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The metaverse is poised to change the way we interact and conduct business, with the potential to influence every aspect of the enterprise and the consumer experience.
However, this will have consequences for our physical environment. There is no doubt that the current commerce models emerging in the metaverse are hazardous to our planet.
Currently, a single Ethereum transaction uses 60% more energy than 100,000 credit card transactions, while a single Bitcoin transaction uses 14 times more energy. The average NFT transaction emits 48 kilograms (105 pounds) of CO2, the equivalent of 18 liters (4.75 gallons) of diesel. Despite this, solutions to the real-world climate crisis may be found in a virtual one.
A Critical Balance for Metaverse Sustainability
The metaverse holds the promise of significant reductions in carbon emissions, whether through the replacement of physical goods with digital ones, the replacement of real-world presence with virtual interactions, or digital twins that will aid in the optimization of the physical world — from the planet to individual humans. The immersive nature of metaverse experiences may also aid in breaking down behavioral barriers to climate action.
Furthermore, we must not lose sight of the importance of social sustainability in making the metaverse accessible, inclusive, and equitable.
Better climate and social outcomes must be front and center during planning efforts as business leaders invest, develop new customer strategies, and transform to pursue the potential of the metaverse. To bridge the gap between the costs and benefits of using the metaverse, we must take a broader perspective.
As adoption grows, it will become more difficult to implement changes that will make metaverse commerce sustainable. Whether intervention by regulators, investors, consumers, stakeholders, or other business leaders is required, time is of the essence before exponential growth makes it much more difficult.
Using Atoms Instead of Voxels
The immersive nature of the metaverse provides alternatives to resource-intensive physical goods, which could drive consumer demand and thus benefit sustainability.
Customers may be able to shift their budgets for certain products to more sustainable virtual options that require fewer resources to create and contribute less waste. This could be a game changer for waste-heavy industries like fast fashion, which contribute to overproduction and overconsumption.
One of the most promising metaverse benefits could be found in business travel. Air travel accounted for 2.5% of global emissions prior to the pandemic. However, people quickly discovered that they could hold meetings virtually. In the future, business meetings could be held in the metaverse, recapturing some of the benefits of in-person meetings while reducing emissions from discretionary air travel.
The ability to leverage technology to better identify and implement carbon reduction plans will be perhaps the most significant benefit of the metaverse for sustainability. By examining the physical world through the lens of a virtual world, digital twins can help us optimize it.
According to a recent study, a digital twin can reduce a building’s carbon footprint by 50%. It is possible to use digital twin technology to integrate a large set of data sources to make predictions on factors such as air pollution and carbon emissions, and then identify actions to address these challenges.
Remove Psychological Impediments to Climate Action
Surprisingly, one of the most significant barriers to addressing climate change is behavioral. According to a 2019 study of 2 billion social media posts, we quickly normalize climate conditions, making them easier to ignore: a distant problem for another day. We simply have a short-term memory, and it is difficult for us to comprehend the long-term consequences of our inaction on climate change. However, this mindset is harmful to our future.
A variety of experiments involving virtual reality (VR), climate change, and other sustainability issues have revealed that immersive experiences result in better learning outcomes, more personalized impact, and higher emotional engagement. Allowing consumers to immerse themselves in a product’s sustainability journey and attributes may result in preference, purchase, and loyalty for brands.
To Instill Sustainability in the Metaverse, Focus New Virtual Worlds on Human Well-Being
We must not limit our attention at this time to how to incorporate environmental sustainability into the metaverse. Many stakeholders have the opportunity to design the metaverse from the beginning for social inclusion and equity. Intention and broad and diverse collaborations among businesses, regulators, investors, academia, and civil society organizations will be required.
Collaboration between technology companies and a diverse range of potential users is also required to understand what they truly need and want from technology. This can help to make the metaverse more accessible and affordable, as well as allow for more equitable access to it.
For example, education is a domain where these strands of technology and stakeholder collaboration could come together to create inclusion and equity, as well as help close income gaps. Consider the possibilities of a metaverse university that provides young people with the power of immersive experiences and virtual collaboration, regardless of income or location.
There are numerous possible futures for the metaverse, and we have the agency and solutions to design one that is focused on environmental sustainability in the physical world and human flourishing in the virtual ones. Now is the time for businesses to take the lead in this critical moment by leveraging metaverse innovation while also convening power and investment.
This will ensure that our physical world’s unsustainable practices are not simply replicated or exacerbated in virtual worlds.
Disclaimer: The opinion expressed here is not investment advice – it is provided for informational purposes only. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of EGG Finance. Every investment and all trading involves risk, so you should always perform your own research prior to making decisions. We do not recommend investing money you cannot afford to lose.