At a time when non-fungible tokens are being scrutinised for potential environmental damage, 14-year-old Abigail is using NFTs for conservation.
“Belugies,” her project, is a collection of 8,000 cartoon beluga whale NFTs made on the Solana blockchain. Abigail created the project’s artwork by hand, with intentions to contribute a share of the proceeds to beluga conservation efforts and a children’s hospital programme.
The high school student claims she first heard about cryptocurrencies when she was nine years old, while riding her bike with her older brother Adam. Adam, now 25 years old and highly involved in cryptocurrency since 2016, stated he and his fiancee Briana assisted with the technology.
“When we started, we didn’t really think it would work out,” Adam, who declined to provide his last name, told CoinDesk. “I told my sister, ‘Hey, if it doesn’t work at least we tried, at least we had fun. That’s all that matters.’”
All 8,000 NFTs were produced within 10 hours of the project’s Oct. 17 debut, earning the siblings approximately $1 million in SOL tokens.
Abigail will also receive 5% of all future Belugie sales. The current resale floor price for a Belugie is 0.32 SOL, and the project’s total trading volume has surpassed 7159 SOL, or $1,409,700, as of press time.
The artwork was inspired by Abigail’s early fascination with beluga whales, which she witnessed in a Georgia aquarium near where she grew up.
With the global beluga whale population in danger – Alaska’s Cook Inlet subpopulation has dropped by 75% since 2008 and now numbers about 280 – she said she wants to raise both awareness and funds.
She has contributed $100,000 of the revenues from the Belugies NFT to beluga conservation efforts. Half of the funds were donated to the Beluga Whale Alliance, an Alaska-based organisation that campaigns for and researches the Cook Inlet pod. The other half was donated to the Ocean Defenders Alliance, which works to remove fishing nets and garbage from the oceans.
Beluga Whale Alliance flew Abigail, Adam, and Briana out to Alaska after learning of the contribution to see the belugas up and personal in their natural environment.
The project’s emphasis on conservation stands in stark contrast to widespread complaints of the NFT business, which relies heavily on electricity to power its transactions.
Ethereum, which hosts the vast majority of NFT projects, currently has an inefficient proof-of-work consensus mechanism. (When Ethereum 2.0 is upgraded, it will transition to a proof-of-stake method.) While certain blockchains, such as Solana, use more efficient proof-of-stake, the overall impact of NFTs on the environment remains negative.
Abigail attributes much of the project’s popularity to the belugas’ “wholesome and lovely” nature, which she strove to express in her artwork.
She also gave $100,000 to Sunshine Kids, an organisation that helps children’s hospital programmes around the country. Abigail’s donation was motivated by a personal connection to her local children’s hospital.