Can you fix the climate crisis on a blockchain? Not really, but you can try

A team of carbon experts and blockchain enthusiasts believe they are on their way to make the crypto industry sustainable.

Before you read an article on a crypto environmental project, which you’re about to do, know this: there are two sides to the coin of sustainability issues in crypto.

The fact that some of the most popular cryptocurrencies consume enormous amounts of energy is a bit of a bummer considering the crypto community’s goal is to go mainstream. The climate-related issues are a counternarrative that can’t be ignored.

On the other hand, the crypto sustainability problem could be regarded as an opportunity, because it attracts a wider debate, pulling in new voices and raising stakes. The more people hear about crypto being unsustainable, the more they learn about crypto in a broader sense, potentially joining and diversifying the movement. In other words, environmental issues have crypto edge ever closer to mainstream, even though they can well bar it from getting there.

That dynamic pushes the crypto community in two directions, so to say. First, existing energy-intensive crypto projects are trying to lower their carbon footprint by moving to Proof-of-Stake validation (Ethereum, anyone?) or switching to renewable energy sources.

Second, the industry sees more and more environmentally-friendly crypto projects that aim to reverse the unsustainable trend. These projects seek to harness the blockchain technology to launch or actively support environmental initiatives, rather than simply reducing the negative impact of crypto.

SavePlanetEarth in a gazillion simple steps

SavePlanetEarth (SPE) is a good example of the latter. Started in April 2021, when Bitcoin was experiencing a dramatic surge in value and cryptocurrencies were awash with media attention, the project brought together clean energy advocates and carbon advisors who set out to create a hub for environmentally-conscious crypto initiatives.

It’s hardly a one-trick pony. SavePlanetEarth plans to create a marketplace where companies can spend SPE coins on carbon credits issued by SavePlanetEarth, with the option to enlist other certified third-party providers also on the table. Additionally, they’re minting an NFT collection, and buyers are eligible for airdrops, more staking APY%, and access to private sales on SPEPad, an environmentally-conscious DEX (decentralized exchange offering) launchpad that other eco-friendly crypto start-ups can use to jumpstart their projects.

Separately, they want to sequester carbon through afforestation and reforestation in Maldives, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. The first site is at the time of writing all ready for saplings, and the team expects to plant a minimum of 3m trees per year, plus 100k per year in Maldives due to land scarcity. Once the saplings are planted, they will start sequestering carbon, and SavePlanetEarth will bring on a team of experts to calculate the volume of carbon credits to be sold to investors. The revenues will be invested in further environmental projects. It’s supposed to be a sort of environmentally-friendly self-running machine.

Doesn’t it seem like a bit too much for one team? Considerable work must be put in both on the ground and online, not to mention the managerial and community building duties every crypto project must handle to encourage investors. On top of that, SavePlanetEarth claims to have spoken with public climate organizations and NGOs, seeking partnerships. It’s as if they’re trying to do all of crypto’s overdue environmental homework on their own.

Or call it monopolizing the niche.

Not impressed yet? There’s more. SavePlanetEarth is hoping to launch a carbon-negative native blockchain called SPE Chain (SPEC). Apart from handling the SPE carbon credit ecosystem, it will enable regular crypto users to transfer funds in an environmentally-friendly way, and transaction fees will fund projects on the ground.

If it sounds too good to be true, it might be. The whitepaper, astonishingly long and generously sprinkled with climate commonplaces, is full of big words such as that they plan to “neutralize the carbon emissions from blockchain technology completely”. Many of their ambitious goals, notably the SPE Chain, were at the time of writing little more than ideas. For now, SavePlanetEarth is not overly innovative when it comes to technology. They stick to tested solutions to raise funds and slowly grow their project.

So, can crypto go green?

SavePlanetEarth is facing an uphill battle, but it's hardly a lonely warrior. Other green crypto projects include SolarCoin, which offers blockchain rewards for solar energy producers, and OUD Token, which specializes in agarwood plantations. What sets these projects apart is a blend of online and offline work that allows them to create a two-fold community, both in the flesh and as avatars. It’s still crypto, but more grounded in the so-called real world. It will probably be denounced as greenwashing. But it's a start.

The climate crisis could prove to be crypto's ultimate test, one of the last challenges the industry will face on its way to mass adoption. If it’s the technology of the future, can it solve the biggest, most worrisome issue humankind is facing? Even if the answer is yes, planting trees might not be enough.