Overcoming Cryptocurrency's Biggest Hurdle - Can Crypto Be "Green"?
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Cryptocurrencies have been around for less than 10 years, and in that short time they have experienced a meteoric rise in popularity. This is due in part to the many benefits they offer over traditional currencies, including enhanced security, anonymity, and independence from government control. However, one of the biggest criticisms of cryptocurrencies is their environmental impact. Can this new form of currency be “green” or do its benefits come at an unavoidable cost? Let’s take a closer look.

Is Cryptocurrency Actually Bad For The Environment?

There is no denying that cryptocurrency mining uses a lot of energy, but it comes as a huge surprise, even to crypto enthusiasts, that a single Bitcoin transaction can use as much electricity as an entire household does in a day. The network as a whole consumes more power than some countries, famously being compared to the entire country of Ireland’s energy consumption. One study found that “a single transaction over the Bitcoin network consumes more energy than a trans-Atlantic flight.” News headlines such as these have led many to believe that cryptocurrencies are bad for the environment.

However, it’s important to remember that all forms of currency have an environmental impact. The U.S. dollar, for example, is responsible for 0.2% of global carbon emissions due to the production of paper and coinage. Even digital dollars require energy to create, as do euros, yen, and other traditional currencies. So the question is not whether cryptocurrency is bad for the environment, but whether its impact is worse than that of other forms of currency.

When it comes to energy consumption, cryptocurrency is actually not as bad as you might think. A study by the University of Cambridge found that, while Bitcoin does use more energy than traditional payment systems, it is still relatively efficient.  The study found that “the global banking system uses at least 100 times more electricity than the Bitcoin network.” This is due to the fact that traditional payment systems require a lot of energy-intensive infrastructure, such as data centers, ATMs, and physical bank branches, that bitcoin is able to function without. It’s a bit counterintuitive, but while cryptocurrency may use more energy than traditional payment systems on a per-transaction basis, it is actually much more efficient overall.

It’s also important to remember that the energy used for cryptocurrency mining is not wasted. In fact, in some parts of the world, bitcoin miners use their electronics to heat their homes. Likewise, not all energy is of equal value and scarcity. In China, for example, many Bitcoin mines are powered by hydroelectric dams, which provide cheap and clean energy. In contrast, the U.S. dollar is mostly powered by coal, which is a dirty and increasingly scarce resource. So the overall impact is difficult to measure since it varies greatly by location and circumstance.

What Steps Are Being Taken To Make Crypto More Sustainable?

There are also some ways to make cryptocurrency more environmentally friendly. One way is to use renewable energy to power the mining process. This is already being done by some miners, who use solar, wind, or hydropower to offset their energy usage. Another way is to use more efficient mining hardware. This is an area of active research and development, and there are already a number of companies working on this problem. One company, BitFury, has developed a bitcoin mining chip that is four times more efficient than the current standard.

There are also a number of proposed solutions to the energy problem that would make cryptocurrency much more sustainable in the long term. One such solution is called “proof-of-stake,” which would greatly reduce the amount of energy needed to mine Bitcoin by changing the way new coins are created. Currently, new bitcoins are created through a process called “mining,” which requires computers to solve complex mathematical problems. This process uses a lot of energy since it is essentially equivalent to running a large number of power-hungry computers 24/7.

Under proof-of-stake, new bitcoins would be created in proportion to the amount of Bitcoin that a miner already owns. This would reduce the incentive for miners to amass large amounts of computing power since they would not be able to reap the rewards as quickly. This would also make it much easier for individual users to “mine” Bitcoin on their own computers, without the need for expensive mining hardware.

Overall, it’s important to remember that cryptocurrency is still in its early stages and there is a lot of room for improvement. While it is true that cryptocurrency has a large carbon footprint, it is also true that traditional payment systems are even worse. With some improvements, cryptocurrency can be a much more sustainable way to transact in the future.

Green-Friendly Cryptocurrency Investments

Learning about the environmental impact of crypto may have you feeling a little down about the future of digital assets. Have no fear, though! While cryptocurrency does require energy to be mined and utilized, there are actually a number of “green-friendly” cryptocurrencies that are working to make a difference. 

Ethereum Switches To Proof Of Stake

As of 2022, the Ethereum network has switched from proof-of-work (mining) to proof-of-stake, which is a more sustainable way of validating transactions. Under proof-of-stake, miners are not rewarded for their computing power; instead, they are chosen randomly to validate blocks of transactions. This eliminates the need for expensive mining hardware and should greatly reduce the amount of energy needed to run the Ethereum network. Only time will tell the impact of this change on cryptocurrencies’ power consumption and the cryptocurrency landscape as a whole.

Carbon Offset Programs

Cryptocurrencies and other businesses who want to do their part to offset their carbon emissions can do so through carbon offset programs. These programs allow businesses to purchase offsets, which are essentially credits that can be used to cancel out the emissions produced by said business. There are a number of different carbon offset programs available, and it’s up to each business to choose the program that best suits its needs.

By offsetting their carbon emissions, businesses can help reduce the environmental impact of their operations without having to make major changes to their infrastructure. This is a great way for businesses to “go green” without incurring a large upfront cost. One such company is My Digital Money, a platform that allows investors to invest in a “Cryptocurrency IRA”.  They have a green-friendly portfolio that includes carbon offset credits, which are meant to make cryptocurrency an option for those who are only interested in sustainable and eco-friendly investments.

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to forget it, but the cryptocurrency industry is still in its early stages, and there is a lot of room for improvement in terms of sustainability. However, there are already a number of initiatives underway to make cryptocurrency more environmentally friendly, and some entirely viable green options are already available. With some time and effort, it is possible that cryptocurrency could one day be the most sustainable way to transact.

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