Merch Isn’t Sustainable. Can NFTs Fix That?

Merch Isn’t Sustainable. Can NFTs Fix That?

How digital goods are changing the way we collect.

Merchandising is a big business with a big footprint.

For as long as promotions have existed, merchandise and memorabilia has lived in the physical world. Brands, films and franchises all produce swag, collectibles and keepsakes to get more eyeballs on their latest creations. In the U.S. alone, the promotional products industry is expected to generate $15.6B in 2021 [Source]

But while merch generates revenue, it also generates waste. In August, The New York Times wrote that even the ubiquitous cotton tote bag needs to be used 20,000 times to offset its impact. That’s every day for 54 years [Source]. If a product intended to be sustainable has such a big footprint, what hope is there for keychains, lunch boxes and action figures? 

Palm makes merchandising through NFTs sustainable.

In our work with major entertainment franchises, Palm NFT Studio is tackling this challenge head on. In July, Palm partnered with Warner Brothers to release over 90,000 free NFTs for Space Jam 2. And on October 5th, DC Comics dropped a new series of NFT collectibles for fans who sign up for DC FanDome 2021. This year’s event, the first large-scale virtual experience with registration powered by NFT, is expected to surpass 2020’s staggering 22 million views; making it potentially one of the largest NFT drops in history.

If you’re wondering how dropping hundreds of thousands of NFTs could possibly be sustainable, the answer is Palm. 

Palm is an Ethereum sidechain that uses 99.99% less energy than Proof of Work systems. That means that the carbon footprint of a transaction on Palm is equal to sending three emails.  [Source: Patch, Mike Berners-Lee, How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything.]

It also means that assets on Palm are compatible with Ethereum, and vice versa. Palm is connected to mainnet Ethereum by a bridge, making it easy to transfer assets back and forth between networks. When you do want to transfer assets from the Palm network to mainnet Ethereum, we offset any carbon emissions via Patch

Rethinking digital merch means removing adverse environmental impact. And it also means opening up new opportunities for fans to interact with what they love, build lasting community, and create real value. As audiences spend more and more time online, the value of digital objects will outpace the physical. When minted sustainably, NFTs open up new ways for brands to engage with fans; changing the nature of fandom itself. 

Merch that is accessible. 

As more conferences, conventions and premieres move online, physical merchandise doesn’t just become unsustainable. It becomes inaccessible. NFTs can provide radical, global accessibility, or hyperlocal currency. Distribution can span massive worldwide events, like DC’s FanDome, or small gallery openings, like Bright Moments’ CryptoVenetians. In fact, there’s now an entire (and increasingly popular) protocol dedicated to proving attendance at real and virtual events. Proof Of Attendance Protocol, or POAP, specializes in creating digital collectibles commemorating real life experiences. And with distribution via Palm’s eco-friendly Eth sidechain, the environmental impact of manufacturing and shipping physical items doesn’t apply — regardless of scale. 

Merch that is interactive. 

The potential of NFTs goes far beyond flat notions of collectibles. NFTs can change shapes and evolve form, unlock new experiences, and create new modes of expression. By simply holding specific collectibles in their digital wallets, fans can be rewarded with exclusive content, play games, earn additional NFTs and access social filters and profile photos. Future utility is emerging as table stakes. $3.6K might seem like a lot to bid on a blank grey page, but Pak’s collectors know that ownership is a stake in an unfolding narrative and future work from one of cryptoart’s most groundbreaking voices. 

Merch that builds community.

Like trading cards were way back when, NFTs are inherently social objects. They give fans the tools to create and shape their own community, free of gatekeepers. Rather than having fragmented audiences spread across social media platforms, communicating within the constraints of the platform, NFTs cut out the middleman. Brands and fans can work directly with each other to build and shape a shared experience. In fact, a key driver for fans participating in an NFT project, like Bored Ape Yacht Club, is the roadmap — they want to know what benefits the project will confer, and how it will be developed. 

By utilizing sustainable NFTs as a complement (or replacement) for physical promotional products, brands and fans get to enjoy permanence without the footprint. Something as simple as a collectible drop can evolve over time, providing the foundation on which brands can build new experiences and engage fans. And instead of promoting ephemeral moments with items that contribute to landfill, brands can use those moments to celebrate fans, build their audience, and write the next chapter.