Originally published as part of the Sovereign Nature Initiative Essay Series
On September 24th, 2021 ( https://medium.com/@sovnature)
“Today’s essay imagines an exciting way to align human and natural incentives and comes from another of the co-winners of the 2021 Sovereign Nature Initiative Hackathon…Enjoy! — SNI”
As co-founders of Sādu, we believe that investment into personal well-being is a form of untapped capital that can be used to efficiently steward the earth’s ecosystem. Our combined experience in data science, venture capital and corporate sustainability created a unique lens for us to view the interplay between technical adoption, behavioral economics and global systems. This experience pushed us to explore mechanisms that tip economic incentive in favor of environmental sustainability.
The Sovereign Nature hackathon challenged us to find a way to give economic agency to non-human agents. Since the hackathon, we decided to give our app users the chance to invest in a digital representation of a living tree displayed in augmented reality (NFTrees). Each digital representation is mapped to a specific tree or hectare of land monitored by satellite imagery. As living trees become more valuable in the face of climate change, the social and environmental value of the trees will be communicated through the economic value of the NFTree.
Currently, Sādu rewards fitness activities with trees planted in global reforestation projects. Anyone can earn nominal trees in the app by syncing their smart watch and logging activities like walking, running, and hiking. Sādu then calculates a financial contribution to forest makers based on the total number of calories burned. The contributions are funded by companies who use the app as a way to improve employee engagement or sustainability objectives. In addition to earning trees with fitness activities, NFTrees will be offered to app users after a specific number of calories burned. The purchase of each NFTree will create economic value for living trees, allocating funding to the forest makers to maintain the living trees associated with the digital token.
NFTrees co-opt an alignment of value between living trees and the economic incentives of human agents. The collection of NFTrees gives climate conscious individuals the opportunity to showcase their socially and environmentally responsible investments for their community. More importantly, earning trees with fitness activities and then utilizing this effort to build a collection of NFTrees communicates a union between personal well-being and the health of the environment. The benefits of investment into personal well-being are compounded by the potential value of NFTrees on secondary carbon markets. Many of these markets are emerging as a result of the net shortage in carbon credits created by corporate netzero commitments and direct to consumer offsetting subscriptions.
We imagine a very near future where the creation of carbon markets gives both individuals and corporations the ability to better measure and communicate their investment in carbon sequestration and restoration of the natural ecosystem. It is also reasonable to assume that a global carbon market can only be run as an inherently decentralized entity due to its reliance on multilateral cooperation. In this scenario NFTrees are representative of an instrument that will naturally increase in value as demand for carbon sequestration and environmental preservation grows.
Like living trees, NFTrees will exist as their own agents within an ecosystem for carbon sequestration tokens, taking their value with them as they interact with communities and the markets they create to reflect environmental value. NFTrees are being developed for a select group of Beta testers within the Sovereign Nature Initiative. They are planned for release in 2022.
Right now, anyone who supports WeForest, one of Sādu’s sustainability partners can see the trees earned with activities via satellite imagery. Visit the WeForest project profile in the app and select “Visit Website” to view the GPS location of the trees supported by Sādu’s community. Sādu is also onboarding sustainability partners, foresters and tree planting projects that are willing to commit to a verification process replicable by distributed ledger consensus mechanisms.
In our opinion, nature lacks the ability to quantify and communicate its value to the human economy. To us, the Sovereign Nature Initiative is an evolving practice of perception that seeks to more accurately interpret the value of the natural world. As female founders we create because we see the crude ways in which humanity attempts to measure the wealth of human experience and we have chosen to play at the boundary of this exchange.