With Virtual Fashion on the rise, is there such a thing as Digital Sustainability?
In current times, Virtual fashion is fast becoming the new buzz. Fashion brands from all over the world are experimenting with different digital ventures in an attempt to be bigger and better. Bids ranging from a few hundred to millions of dollars are being made on fashion items and accessories every single day.
These luxury brands are eyeing NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) as the next big thing. What any brand is currently seeking is to establish online ownership and insufficiency for their goods. This is what NFTs promise. So it comes with no surprise that enterprises are trying to be part of the magic that these non-fungible assets deliver. But the NFT craze, no matter how illustrious is not without its many challenges.
How bad is it?
Stats show that a single Ethereum transaction consumes 35 kWh which is about equal to the energy consumption of one resident of the EU, for four days. With more complex smart contract transactions, the value doubles. A single NFT goes through a wide array of transaction which can involve bidding, selling, and transferring. Bearing this in mind, an average NFT power consumption falls around 340 kWh which emits 200 kilos of CO2. Now that’s massive!
In this scenario, one wonders that if the consumers are aware of the stakes, how are they still going ahead with everything?
The Carbon Footprint Problem
Critics are pointing out the wide-scale environmental deterioration that is happening right now. To scale, every year the computers used to authenticate transactions on Ethereum are using massive energy. It is as much as the whole country of Libya. The need for energy to mint them is quite high and as a result, is taking a huge toll on the environment. Amid the crisis, there are pro-planet miners as well as artists who are reprimanding this side of the NFTs. They are also raising their voices against the wide-scale impact. Many are joining hands using the #cleannft banner and boycotting specific marketplaces. Ones that are not addressing this issue.
Ethereum blockchain is the primary platform where the major buying and selling of NFTs is taking place. This means a need and utility of thousands of computers and a massive amount of power to confirm these transactions. While the platform has recently vowed to lower this impact, with the current pace there still will be wide-scale damage to the environment. It’s because the energy needed to sustain the broader crypto market is still high.
So the luxury department remains in a bit of a pickle. The pandemic situation only added to the looming problem. There is a sudden shift of focus towards the impact on the environment. Leading the businesses to consider this aspect and make it a priority.
Even then digital ventures are not eco-friendly no matter what they claim and blockchain is proving this. For every virtual transaction, tons of backloading makes it work, no matter how small. It is what is contributing to their energy requirements, day in and day out.
In these times, how can brands keep up digitally and stay true to their CSR commitment? The answer is digital sustainability.
Digital sustainability as described by Kelly Vero, the chief creative officer at AR company Dazlus AG. Quote:
“The balance of utilizing digital transformation in meaningful ways. That don’t contribute to the overarching carbon footprint.”
What he means to say is that no matter how much you’re expanding virtually, keep a check on your carbon footprint. So that it does not run all over the place. Sustainability is the name of the game in the twenty-first century and if the fashion industry wants to keep up, it better listen closely.
In Lao Tzu’s words, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Luxury needs to adapt to the change and take tangible steps to match up to their green claims. This is how they can do it:
Construct from digital patterns
Many fashion brands are becoming a part of the virtual fashion trend. They are pushing their creative margins and employing new aspects, to expand and touch new horizons. There is no doubt that digital clothing presents a better and greener option than traditional clothing. Dress-X, a multi-brand seller discovered that the production of one digital item emits 97% less carbon. As compared to a traditional piece of clothing. This saves 3300 liters of water per day!
Brands are also considering creating products from the use of present templates that exist on 3D design platforms. Because most of these clothes come in the same silhouette. Getting a new template out for every other product is a waste. Customization to change the general look and to make it adapt to the brand can save tons of energy, time, and effort.
Use seasonal events to your advantage
Every brand’s worst nightmare is to hear, “that’s so last year!” and this fear to remain at the top is what is driving them to drop the next hottest look all the time. As a consequence, the last year’s look lays there forgotten and draining power.
So to avoid this dilemma why not take the example of China into perspective which is using large seasonal events to its advantage. Forget about month-long periods and instead opt for these seasons where you will be able to sell almost everything. This can be viable in sustainable terms.
By selling on peak times like holidays brands can coax the shoppers. They can do with the attraction of getting a novel and exciting thing out there and that too in a short time frame. This change backs many top fashion giants like Gucci who will only show two times a year. It also seeks to lower the number of clothes that they chuck out and provide the designers more time to grow!
Let Blockchain deal with secondhand resale-ing
While blockchains have bad standing with the environmental impact, their use can be for the better. Such as the use of an energy-efficient chain of Ethereum, known as L2. Made by the French for the creation of digital passports for physical goods. It is said that these passports are much more than mere certificates of authenticity. They aid clients to insure their expensive products, track upkeeps, and access brand features. They are also great for sustainability.
You can use L2 for reselling purposes once you’ve had your fun with the product. They work better and are a trustworthy option. The brand Ba&sh is one such example and it uses the resale platform to prolong the life of its fashion pieces. It allows the buyers to buy and resell their old Ba&sh garments with ease. Authentication and display of each one of the clothing articles are the way they are doing it.
Apart from these, there can be tons of other benefits with the use of blockchains too. Blockchains can offer transparency reports to the potential consumer. It can be about the production of the garment and many other things. It can also tell if there were ethical practices involved in its making. By the display labor certifications, and tell where the material came from.
Leave a respectable digital heritage
These steps will play a role in dealing with some of the problems. But the impact will only be subtle compared to the bigger issue. Production of raw materials remains one of the larger concerns and it is the menace that the planet is dealing with. Apart from overcoming this brands need to make reselling and recycling easier for their products. The ultimate aim being, empty landfills!
The good news is, with many awareness programs and the drive to keep up, many brands have started to tackle these problems. They are innovating their fabrics and investing in conservation funds. The development of a secondhand market is also something they are considering. But they need to keep sustainability in perspective with all their efforts and endeavours. They should use these digital tools to lower their carbon footprint but at the same time keep assessing their virtual activities. The little efforts will pave the way to a greener and better future.
Utilizing Proof of Stake
The sustainability narrative has bought new competitors into view. New NFT markets are rising every day. Ones that come with a proof of stake consensus with negligible environmental impact and low transaction costs. The push to be eco-friendlier comes from artists who are resolute to protect the future and are mindful of their actions. So the marketplaces that depend on these aware creators to mint will follow pursuit.
The Way Ahead…
The narrative does not recognize a wholesale argument about NFTs. It all comes down to making the right choices to lower the carbon footprint. Thus the solution to this shift depends on the drive and motivation to make clean NFTs that will provide a cleaner and greener future to all!
Despite the many repercussions that the NFT projects have received, there has been some genuine response. This comes as NFT developers have started making plans to move to less energy-reliant platforms. For us at Orica the Binance smart chain remains the answer.