ATREEM by Nitipak Samsen



Royal College of Art graduate Nitipak Samsen has designed a credit card-operated carbon-offsetting meter that attaches to trees.


ATREEM (Automated Tree-Rental for Emission Encaging Machine) is designed to make carbon emissions, and carbon trading, easier to understand.


By swiping their credit cards in the meters, people can offset their CO2 emissions against those absorbed by the tree.


The unit calculates the CO2 absorbed by a tree by measuring its girth. Samsen has also designed a tape measure for children that converts the tree's girth into carbon-emitting activities (above).


See other Dezeen stories about 2009 Royal College of Art graduates:

Tantalus Dinner by Ioli Sifakaki
Ultra Lead by Georges Moanack
Christmas Tree Furniture by Fabien Cappello
Folding Plug by Min-Kyu Choi
The Drop Series by Olivia Decaris
The Toaster Project by Thomas Thwaites

Here's some info from Samsen:



Carbon trading brings the ‘convenience’ back to the ‘inconvenient truth’. Global warming has been driven by capitalism, now we are trying to solve global warming through capitalism. Is this possible? Should we save the planet for the planet’s sake or for money?


This project aims to criticise the carbon trading system as well as raise awareness of how good we are at destroying the planet.

A.T.R.E.E.M. (Automated Tree-Rental for Emission Encaging Machine) is a renting meter for the tree to offset clients footprints. This tree has been grown by carbon trading company in nursery then bring it to urban space to become new carbon sink for the customers.


The design of A.T.R.E.E.M. is a signpost-like object attached to the tree with a tape measuring the girth of the tree in order to calculate the growth and CO2 absorbed in the tree. In the process of developing the measuring tape, I designed a tree measuring tape for children. This tape translates how much CO2 absorbed in the tree into the amount of activities rather than grams of CO2, e.g. 1 hour on a flight or 2 days of breathing.


The user interface of A.T.R.E.E.M. shows the intangible CO2 in term of gram, how long does the tree take to offset that CO2 and how much for the service. i.e. 10 minutes on tube journey emits about 350 grams of CO2, the tree takes 2 days 10 hours to offset that amount and it will cost £0.02.  The price that the machine offers is apparently very cheap compare to the amount of time that the tree needs to work. However this is reality, when we receive a service like this on-line, we see only the price of the service. We don’t really understand what is going on in the real world. i.e. you can buy a whole forest (in 100 years) very easy on internet and there is no guarantee that the forest will last to 100 years to offset the amount that the trader promised.  This real-time offsetting offers a new way to understand the global warming issue.

Could this system make we think more about capitalism and the planet?

Posted on Monday July 6th 2009 at 2:11 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • M

    I am interested to know how much money you will need to put in the machine to offset it’s own production (LCD screen and all)?

  • Ewan


    I feel you are missing the point a little.

    The idea is to raise a question, not necessarily provide a solution to global warming. I think that its a commendable design which really does raise the right questions regarding the ethics/morals/economics involved in carbon offsetting.

    On another note, it is very nice to see more new products that are eco-friendly (hate that term) that utilise electronics and technology freely. Anyone who believes we will solve the issues of global warming/environmental change without using energy/electricity is deluded. man will only change so far.

  • I really liked this product at the show….

    I still probably do…..

    but – if the idea is to rasie the question rather than answer the question – is it simply an ironic statement? Is the idea of offsetting our evils simply about sweeping things under the carpet – or is there actually a way out. Foolishly at the show – I thought this proposed a little way out, and therefore have to ask now if it really is a proposal or a joke. If it’s just an ironic joke…I’m no longer a fan… Hoping there was more and that I should have stayed a minute longer….

    Still like it right now.

  • Otávio Guercia

    Just too much effort trying to raise another obvious debate, in a completely inpratical way to solve anything whatsoever.

    And not only that! Raising paranoia along the way…
    Since all we see coming from RCA is questions, questions and more questions, what on earth will mere mortals like me and my old grandma do if not feed that cute, yet useless, little gadget?

    But hey, I guess being blasé and overly sinical is the way to be cool nowadays, again…

  • Jo

    I think we need questions, lots of questions! And it’s lovely to see them posed through the language of products — very refreshing. Maybe if more questions had been asked earlier we would not be in such a mess now. Questions invite us to think, to use our brains, to be creative. Why is it that design is afraid of questions, why must there always be answers, even when they are wrong. Design is such a conservative force, fighting to keep things the way they are, allowing only superficial adjustments here and there. There is room in the world for a few designers to question and challenge assumptions, if people don’t like it, or find it uncomfortable they can always go shopping. Why should today’s young designers conform to a way of designing that is part of a flawed system?

  • Simon

    A whimsical approach to an important issue, but I am left feeling like it is no different to a python constricting its prey. Will the device eventually cut off circulation to the carbon dioxide absorbing branches and leaves that are working in a way humans can’t, or ring bark the tree as a result of what seemed like the good intentions of over abundant users trying to do their bit for the environment. Will we be left with another dead tree to be used as fire wood to create more carbon dioxide?

  • d

    its an artwork.. please remember..

  • Jo

    An artwork?

    Is design really so narrow that it cannot tolerate for one minute something that challenges us and makes us think. That cannot be bought in a shop and make a profit for someone. I spoke to this person in the show. He studied architecture and worked for years as an architect. He is a designer. His project is a design proposal. What he is not, is a servant to the market and consumerism. The RCA is an art college, one of the reasons designers go there to study is to exchange ideas with artists, I think that’s good, and each influences the other. In other colleges designers study beside engineers, that’s good too. There’s room for all kinds. But the products of each environment are bound to be different. Even within the RCA there are several design departments, some are more industry oriented, some are more interested in style, and others are more speculative. Out of the tens of thousands of designers that graduate each year, surely there’s room for handful of conceptual thinkers who chose to channel their thoughts through products rather than chairs, tables, lights and vases, or design pointless variations on mass-produced products that will end up in a land fill in 3 years time.

