Blockchain, cryptocurrency and non-fungible tokens … oh my! We know that cryptocurrency is not a new phenomenon. However, research regarding the relationship between cryptocurrency and indoor air quality is relatively new. You may or may not be surprised by the fact that cryptocurrency has a negative effect on the environment and, thus, indoor air quality. Let’s take a look at the various ways in which cryptocurrency impacts the environment and how indoor air quality is involved.
What Is Cryptocurrency and How Does It Work?
Cryptocurrency is a digital currency, meaning it only exists electronically. Governments and banks have no control over cryptocurrency. Currently, there are more than 5,000 types of cryptocurrency in circulation. Two of the most popular cryptocurrencies are Bitcoin and Ethereum. Cryptocurrency buys goods and services. You can also invest in crypto, as you would the stock market.
Is Crypto Bad for the Environment?
Cryptocurrency mining negatively affects water and energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and e-waste.
Bitcoin’s energy consumption increased 62-fold between 2015 and 2021. However, only 39% of this energy came from renewable sources. One of those sources was hydropower, which is extremely harmful to wildlife. (We’ll discuss this in detail later.)
Bitcoin uses approximately 121.36 terawatt-hours per year. Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft combined cannot rival this figure. And, the average Bitcoin transaction uses more than 1,700-kilowatt-hours. That is nearly double the monthly amount used by the average American household.
This level of consumption is unfortunate as it exceeds the amount of wealth stored in Bitcoin. In 2020, Bitcoin accounted for 0.61% of global energy consumption and just 0.4% of global wealth. These figures are staggeringly uneven.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
There are a number of studies that warn of Bitcoin’s power consumption. According to a 2018 study, Bitcoin’s carbon dioxide emissions could push global warming above 2 degrees Celsius or 35.6 degrees Fahrenheit. A 2019 study estimated that Bitcoin’s annual carbon dioxide emissions range from 22 to 22.9 million metric tons. To put these figures in perspective, Bitcoin’s carbon dioxide emissions rival that of Kansas City, Missouri. In fact, these figures fall between that of Jordan and Sri Lanka. And, a 2021 study predicted that China could generate 130 million metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2024 … on its own. These are just three studies among many that exemplify the hazardous nature of cryptocurrency.
The power plants that enable Bitcoin mining consume copious amounts of water. As an example, the Greenidge Generation power plant in Dresden, New York consumes up to 139 million gallons of water from Seneca Lake every day. This water cools the power plant. Then, it’s returned to the lake 30 to 50 degrees warmer than the lake’s average temperature. Warm water can’t be that harmful, right? Wrong. The wildlife that lives in and around the lake is not used to these temperatures. Furthermore, when the power plant removes water from the lake, it does so using large pipes that capture and kill wildlife.
In order to be the most competitive Bitcoin miner, you need the best computer in town. Unfortunately, these computers become outdated roughly a year and a half after purchase. Since they cannot be reprogrammed, miners purchase new computers every so often to keep up with other miners. Their forgotten computers lay in an ever-growing pile of e-waste. Bitcoin produces approximately 11.5 kilotons of e-waste each year. While this is a significant issue on its own, it’s even more significant considering the already monstrous global e-waste issue.
Cryptocurrency and Indoor Air Quality
So, what does this mean for indoor air quality? Nothing good. As you know, when outdoor air quality is poor, indoor air quality is sure to be poor as well. With unprecedented carbon dioxide emissions, energy and water consumption and e-waste, outdoor air quality is deteriorating quickly.
When highly polluted outdoor air finds its way indoors, it has the potential to overwhelm unprepared homeowners. Moreover, it has the potential to cause adverse health effects. In order to stay ahead of air pollution, keep the following indoor air quality solutions in mind.
Ensure that your air filter is clean and has a MERV 13 rating or higher. This will prevent a majority of airborne particles from circulating throughout your home.
Save natural ventilation (open windows and doors) for days with a good Air Quality Index report. In the meantime, consider mechanical ventilation devices such as energy recovery ventilators and heat recovery ventilators. They provide filtered fresh air while removing stale dirty air. And, they save energy!
Air Quality Monitor
An indoor air quality monitor has many uses. It monitors the temperature, humidity and air pressure. It detects air pollutants and alerts when their concentration is elevated. And, it notifies you when it’s time to change your air filter.
Active Air Purifier
A whole-home active air purifier is an incredible solution to indoor air pollution. Active models using bipolar ionization technology emit positive and negative ions which encourage airborne particles to bind together. Once bonded, these particles become larger and heavier making them easier to capture.
A New Generation of Cryptocurrency
In 2009, who would’ve known that a single Bitcoin could cause so much damage in 2022? Probably not most people. Unfortunately, cryptocurrency and indoor air quality do not mix. If Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies continue at their current rate, it is very likely that we will have to choose between them and the environment. Fortunately, there are initiatives, such as the Crypto Climate Accord, that seek renewable energy sources with the goal of achieving net-zero. It looks like a new generation of cryptocurrency has arrived just in time.