In a time when non-fungible tokens (NFTs) face scrutiny for their environmental waste, 14 year-old Abigail is using them for conservation.
Her project, named “Belugies,” is a collection of 8,000 cartoon beluga whale NFTs created on the Solana blockchain. Abigail made the artwork for the project by hand, with plans to donate a portion of the profits to beluga conservation efforts and a children’s hospital program.
The high school freshman says she first learned about cryptocurrency on bike rides with her older brother Adam when she was nine years old. Adam, a 25 year-old who’s been heavily into crypto since 2016, said he and his fiancé Briana helped with the tech.
“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.’”
Within 10 hours of the project’s Oct. 17 launch, all 8,000 NFTs had been minted, earning the siblings over $1 million in SOL tokens.
WE DID IT!!!! pic.twitter.com/QWEcRJnzaw
— Belugies | SOLD OUT (@belugiesNFT) October 17, 2021
Abigail is also set to receive 5% of all future Belugie sales. The current floor price for a Belugie on the resale market is .32 SOL, and the project’s total trade volume has exceeded 7159 SOL, or $1,409,700, at press time.
The inspiration for the artwork came from Abigail’s childhood adoration of beluga whales; she first saw them at a Georgia aquarium where she grew up.
With the global beluga population in decline – Alaska’s Cook Inlet subpopulation has crashed 75% since 2008 and now hovers around 280 – she said she wants to raise awareness for the species’ endangerment, as well as some cash.
She’s donated $100,000 of the belugies NFT proceeds to beluga conservation efforts. Half went to the Beluga Whale Alliance, an Alaskan-based group that advocates for and studies the Cook Inlet pod, and the Ocean Defenders Alliance, who remove fishing nets and plastic that threaten underwater habitats.
After getting word of the donation, Beluga Whale Alliance flew-out Abigail, Adam and Briana to see the belugas in-person in their natural habitat.
The project’s emphasis on conservation contrasts popular criticisms of the NFT industry, which uses high volumes of electricity to power its transactions.
Ethereum, home to the majority of NFT projects, uses an energy inefficient proof-of-work consensus mechanism. While some blockchains including Solana use less power-hungry methods such as proof-of-stake, the overall impact NFTs have on the environment remains harmful.
Abigail credits much of the project’s success to the belugas themselves for being so “wholesome and adorable,” which she attempted to convey in her artwork.
She’s also made a $100,000 donation to Sunshine Kids, an organization that supports children’s hospital programs across the country. Abigail cited personal connections to her local children’s hospital as the reason for the donation.