How a 14-Year-Old Used Solana NFTs to Raise $100K for Beluga Whale Conservation

At a time when non-fungible tokens face scrutiny for environmental damage, 14-year-old Abigail is using NFTs for conservation.

Her project, “Belugies,” is a collection of 8,000 cartoon beluga whale NFTs created on the Solana blockchain. Abigail made the artwork for the project by hand, with plans to donate a portion of the profits to beluga conservation efforts and a children’s hospital program.

The high school freshman says she learned about cryptocurrency when she was nine years old during bicycle rides with her older brother Adam. Adam, now 25 years old and heavily into crypto since 2016, said he and his fianceé Briana helped with the tech.

“When we started, we didn’t really think it would work out,” Adam, who declined to provide his last name, told CoinDesk. “I told my sister, ‘Hey, if it doesn’t work at least we tried, at least we had fun. That’s all that matters.’”

Within 10 hours of the project’s Oct. 17 launch, all 8,000 NFTs had been minted, earning the siblings over $1 million in SOL tokens.

Abigail is also set to receive 5% of all future Belugie sales. The current floor price for a Belugie on the resale market is 0.32 SOL, and the project’s total trade volume has exceeded 7,159 SOL, or $1,409,700, at press time.

The inspiration for the artwork came from Abigail’s childhood adoration of beluga whales after she saw them at a Georgia aquarium near where she grew up.

With the global beluga whale population in decline – Alaska’s Cook Inlet subpopulation has crashed 75% since 2008 and now hovers around 280 – she said she wants to raise awareness as well as some cash.

She’s donated $100,000 of the Belugies NFT proceeds to beluga conservation efforts. Half went to the Beluga Whale Alliance, an Alaskan-based group that advocates for and studies the Cook Inlet pod. The other half went to the Ocean Defenders Alliance, which works to remove fishing nets and plastic that threaten underwater habitats.

After getting word of the donation, Beluga Whale Alliance flew Abigail, Adam and Briana out to Alaska to see the belugas up close and personal in their natural habitat.

The project’s emphasis on conservation contrasts with popular criticisms of the NFT industry.

Ethereum, the blockchain underlying the majority of NFT projects, currently uses an energy-intensive proof-of-work consensus mechanism. (When upgraded, Ethereum 2.0 will switch to a proof-of-stake system.) While some blockchains including Solana use the more efficient proof-of-stake, the overall impact NFTs have on the environment remains harmful.

Abigail credits much of the project’s success to the belugas themselves for being so “wholesome and adorable,” which she attempted to convey in her artwork.

In addition, she made a $100,000 donation to Sunshine Kids, an organization that supports children’s hospital programs across the country. Abigail cited a personal connection to her local children’s hospital as the reason for the donation.

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