucking hard to align consumer interests with what is good for the planet?” The answer, he believes, is simple—but hard to execute against. Consumers pick better/faster/cheaper goods and services for existing consumer Jobs-to-be-Done, and there haven’t been viable, sustainable instruments that do those jobs at scale (most Americans can’t afford Everlane or EVs!). The idea for NFT-izing carbon addresses sustainability and scalability by being an instrument that drives financing toward carbon capture while also addressing the need for a feel-good/look-good social product that scales. The idea had been gestating for six months too long until he teamed up with Garret (below) to make it a reality. Prior to Menlo and the “aha,” he was at Kauffman Fellows and Correlation Ventures. Nihar graduated from USC.
Garret is a sculptor, animator, and writer based in Brooklyn, New York. His work explores the confluence of art, nature, and technology and its effects on humankind and the world. Inspired early on by science fiction, his work invokes issues of our times, such as climate change, and he donates 10% of artwork sales profits to environmental charities. Kane, who graduated from SUNY Albany, first began a career in advertising, studying and learning traditional and 3D sculpting techniques while working as a Creative Director for over a decade.. Currently, he is writing a science fiction novel featuring characters based on his sculptures. Ultimately, he hopes it will be adapted into a series of interactive videos that are shot with a mix of in-camera sculpture and 3D animation.
Garret Kane is a sculptor, animator, and writer based in Brooklyn, New York. His practice utilizes biological matter, traditional and 3D printed materials, animation, film, and writing, combining them to create hybrid works that fuse nature and technology.
This process and unification of disparate mediums suggests how we are all connected and part of a continuum. His different series touch on themes of overconsumption, climate change, and the advancement or decline of humanity.
Inspired early on by sci fi and anime, his figurative works are androgynous and faceless, seamlessly joining the biological with the mechanical, reminiscent of sci-fi creatures and god-like entities. One series of works uses found plastic objects such as headphones and abandoned lamps that are embedded into root systems, examining how technology transforms nature and the body. Does nature reclaim the synthetic detritus? Is it nature vs. humanity, or are we combining and transmuting? Do we worship technology, and has it replaced religion? Ultimately, the work explores the confluence of art, nature, and technology and its effects on humankind and the world with the goal of calling attention to humanity’s own global self-destruction and annihilation.
He’s held 3 solo exhibitions in NYC’s Flatiron Building Prow Artspace; Chashama’s Gala at One World Trade; shown at Untitled art fair during Art Basel in South Beach, Miami; been in multiple solo and group shows such as Gowanus Open Studios among private galleries; and held residencies in Mexico City and Sao Paulo.
Disclaimer: like all living organisms, this white paper, vision, and roadmap will continue to evolve. What is documented here in this white paper is not a guarantee of what will ensue at the time of drop. Ownership of the NFT does not intend to guarantee access to future products or services. All opinions discussed in this white paper are subject to change without notice. Nothing written here is intended, nor is it, financial advice. You must make an independent decision as to whether or not our thesis and vision are attractive to you. Terms and conditions subject to change.