Cryptocurrencies and their negative impacts on the environment


Hunter Berube

Suffolk Climate Watch graphic

Cryptocurrencies have been rising in popularity recently, and climate experts advise that these online currencies can have negative environmental effects. 

According to Columbia Climate School, the mining of Bitcoin uses more terawatt hours per year than all of Argentina or Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook combined. One Bitcoin transaction burns approximately 2,292.5 kilowatt hours of electricity, which can power the average American household for more than 78 days, according to PC Magazine. 

“I think cryptocurrencies are an interesting topic of conversation, in the aspect that it’s been able to take the world by storm in the last few years,” said Diana Gastelum, president of the Suffolk Environmental Club. “However, I also believe that with its growth there have been negative effects on the environment.”

Non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, are commonly bought and sold in marketplaces using the cryptocurrency Ethereum, according to The Verge. Memo Atken, a digital creator, found that an average NFT has a carbon footprint of over one month’s worth of energy for an EU household, according to The Verge. 

“From my own perception, mining cryptocurrencies is not only leaving a large carbon footprint but also the transaction of crypto consumes high levels of energy and also results in producing high levels of energy waste, oftentimes driving the cost of electricity up as well as emissions,” Gastelum said.

The question is: Is there a way to make the cryptocurrency industry sustainable? 

“These are intermittent energy supply choices — hydro, solar and wind, which are all great, which we will be sourcing for our mining capacity,” Paul Prager, chief executive and founder of the Bitcoin mining company Terawulf, told the New York Times

Another more sustainable cryptocurrency option, called Nano, takes the mining out of cryptocurrency, making the currency low-energy, according to CoinDesk.

“As far as I’m aware, there are environmentally friendly options within a cryptocurrency that are known to have less energy consumption or do not utilize mining. One example I think of is Nano, which was popular at some point last year,” Gastelum said.