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aware_ dives into the environmental repercussions of Bitcoin and explores the rise of eco-friendly cryptocurrencies.

The release of the first cryptocurrency brought with it widespread intrigue. Up until 2009, the year which saw the release of Bitcoin – which many investors argue was the first cryptocurrency – traditional banks ruled the world of finance. Although Hashcash – one of the most successful pre-bitcoin digital currencies – had its moment in the 1990s, the last 10 years have seen the financial and technology markets become saturated in cryptocurrencies. But what lies behind cryptocurrencies initial success? Tired of traditional, centralised, closely monitored methods of banking, consumers and investors have become attracted to the decentralised nature of cryptocurrencies. One of the conditions required for the qualification of a cryptocurrency is, “the system does not require a central authority; its state is maintained through distributed consensus” (Jan Lansky). In 2009, mining – “the process through which new Bitcoins are created and transactions are recorded and verified on the blockchain” (Forbes) – begins. The first Bitcoin are traded in 2010 when, in exchange for two pizzas, someone sells 10,000 Bitcoin. According to a Forbes article back in 2017, if the buyer had kept the 10,000 Bitcoin until 2017, it would have been worth more than $100 million (Forbes). Sounding too good to be true? We think so too. Despite initial suggestions that mining and trading cryptocurrencies promised to become the environmental antidote to banking, research suggests that mining Bitcoin has catastrophic implications on the planet. Monitoring of Bitcoin energy consumption reported that one single Bitcoin transaction uses 2277.13 kWh, the equivalent of an average US household’s energy consumption over 78 days (Digiconomist).

“In 2020, the bitcoin network consumed a reported 131.80 TWh of power to execute the algorithms that power its “mining” operations. This is equivalent of the power consumed by Argentina.” (WeForum) 

Despite damning statistics, by 2020, Bitcoin seemed to be unstoppable. In January of that year, after adding #bitcoin to his Twitter bio (WeForum), Elon Musk sent the value of Bitcoin soaring, raising the value by $5,000 within the hour. Subsequently, Tesla introduced the option to purchase their cars using Bitcoin, only to reverse that decision of May 2020 after widespread environmental concerns. Consequently, the value of bitcoin sank from $64,829 to $30,000. The volatile nature of bitcoin allowed for a new way of thinking: eco-friendly cryptocurrencies. The last few years have seen the emergence of cryptocurrencies which continue to embrace decentralised systems, whilst prioritising the wellbeing of our planet. The defining difference between bitcoin and eco-friendly cryptocurrencies? Bitcoin depends on a “Proof of Work” system (which requires vast calculations, and therefore processing power), whilst crypto’s which employ “Proof of Storage” systems employ block-lattice, a technology that doesn’t require mining. (Leaf Score)

aware_ presents 5 eco-friendly cryptocurrencies on a mission to make a difference:

Solar Coin

Solar Coin does exactly what it says on the tin. This leading example for eco-friendly cryptocurrencies distributes coin as a reward for the creation of solar energy. Their aim since 2014 has been to incentivise the production of solar energy by reducing the cost of the production of electricity through its reward scheme.  

“Our goal and 40-year mission since 2014 is to incentivize solar electricity production by rewarding the generators to reduce the cost of electricity production. 
Solar energy is now produced at below US$12/MWh on some parts of the planet, and the cost keeps dropping.” – Solar Coin

Nano  

Nano is a digital, no-fee currency, making it available to anyone with access to a computer. Nano, unlike Bitcoin, does not rely on mining or printing to operate. Prioritising fluidity between countries, Nano provides a seamless transaction for both local and international payments at no fee to the user.

“Just like the cash in your pocket, choosing to transact with nano ensures that 100% of the value is transferred directly to the recipient.” – Nano

Gridcoin  

Gridcoin is a blockchain currency that capitalises on sleeping computer power to “to carry out scientific research through the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC)” (LeafScore). Founded in 2013, Gridcoin employs a Proof-of-Stake algorithm: a class of mechanisms used by some eco-friendly cryptocurrencies that work to avoid the computing costs necessary for proof-of-work, which is used by Blockchain. 

“Gridcoin is an open-source cryptocurrency (Ticker: GRC) that rewards volunteer computing for science through the BOINC platform. BOINC is an open source platform for volunteer computing that lets individuals use their computers & phones to help science research.” – Gridcoin 

eco-friendly cryptocurrencies

Chia   

Chia is the decentralised cryptocurrency bringing hard drives back into fashion. Using a proof-of-space system, the “farming” process necessary to lend currency employs the humble hard drive, reducing e-waste and re-using a secure form of storage. It appears to be working, Chia “uses 0.16% of the annual energy consumption of Bitcoin”. 

“Chia is the most decentralized blockchain ever with approximately 350,000 nodes employing the first new Nakamoto Consensus since 2009. The Chialisp on chain programming environment is fully featured while being far more auditable, and secure.” – Chia 

Iota   

Bitcoin is renowned for its instability. Iota – blockchain, mining free – is the cryptocurrency prioritising stability and sustainable financial investment. Whilst it has not reached the heady heights of some of its competitor’s success, Iota prides itself on its scalability, low resource requirements, zero-fee and fast transactions.

