Art installation in Milan shows how much CO2 trees capture

Natural Capital is one of the largest data visualizations ever created, and it is quite impressive. This installation was erected in the famous historic botanical garden of Milan, the Orto Botanico di Brera. It shows exactly how plants absorb emissions in a beautiful, informative, and poignant way.

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Each tree species is associated with a sphere which indicates the amount of CO2 that trees can capture and store. This installation is the result of a collaboration between the design office Carol Ratti Associati (CRA) and the energy company Eni. Natural Capital will examine the key role trees play in creating oxygen and showing how much CO2 each tree species can capture and store. The installation is spread over 500 square meters of garden, an impressive series of floating bubbles.

Related: How Many Trees Are Needed to Offset a City’s Carbon Emissions?

From left to right: a close-up of kilograms of CO2, a close-up of another bubble in a garden

Eni is committed to protecting forests as part of its decarbonisation strategy. Each large globe showed exactly how much CO2 would be in the air if the trees weren’t there to collect it. You can visually see the amount of dangerous gases in the atmosphere for each tree. This is a lot to assimilate and that is exactly the purpose of this installation.

Bubbles floating in a garden with people walking and looking at the exhibit

The entrance to the garden has a giant sphere which is right on the ground. This is the amount of CO2 that is produced, on average, by a human body each year. Humans need nature and that is why we must preserve nature.

Bubbles floating on a bush illuminated with lights inside

Together, CRA and Eni plan to explore paradigms of circular economy and sustainability. This data visualization is an excellent reminder of the importance of forest ecosystems.

+ Carlo Ratti Partners

Photograph by Marco Beck Peccoz

Dora W. Clawson