Lisa Wade, CEO of DigitalX, one of Australia’s leading blockchain technology and investment firms, chats with Stockhead about carbon-offsetting koala NFTs.
Makes a change from FTX-fallout news, right? Well, we did get into that, too, along with some of Wade’s thoughts about NFTs and crypto more broadly.
Hi Lisa. Shall we start with some background on the DigitalX Koala Impact NFTs?
Sure thing. As you know, a really brilliant use case for blockchain technology is non-fungible tokens. And a really great way to use them is by creating carbon NFTs. We do quite a lot of work related to the carbon markets, and I have some prior history with that, having co-created Project Carbon during my time with the National Australia Bank.
But for this project, DigitalX has partnered with an organisation called Meta Carbon, which is based in New York and partially owned by Animoca Brands [an influential NFT, gaming and metaverse-focused firm]. We’ve collaborated to create Carbon Koala NFTs, which have a dual purpose.
Essentially, it’s one of the first NFT projects to have both social and environmental impact, which is right in Meta Carbon’s wheelhouse.
Can you please nutshell those two use cases for us?
The social impact part of it comes in the form of a donation to the Koala Sanctuary [Hospital?] in Port Macquarie, and the environmental impact comes via buying and retiring half a tonne of carbon per NFT. The NFTs cost $25 USD each, with the two causes receiving a split.
We divert the funds through the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, and Meta Carbon facilitates that donation.
Are these NFTs aimed at companies or retail investors?
Corporates. We’re not flogging the NFTs in a retail sense. I think it’s just a perfect use case for firms who’d like to champion good corporate behaviour. We see it as a really unique way to execute something meaningful.
There’s a very famous quote by Lou Holtz: “When all is said and done, more is said than done.” There’s so much talk out there and this is our way of acting.
Our personal aim with them is to use the Carbon Koala NFT to raise global awareness for the plight of koalas and to offset our emissions for any functions or events that we attend.
Can the NFTs also be considered to have investible value as a collectible?
Think of them more like a collectible that’s doing some good in the world rather than an investable asset. But as you know, the value of collectibles works in mysterious ways. Maybe everyone wants a Carbon Koala in five years, and there’s only a limited number of these.
Regarding the koala aspect – is that something you have personal interest in?
Absolutely. The plight of the koala is an issue that’s very close to my heart, and for Liz, our head of marketing. I’m a passionate environmentalist and have a sustainable finance background and am on the advisory for Meta Carbon and have been helping them since its inception.
They have an endangered species series of NFTs called “Carbon Creatures”, and so we asked specifically for an Australian one. The koala really resonated, being famous globally, and also the recent bushfires in Australia devesdtating the population
While it is one of the Carbon Creatures (which have a general public focus), ours is a little different as mentioned, as it’s pitched at corporates – with us sponsoring them and taking responsibility.
‘I’d like to see more people using cold-storage wallets’
What else is it about NFTs that makes you believe they have good use-case power?
I actually think they’re very simply a great use case for people to get to know how to use crypto and to learn how to use wallets, and I think that’s important for this space.
What happened in the markets with FTX appearing to have misappropriated investor funds, I’m on a little bit of a personal mission to really have people understand the dangers of, and needing to read the fine print of, how some of the exchanges are operating.
And I would like to see more people using cold-storage wallets [self custody, off exchanges] and understanding how to do that, and I think that starting to invest in NFTs, and learning how cold storage works – that side of things will be very beneficial for people coming into crypto.
What’s your feeling about exchanges? We speak often with some that have great reputations here in Australia.
There are some very good ones out there. So if people aren’t prepared to use cold-wallet storage then, I’d just suggest do the research, make sure the exchange is not co-mingling your funds, make sure they’re not over leveraged, make sure there are assurances.
‘Blockchain did not blow up this week’
Got any further takes on the FTX fiasco while we’re on the subject of exchanges?
FTX was a centralised platform that sells decentralised financial instruments. Blockchain did not blow up this week. An exchange, a business that’s only three years old went under. And businesses that are only three years old go under every single day.
Entrepreneurs make mistakes all the time, young men who have very successful businesses make mistakes all of the time, as do young women. And that’s what we saw this week.
We saw a guy who overextended himself and believed his own hype. But that said, I think it’ll go down in history… that level of personal wealth destruction, in less than a day? I’ve never seen anything like it, on top of the level of fraud he’s been accused of.
‘There’s a lot of environmental awareness in the industry’
NFTs, like much of crypto, have an unfortunate reputation for being bad for the environment – at least that’s the perception from plenty of people outside the crypto sphere. Unfair?
Now that Ethereum is 99.995% more energy efficient since The Merge, it’s kind of a moot point. Most of the blockchains that mint NFTs are now Proof of Stake. And we mint our koala NFTs on Polygon, which is certainly regarded as one of the most energy-efficient networks.
Ethereum’s blown a lot of that carbon footprint argument out of the water now, really. It’s a good turn for the industry that you can do these sorts of things without concern for the environment.
Should the crypto industry do more to address climate change?
I actually think there’s a lot of environmental awareness in the industry. But what I find is, in my experience in responsible investment, is that there are always going to be people that just don’t care.
And they operate across any industry. Look at mining – there are responsible miners, there are people that will go out of their way to greenwash. And then there are people who really don’t care.
And you’re going to get that in any industry. I think that those of us who can be responsible should be responsible. But I would of course love it if the whole world in general, across every sector, would be more environmentally conscious.
‘Ethereum is the greenest financial rail ever created’
Do you regard the crypto industry as being a force for potential environmental good?
Here’s the thing. I see Ethereum as the greenest financial rail ever created. And that’s why we stake ETH – because I believe that we kind of get a chance to have a do-over.
Nobody’s ever measured the carbon emissions of an ATM or credit card – all of the traditional payments rails transporting money. And we have this great opportunity now to reset and reboot and, make the foundations of the lives that we’re living detached from carbon emissions and damaging the environment.
We can have economic growth that is linked to lesser emissions and positive social outcomes. And I think that that is why I’m so passionate about crypto, because crypto can build that.
Agreed and well said!
We just need the time and the space to do it. I’m certainly willing to do the work, as is DigitalX and lots of people I know in the space.
There’s so much happening in the crypto space that’s for the environment. And I think there is actually an opportunity for crypto to lead the way.
Because money is the oxygen that funds all of the good and all of the bad, and guess what – crypto is at its essence about money. And so we have this opportunity to really play a role.
Despite all its flaws in its infancy, I truly love the space and I see it as the greatest opportunity for us to really facilitate and fast track the transition to what we call a low-carbon economy, which I now just say ‘Web3 economy’. And that’s because I think it’s the financial rail of the future.
This article was developed in collaboration with DigitalX, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.
This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.