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Climate change is a real and pressing issue, but it can be hard to understand some of the abstract concepts involved. For instance, we’re constantly hearing about our carbon footprint and how important it is to reduce it. 

But what even is it? Simply put, our carbon footprint measures the carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere as a result of our lifestyles. Carbon dioxide (CO2) gets thrown around a lot in climate change conversations.

But it’s hard to visualise. It’s a gas, so it’s not something we can just close our eyes and picture easily. Especially when people start referring to its weight. We don’t really think of gases as “weighing” anything. Like anything else, gases have mass too, though. And that means they can be weighed. 

But it’s hard to picture what a tonne of CO2 looks like. If you were asked what a tonne of Haribo look like, you’d probably be able to visualise it. The same is not necessarily true for carbon dioxide. 

Still, there are ways to visualise this abstract concept. Let’s explore what a tonne of CO2 could look like in physical form so that we can have a better understanding and appreciation for just how much carbon dioxide human activities are releasing into the atmosphere.

A tonne of CO2 looks like…

So what does one tonne of CO2 look like? While Let’s get physical! A tonne of CO2 is essentially a sphere that’s about ten metres across. 

Picture a big, red, double-decker bus. Now imagine a massive ball that’s about four times as wide and twice as tall. That, right there, is one tonne of CO2. Are you having trouble picturing it?  Well, a former company called Carbon Visuals illustrated exactly what that might look like. You can find a copy of the image here

The average carbon footprint per person in the UK is about 10 tonnes of CO2 per year. So, it’s likely that you are responsible for ten of these spheres. That’s a lot of double-decker buses to sustain one person for a year!

London buses

A tonne of CO2 also looks like 500 fire extinguishers filled with pure CO2. That’s right. Imagine 500 fire extinguishers neatly stacked together at the fire station. That’s a tonne of CO2 right there. 

If CO2 was a cute, fluffy animal on the verge of extinction, a tonne of CO2 would be the equivalent in weight of around 10 giant pandas. Or 5 polar bears

Alternatively, it would take 125 cubic metres of cola to equal one tonne of carbon dioxide! Now, bear in mind that one cubic metre is about 1,000 litres. That’s a lot of fizzy drinks! You’d need to drink 3,003 cans of cola if you wanted to drink the equivalent of one tonne of carbon dioxide. 

Climate change panda

How Zixty can help you reduce your carbon footprint

Here at Zixty, we like to do our bit for the planet too. So if you’re in the market for temporary car insurance, and you want to reduce your carbon footprint, you’ve come to the right place! 

You can take out our super-flexible, climate-conscious car insurance in minutes. And we can cover you for anywhere between an hour to a few weeks. 

But that’s not even the best bit! If you enable Zixty Miles, we’ll plant a tree every time you take out car insurance with us. Think about it – you need to plant like, 50 trees for every tonne of CO2 you emit. Every tree planted on your behalf has got to be a win, right? We think so anyway. 

But we don’t just plant one measly tree and call it a day. We also carbon-offset your journeys by up to 100 miles a day. And we offer suggestions on how to improve your driving so you can become a carbon-negative driver when you drive with Zixty. 

We can’t all give up driving. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do your best to lower your carbon footprint anyway. That’s where Zixty comes in. 

Plant in a hand

What’s a tonne of CO2 in the grand scheme of things?

When it comes to climate change, all sorts of jargon gets thrown around. And sometimes it’s hard to understand our actual impact on the planet. Saying our carbon footprint is 10 tonnes of CO2 a year is a bit abstract. What does it even mean? 

Once we begin illustrating it in terms we can understand, we can start to tackle our footprint in meaningful ways. And there are many ways to visualise the weight of a tonne of CO2. We’ve explored just some of them here.

 Whether you want your CO2 expressed in fluffy pandas or cans of cola, there is a way to visualise this gas that is wreaking havoc on our environment. The excess amount of this gas heats up our planet, causing climate change. And in the last 200 years, we’ve increased the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide by 50%

So while it’s helpful to visualise the weight of this gas in terms we understand, it’s also a good idea to tackle our own carbon footprint. If we all make small changes in our everyday lives, it can have a big impact on the environment in the long-term.