Environmental Stewardship & Offsetting our Carbon Emissions with The Fringe

by Brice Budke


  • Ethereum = bus. Both have a fixed emission cost as long as in use regardless of how many passengers/transactions are utilizing them.
  • To estimate our “portion” of the emissions we found the average CO2 Emissions/Transaction.  Our project will emit an estimated 150 metric tons -  the same as a 737 flying NYC to LA
  • We will buy offsets from Nori.com (Help farmers! Sequester carbon!). For long-term emissions we will look at buying our own plot of land to sequester carbon in (also we need to store our old spaceships somewhere…)
  • In addition, by being independent from the studio system we can invest in green filmmaking to lower emissions for off-chain activities as well

Focus on the Environment

One of our motivations in making a film via Web3 is the independence we get from the studio system. This enables us to do things that are otherwise untenable - including implementing green initiatives into our entire filmmaking process. That means new solutions to old problems, like building sets and props to last instead of getting scrapped after a shoot. But it also means finding solutions to new problems. Climate change is already creating significant societal and natural changes in our world - including where we are based in the Pacific Northwest. Since we are choosing to pursue independence via Web3 & NFTs, we believe it is important that we consider the impacts of launching a project that relies on and benefits from this network. As many already know, the energy usage of the Ethereum network (pre-merge) is non-trivial. We are confident that the long-term energy use of Ethereum will drop significantly after it converts to Proof of Stake but, in the meantime, it's important that we consider the environmental impact of our project.

Calculating Emissions for NFTs

In non-technical terms, Ethereum is more like a bus than a car - it is going to create emissions whether or not we use it. That said, by utilizing the bus we are justifying its existence and, in some ways, creating the reason for the emissions in the first place. A per-transaction measure for emissions is at a core-level “incorrect” just as measures of per-rider bus emissions l would be incorrect. But that measure does provide a useful benchmark to determine the approximate emissions we are creating with this project.

As part of our effort to measure and reduce our environmental impact, we enlisted help from Liz Berg, a data scientist who has experience in environmental impact modeling.

Here’s the smart technical details from her to explain how we arrived at an estimate of 150 metric tons of CO2 as the cost of the Fringe:

A few people have put substantial effort into estimating the amount of CO2 emissions for which Ethereum is responsible. Alex de Vries at Digiconomist is one of them, and artist (and low-key data scientist) Kyle McDonald is another. De Vries employs a top-down approach, using the total revenue from Ethereum, estimating electricity costs from this, and finally converting kilowatt-hour (KWh) to kilograms of CO2 (kgCO2). Kyle’s estimate uses a bottom-up approach, identifying the various energy-consuming components within the Ethereum network and estimating electricity usage for each of these. He then leverages data about miner locations to produce a more accurate conversion to CO2 emissions (since this conversion factor varies per country).

So what is the marginal increase in energy on the Ethereum network for which our project is responsible? From one perspective, the answer is, “nothing.” Ethereum’s energy usage is time-based, not transaction-based; additional transactions don’t impact the availability or scale of the network. However, from a second perspective, our project is leveraging and benefitting from this system, and it would not exist at all if not for people like us and projects like ours. We can still determine a (very rough) estimate of the total emissions that should be attributed back to the Fringe.

We use Kyle’s emissions estimates and divide them by the total number of transactions per day to determine energy cost per transaction. This per-transaction cost can be used to assign a cost to the entire project, including mint, test and set-up transactions, and potential future buying and selling of our NFTs.

Estimated Ethereum CO2 emissions. Data source: https://kylemcdonald.github.io/ethereum-emissions/
Estimated Ethereum CO2 emissions. Data source: https://kylemcdonald.github.io/ethereum-emissions/
Volume of Ethereum transactions. Data source: https://etherscan.io/chart/tx
Volume of Ethereum transactions. Data source: https://etherscan.io/chart/tx

It’s worth emphasizing that the approach of dividing total CO2 emissions by total transactions is quite rough, and requires several sweeping assumptions.

  • Each transaction on the Ethereum network could actually be a collection of many transactions; we don’t know the actual number of discrete transactions per day. We ignore the possibility of these collections, assuming that each daily count is in fact counting the number of discrete transactions. This will result in an overestimate of emissions per transaction.
  • The emissions cost per KWh depends on the location in which the energy is consumed. This is factored into Kyle McDonald’s daily energy consumption estimates, but aggregated up to worldwide daily consumption. We don’t have the ability to disaggregate this back down to the country level, and we also don’t know where all of our transactions will be taking place. We assume that energy consumption per transaction is the same globally.

We see the roughness of this approach in the following chart. If the amount of Ethereum CO2 emissions was truly proportional to the number of transactions, this ratio should be static, and we’d see a flat line in the chart. Instead, it’s clear that there are other factors at play.

Estimated Ethereum CO2 emissions per transaction, all time
Estimated Ethereum CO2 emissions per transaction, all time

However, this analysis is still useful for providing a sense of scale. Zooming in on just 2021, Ethereum has contributed 7-15 kgCO2 worth of emissions per transaction.

Estimated Ethereum CO2 emissions per transaction in 2021
Estimated Ethereum CO2 emissions per transaction in 2021

We estimate around 10,250 transactions for the mint of the Drifters NFT Project. Using the highest per transaction estimates (15kgCO2/transaction), we get around 150 metric tons of CO2 emissions for the project. To put in context, this is roughly the equivalent of a full passenger plane flying from NYC to LA.

We ran this analysis early in 2022 & intend to run it again after mint to give better estimates of the energy consumption. We estimate given trends since running the analysis that the CO2/transaction trend has roughly doubled - so we will likely purchase closer to 300 metric tons to offset the environmental impacts of the Fringe.

Offset Plan

We want to immediately offset these carbon emissions. In talks with Marc Johnson (from Protocol Labs, working on Filecoin Green ), we are planning to purchase offsets from Nori. We like their transparency, web3/crypto integration, and credibility - but mostly their focus on carbon removals instead of reduction and avoidances. They explain the distinction  better here.

Long term, we want to turn carbon offsets into a creative challenge.

Film production itself will produce more carbon that the NFT mint.

So we're looking into buying our own plot of reclaimed cattle land to sequester carbon by planting trees ourselves. Here we will establish a spaceship reliquary. After production movie sets tend to end up in dumpsters. Instead making more landfill fodder, we want to retire our spaceships on this reclaimed property, creating a pilgrimage site for fans.

Additionally, by being independent from the studio system, we have the power to invest in green filmmaking practices to lower emissions for our off-chain activities as well. We are looking at things like electric shop and set vehicles, solar power for our office and shop (lease/location dependent), decreased reliance on paper for film processes (studio processes create an immense amount of paper waste), building props and sets with long-term use and reuse in mind (i.e. not immediately scrapping them after a shoot).

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