Future Earth

Do you know what one tonne of carbon dioxide looks like?

7 Comments 30 September 2011

Yesterday I calculated the carbon cost of writing the sequel to The Human Race. It came out at a shocking 11.91 tonnes of carbon dioxide. I fell to thinking about what I could do to reduce this.

My youngest daughter asked me what I was doing and, after I had explained it to her, she asked me what a tonne of carbon dioxide looks like. It was a great question – and one for which I had no immediate answer. All I could tell her was that CO2 is odourless and colourless – but this reply wasn’t particularly useful for a seven-year-old looking to visualise a tonne of gas.

So I did what I do best: research! Fifteen minutes later I had discovered this great image, which helped both of us enormously:

one tonne of carbon dioxide


This picture was taken by Dave Ames, a science teacher at Cohasset High School in Cohasset. Mr Ames built this large cube to represent the size of one metric tonne of carbon dioxide. The cube is 27 feet wide, 27 feet high and 27 feet deep.

As you can see, the cube towers over the people standing alongside it. For me, this picture was an eye-opener. As for my young daughter: she was amazed by its size. Then she became quite upset that our family is pumping 15 of these giant blocks into the atmosphere every year, just to heat and light our home.

I believe that such a picture is striking on its own, but that if you don’t know your own CO2 output, isn’t it essentially meaningless? I used a website called www.carbon-offsets.com to calculate the Heaton family’s output, and I recommend this website to others.

For me, knowing that I was personally responsible for 13.62 tonnes of CO2 over two years was bad enough. Now I was able to visualise that number, thanks to the image above, I was even more unhappy. I became all the more determined to do what I could to reduce my CO2 output.

Tomorrow I’ll list the steps that I am taking to make my writing carbon-free…

This post was selected for Everything Home End of October Edition, hosted by My DIY Home Tips.

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Your Comments

7 Comments so far

  1. CC says:

    Can you give more details on how you got your numbers? Since my quick numbers show that 1 ton of pure CO2 under normal conditions would fit a cube around 80 meters (262 feets) on each side.

  2. Trishia says:

    Very interesting! I never thought that I can see CARBON DIOXIDE.. But thanks for this info! Love to learn more about this!
    Trishia recently posted..Luxury Chalet Rentals

    • O.C. Heaton says:

      Hi Trishia – me too! t-This is the only article I could find that actually showed the physical dimensions. If you come across anything else in your googling please drop me a line. I will do the same. Have a good day. OC

  3. Charisma says:

    very cool presentation, that is more understandable. thanks for the info too!
    Charisma recently posted..Difficulty Getting Pregnant

  4. Marcella says:

    hmm quite interesting presentation. i like how you explain it, it’s easy to understand.
    Marcella recently posted..Is black mould harmfull?


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Reviews of The Human Race

Unputdownable. Yes, I know it's not a word, but it definitely applies here, anyway. That's the word I'm going with, to describe The Human Race by O.C. Heaton. - Hira N. Hasnain

An outstanding first novel from O.C. Heaton that catapults him into the Best Seller league… - Justine Bond

"This is an exciting, fast-paced read. The Human Race is a book that is very easy to forget to put down. Bring on part two!" - L. H. Bowers

"If you are looking for a well-plotted and well-written thriller to while away the hours of a long flight, this offering might suit you very well." - David Bryson, Amazon Top 50 Reviewer

For further reviews of The Human Race by O.C. Heaton click here.

Author Bio

Charles Heaton British thriller writer O.C. Heaton, author of The Human Race, is fascinated by the past, present and future of human evolution. (Image credit: Ross Parry Agency) Read More>>

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The BeachThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-timeLife of PiOuter DarkThe FirmAlexander 3: The Ends of the Earth: A Novel

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