In a literal sense, sustainability is about creating a system of permanence. When determining if something is sustainable, you’re asking: is this project, product or service a replicable component of a system that can last forever? Sustainable cryptocurrencies do not exist within that framework.
But most things are not sustainable. In this period of growth centered around sustainable systems, it is more worthwhile to focus on what projects are building the future and how they are framing themselves to fit within the mold of a more sustainable future.
Here are 10 cryptocurrencies I think are trying to be more sustainable.
Dig deeper ➝ 5 min
#1. Cardano (ADA)
Current price: $2.27
52 week range: $0.10-$3.10
Market cap: $72.8B
Similar to Ethereum, Cardano is popular because it enables financial applications and decentralized apps (dapps). ADA’s value exploded in the last two years, starting as a fraction of a penny then jumping to three dollars.
Cardano is currently the third largest crypto by market cap.
As part of its value add, Cardano validates transactions with low-energy costs. According to its website, Cardano is able to securely, sustainably, and ethically scale, with up to four million times the energy efficiency of bitcoin using Ouroboros.
Ouroboros dubs itself as an environmentally sustainable, verifiably secure proof-of-stake protocol with rigorous security guarantees.
#2. Algorand (ALGO)
Current price: $1.97
52 week range: $0.22-$2.55
Market cap: $11.9B
Algorand supports smart contract functionality built on a proof-of-stake model, which has proven to be more sustainable than proof-of-work. According to its founder Silvio Micali, Algorand “can drive electricity consumption to almost zero… on a fundamental level.”
They partnered with CarbonTrade, a carbon offset company, to improve their footprint. As we learned a couple weeks ago, we should be wary of carbon offsets, but there is a clear roadmap for building sustainable cryptocurrencies through the use of proof-of-stake models.
Algorand differentiates itself from other cryptocurrencies by promising faster transaction speeds on an open-source, decentralized network.
#3. Solana (SOL)
Current price: $165.19
52 week range: $1.49-$214.96
Market cap: $49.6B
Solana is a Swiss project that launched in March 2020. Solana incorporates a hybrid consensus model with a combination of proof-of-work and proof-of-history. With Elon Musk’s recent tweet about the climate impact of Bitcoin, investors will flock to more efficient coins and tokens.
Proof-of-work is notoriously energy-inducive for miners, so enabling this hybrid model is a clear win for sustainability goals in crypto. While it’s already exploded with 1000+% growth, look for Solana to stay strong going forward.
#4. Ripple (XRP)
Current price: $1.07
52 week range: $0.17-$1.96
Market cap: $50.0B
The sixth-largest crypto, Ripple, is based on the XRP Ledger.
XRP is not based on blockchain, but rather an open-source distributed ledger database. The coin had obvious market appeal before facing serious regulatory issues. According to Financial News Herald, the token price is down more than 60% since Dec. 22 last year when the SEC filed its complaint against Ripple.
The coin is still worth mentioning. If Ripple is somehow able to Lamar Jackson-scramble out of this ‘you are a security not a currency’ blitz from the SEC, the coin has a promising future.
Last year, I wrote about Ripple’s sustainability.
- Unlike Bitcoin, Ripple (XRP) was built with a finite supply (100 billion) at its inception, making it easier to control mining activities and mitigate its environmental footprint.
- Compared to Bitcoin’s 4.51 billion lightbulb hours needed to mine it, a green crypto like the XRP Ledger uses just 79,000.
- A lot needs to happen to make do on that claim, but Ripple is the first crypto looking to go carbon net-zero, and they have a plan.
#5. Stellar (XLM)
Current price: $0.34
52 week range: $0.07-$0.80
Market cap: $8.1B
Stellar is only a few years old but already lands near the top of the list. This coin is pretty similar to Ripple (it was created by Ripple’s co-founder) and has a similar goal of creating a decentralized protocol for digital to fiat transfers internationally.
Stellar effectively connects financial institutions through the blockchain and provides cheap alternatives to foreign exchange platforms.
#6. Solarcoin (SLR)
Current price: $0.0043
52 week range: $ $0.0041-$0.13
Market cap: $280,195.14
Way back in 2014, Solarcoin was founded as a Bitcoin-eco-friendly-spinoff. They wanted to reward miners for not only cryptographic puzzles, but also for generating solar energy.
Buyer beware, the company is centralized and their motives are unclear. Inevitability, these “environment-centric” coins do not carry a large weight on sustainability efforts. They often end up breaking even on promises with little financial utility to spare.
Decrpyt had a nice write-up outlining the problem with eco-coins.
#7. Tron (TRX)
Current price: $0.0982
52 week range: $0.0257-$0.1799
Market cap: $7.0B
Tron is an entertainment and content-sharing platform that pays when you post. Try to think of it like the anti-Facebook.
Facebook derives its value from selling your data to third parties. Tron derives its value from paying you currency (that you have full control over). The more valuable that medium of exchange becomes, the more valuable Tron becomes.
Things can get kind of confusing when you break into the deep dapp space, but put simply… Tron is at the center of the Web 3.0 movement. Web 3.0 = building an internet as it was originally intended… decentralized and open.
TRX has grown a lot over the last few years and is currently marked at about a nickel/coin.
There is over $10 billion settled daily on Tron, and its founder claims they produce less than 1% of Bitcoin’s energy, dubbing it “the most energy efficient network for blockchain & crypto transactions”.
The founder is so confident he wants Tesla to use TRX as a payment alternative after its breakup with Bitcoin.
#8. Nano (NANO)
Current price: $5.42
52 week range: $0.74-$17.49
Market cap: $721.1M
Nano boasts the smallest carbon output in crypto, consuming just 0.000112 kWh per transaction. Sustainable cryptocurrencies need both utility and energy-efficiency, and Nano certainly meets that threshold. Its instant transactions make buying and selling easy.
Keep a look out for Nano’s growth over the next few years.
#9. Chia (XCH)
Current price: $171.87
52 week range: $132.81-$1934.51
Market cap: $272.0M
According to Chiapower.org, their annual power consumption is 0.307 TWh as of 10/7/2021. Let’s compare that to ETH and BTC.
The website used a similar model to the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index to show its findings. Interestingly enough, Chia is a cryptocurrency where mining is based on the amount of hard disk storage space devoted to it, rather than processing power like most forms of crypto.
They call it “Proof of Space and Time”. They use excess storage to file random numbers and create real value for this otherwise wasted space.
#10. Harmony (ONE)
Current price: $0.23
52 week range: $0.01-$0.24
Market cap: $2.4B
Founded in 2017 by a UPenn PHD, Harmony aims to facilitate the use and development of decentralized apps (dApps). The company was able to successfully reduce node validation times by rolling out a sharding process. ONE coins are also built on the proof-of-stake model, improving scalability and processing time.
Cryptocurrencies need adopters to become sustainable
The power of web3 – the open-source, decentralized third wave of the internet – lies in its ability to grow and adapt to a changing world. As more people adopt cryptocurrency, these projects can reposition themselves to match consumer demand for sustainability initatives.
Sustainable cryptocurrencies are about the future as much as they are about the present. Critics are quick to point out the mining hardware needed to support blockchain networks.
However, this article by Coindesk’s Peter St. Onge does a great job highlighting the environmental limits of fiat currencies as well.
In other words, it is easy to criticize something new, but much more daunting to lift your hood up and examine the broken systems that already exist.
Sure, crypto has a long way to go in the energy space. But joining a movement built on 21st century principles is more much appealing to a future-oriented consumer. Isn’t sustainability about the future, after all?