“IOTA is the first distributed ledger built for the “Internet of Everything” – a network for exchanging value and data between humans and machines.” – Iota 

– by Eliza Edwards

In July 2021 Jeff Bezos spent 5.5 billion dollars on a 10-minute getaway to space. The hefty price tag of his galactic mini-break was enough to save 37.5 million people from starvation (Global Citizen). Such headlines beg the question: are recent advancements in technology working to save the future of our planet, or is the world – and its neighbours – turning into one big playground? Progress in technology and sustainability can appear both at odds and in harmony with one another. On the one hand, explorations in technology allow for efficiency, whilst on the other, the luxury of immediacy and accelerated consumption are proven to be detrimental. The jury’s out on whether inhabiting mars could be beneficial but could the development of everyday eco-friendly tech products on a smaller scale make an accumulative difference?

aware_ presents 10 eco-friendly tech products you should know about.  

1_ Sony Digital Paper  

Every year the world produces 300 million tons of paper (Record Nations). Out of the 17 billion trees cut down every year, 60% are used to generate paper (Capital Solutions). That’s a lot of trees. To counterbalance these figures, Sony has developed a digital paper system, users can read and annotate documents, without compromising the sensation of writing on paper. Using wifi or bluetooth documents can be wirelessly shared. 

 

2_Fairphone  

Approximately 100 million phones are discarded every year. In 2014 it was reported that Apple had generated up to 40,000 tons of e-waste, enough steel to lay 100 miles of railway track. Research demonstrates that mobile phones have become the “fastest-growing form of electronic waste” (SidmartinBio). To combat these increasing levels of waste Fairphone, which launched in 2013, have developed “the world’s most repairable phone”. Advocating for a fairer industry for the manufacturing of tech products, the Amsterdam-based company prioritises responsible material sourcing, employee welfare and have developed a phone-specific recycling program.  

tech products
Courtesy of Fairphone

3_ BigBlue Solar Charger 

The BigBlue solar charger enables you to charge 3 devices simultaneously on the go. Unlike the other models available, the BigBlue solar charger is able to charge your device in variable weather conditions. Even through cloud, the panel will continue to provide consistent charge to your devices. 

 

4_ Rocean Water System

The United Nations reports that over 1 million plastic bottles are bought every minute, the equivalent of fuelling 25 million cars for an entire year. Rocean, the New Delhi founded water filtration company, are on a mission to remove 1 billion bottles from circulation in the next five years. Rocean has developed a single device – suitable for any kitchen countertop – that filters, flavours and carbonates water.   

 

5_ VanMoof  

VanMoof is the Amsterdam-based start-up changing the face of e-bikes. With a sleek, streamlined design – a welcome change for the standard e-bike design available on the market – VanMoof celebrates Holland’s heritage bicycle culture with state-of-the-art technology. The bikes can reach up to 25 km/h, are custom-tuned for the ultimate riding experience and have integrated anti-theft technology.   

tech products
Courtesy of VanMoof

6_ Philips Hue Smart Lighting  

Forget to turn off the lights? The Philips Hue smart lighting system enables you to control the lighting in your home with just one click on your phone. Easy to install – there’s no need to rewire your home – their range of lights, sensors and switches allows you to control your electricity usage from the comfort of your own sofa.   

 

7_ Digital Dressing in DRESSX 

Every year 92 million tonnes of textile waste is generated by the fashion industry. DRESSX is a digital clothing company on a mission to show consumers that virtual clothing could provide a solution to the planet’s critical habit of overconsumption. Customers can purchase a digital outfit from the website and place the outfit on any given photograph of themselves. Although specifically targeted at influencers, with advancements in wearable technology DRESSX believes this could be a universal solution for the future of the apparel industry.  

 

8_ Vitamix FoodCycler  

The Vitamix FoodCycler is the food recycler for every kitchen. Complete with a carbon filter lid that eliminates odours, the bin can be filled with everything from meat bones to vegetable peel after every meal. After the press of a button, the FoodCycler breaks down the food waste to create a fertiliser that can be distributed over your garden soil. Worried about space? The Vitamix FoodCycler just requires a power outlet and one cubic meter of space. 

tech products
Courtesy of Exky®

9_ Exky Smart Indoor Garden  

Recent lockdowns have had city dwellers pining over their own private garden. The EXKY Smart indoor garden invites you to grow herbs and vegetables all year round. The garden’s LED GROW LIGHT allows plants to grow three times faster than in a standard garden. Going on holiday? The EXKY garden has an integrated watering system that can last up to three weeks.  

10_ Kindle Paperwhite  

COP26 last year lay great focus on issues of deforestation, could this range of “booky” tech products be the answer? Kindle – the leading e-book developed by Amazon – provide a sustainable solution for those invested in the protection of our forests. Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite boasts a waterproof design, integrated audiobook technology and, when used for an hour a day, has a battery that can last up to 3 weeks.  


– By Eliza Edwards