The Sustainability of New Worlds in The Metaverse
How to ensure the birth of new virtual realities help sustain our physical world
With each passing day, it becomes more obvious that the metaverse is going to change everything. Our trooVRS series already touched on the evolution of digital fashion, but this sea change won’t stop at style. One of the most interesting areas of development - and subject for controversy - is metaverse sustainability. From the projects aiming to unite humanity around a higher cause through Web3 technology, to the question of how the metaverse itself can become eco-friendly, trooVRS presents a primer on all things sustainable.
Can the metaverse make conscious consumerism truly feasible?
In our examination of metaverse style, the topic of fashion waste became a key talking point for many of the designers and entrepreneurs hoping to bring about a new age of digital fashion. Big names like Balenciaga and Dolce & Gabbana have begun hosting fashion shows in digital metaverses like Decentraland, while rising stars like Tribute Brand and RTFKT experiment with the creation of purely digital NFT fashion assets.
Proponents also point to the cutback in air travel as one point in favor of sustainability, with HackerNoon pointing out, “a 2020 research report on travel taken by designers and buyers when attending major fashion weeks, such as London, Milan, Paris, and New York generated 241,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. This number is equivalent to the Eiffel Tower being lit for 30,60 years or 51,000 cars on the road.”
Here’s an interesting thought experiment: what if trying on clothes was as easy as loading up your fully accurate digital avatar, and heading into your metaverse of choice to shop the latest and greatest brands - without leaving your home or ever having to send back clothes you no longer have any need for? Satiating consumers’ drive to shop could combat the rising level of unrecyclable textiles ending up in dumps around the world.
Blockchain technology can also enhance the accuracy and transparency of tracking resource offset programs. Many brands and companies make bold promises about their contribution to carbon offset or similar goals, yet it is difficult for consumers and investors alike to know if these promises are always being met. In the same way that blockchain verifies transactions, it can be utilized to track contributions. For example, the Ecosapiens project aims to gameify carbon offsets. Every user acquires an NFT avatar that will evolve and transform as they contribute more funding to offsets and carbon capture efforts, merging creative expression, consumerism, and sustainability.
Will metaverse travel and tourism change the way we explore the world?
Forget the fashion designers - plenty of people contribute to fuel usage across the world every day through travel and tourism. It’s easy to see how work travel can be reduced by the metaverse, as even work-from-home and video conferencing has proven that global business can thrive in such virtual settings. Some developers aren’t just stopping at work - they believe the metaverse could also function as your next vacation too. Instead of waiting for time off to accumulate, utilizing VR technology it may very well be possible to journey to Rome once you get home from your commute.
While high fidelity experiences are few and far between, the potential is emerging. The Globe and Mail reports that the high-end Emirates airline and the deal-chasing website Travelzoo are both experimenting with the creation of metaverse destination tours. Far more ambitious is the project known as “Metaverse Seoul.”
As reported by VentureBeat, the city government of Seoul has outlined a five-year plan to create a fusion of VR and what is known as digitally twinning to rebuild large portions of the city in an open-world metaverse. Their virtual tourism “allow[s] locals and international visitors to explore current attractions and historical recreations. Down the road, they are working on the infrastructure to support large festivals and museum exhibits.”
While virtual tourism will never fully replace the real thing, it could open our eyes to all that is hidden from us in everyday life. An EY whitepaper analysis posits that metaverse users receive higher levels of presence, immersion, and embodiment when learning information about climate change and other sustainability efforts. “[I]mmersive experiences yield better learning outcomes, more personalized impact and greater emotional engagement with the issue.” This could be a revolutionary achievement in empathy and global connection, transcending language, culture, and other limiting factors of normal travel experiences.
Uniting the old world with the new one
The metaverse is not a panacea for all of our troubles. Web3 presents its own drain on energy resources. We will need to keep our eye on inefficient usage of data centers, and innovate our way to more efficient crypto transactions & metaverse experiences.
Yet while there are many factors of Web3 that sustainable developers should raise an eyebrow at, the imminent popularity of these platforms cannot be denied. In some form or another, the metaverse is coming. Who controls it, how they do so, and to what ends? These questions remain unanswered, and it is vital to ensure that the metaverse ventures we support be ones that keep the future in mind. While a whole new world is about to be born, it still depends on the resources of our pale blue dot.
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