    This project absolutely gets to the heart of sustainable design and its inherent contradictions in relation to market-driven capitalism, the type we have in the UK and US (different from Asia and the rest of Europe). The only solution is to stop producing and consuming products that need to be replaced every 2-3 years, but if we did that, no one could afford anything and our economies would collapse even further. We need to address this reality and stop day dreaming that things can carry on the way they’ve been.

    Oops, just realised this has turned into a rant. Sorry. But fundamentalism and intolerance in design, like anywhere else, is dangerous and destructive. Let’s embrace pluralism… marketeers, dreamers, intellectuals, poets, stylists …

  • Justin

    While it’s great to see modern technology used a way that is “eco friendly”, it’s true that there is some inherent irony here.

    Technology of the previous generation, such as the mechanical computer, could have been used for this, dramatically reducing the environmental impact of the object itself. Unfortunately, the technology that is currently causing our pollution problems, such as the need to have an LCD screen on every object, is all the current generation knows how to work with.

    In other words, the only technology available to the designer of this object, is the same technology that’s causing a lot of our problems. Irony, paradox, or complete failure? All are embodied in this work to a certain extent.

  • Ferroplasma acidiphi

    I do understand that Humans really want to preserve themselves and their zoo-like natural environment, in this planet, or others in the Cosmos, for as long as possible. But remember life finds a way. There are no real ethics. They are Human and Temporal.

    Surely it will be very interesting to see an economic system (highly intangible already) to give rise by its failure (or success) to the overtaking of another species. Or preserve the human race in varying degrees of artificiality.

    We owe our existence to random catastrophes. There is no real control of anything.

    Maybe the most interesting part of this object would be its fossilized (if possible) presence in a distant future of a distant human post human (or not human) design)/art museum (if they find satisfaction in that stuff).


    Ferroplasma acidiphilum (check me out… really cool)

    P.S. For the person that commented on the gadget as useless one (gadget?!). Are you or your granny usefull? Do you have to be, to exist?

    • AlexColina

      Dud, love you post but existentialism is irrelevant. Design is by and for humans. This device's stated or implied purpose ultimately HAS to be useful to it's human target.

      Still: "Are you or your granny usefull? Do you have to be, to exist?" MADE ME LAUGH!!! quite thought provoking. Again in a relativistic sense granny is Essential to the existence of the person you are directing your question. but in a grander sense if nothing has to be useful, then the term has to be always used in the context of those for whom the term has meaning i.e. humans, so the answer is, as it is with most human questions, complicated: "probably"

  • “The idea is to raise a question, not necessarily provide a solution to global warming.”

    What exactly do you mean?

    The idea IS to seek solution (and hopefully eventually provide it) through raising questions and making people understand, not only by pumping in all the generally confusing numbers but in a purely practical way. It is like saying: if numbers tell you nothing, look at the facts about your (and my own) lifestyle, so destructive to nature in whatever we actually do. Sooo, apparently, it might not be such a bad idea to place it here and there…

    Some of you here people sound like you really believe it will soon be hanging on every tree and we will all end up in the world where awareness is taken to absurd lengths due to the imminent disaster. And well, not yet and not in our livetimes, but if we continue like this sooner or very very very much later breathing will be rationed :). I have met grown-up people who aren’t sure what ozone hole really is and who believe that forests are big enough never to end. But human life is short while trees grow slow and aren’t infinite. People still largely depend on wood in their households and keep torturing the remaining forests with their expanding economies. Well, I see nothing wrong about letting some people know, even if only within the realm of a certain eccentricity.

    But on the other hand, how much carbon did you emit into the atmosphere by producing the machine itself?

  • Al Fat

    There is no anthoropogenic global warming

  • How much meat do you eat?

    “Meet the world’s top destroyer of the environment. It is not the car, or the plane, or even George Bush: it is the cow. ”
    Read it on the Independent website

    So are you all up for slimming a bit, maybe cut down on excess meat eating, not eat too much beans (gassy ones at least), ditch wood furniture and housing, don’t use plastic ones either. Otherwise be prepared to allow Africa and Asia to join in the race for supreme consuming (meat, wood furniture, consumer goods etc).

    So let’s all stop pretending that this planet stands any chance to remain the same (it has ever). No one ever mentions that a fat person is non-ecological. And don’t get me wrong it’s completely understandable to be one; I am no slim specimen either. We care for the obvious and the politically correct and we find a solution that feels right but tackles the tip of the melting iceberg, literally. Don’t talk of air travel if you don’t talk of the greenhouse gases of the overeater!

    Nobody talks about human rights in birth control in China (maybe the whole human race should do that). That is more environmental for sure. But you could be named a Nazi if you try to entertain a thought like that. China is one of the steeper increasing consumers of red meat. So will they put rations on meat eating? Is it more or less environmental to oppress your belly… or your reproduction?

    Oh by the way for those that don’t yet know it, methane is 20 quicker to achieve what 1 molecule of CO2 can do.

    Sooooo….. continue speaking about trees and carbon offsetting (that are actually cut down for grazing land to expand). Its really a good solution and definitely very entertaining.

    One final point: All solutions might need to be quicker than you think if the methane locked on the ocean floor frozen, liquefies and escapes. Methane Hydrates account for several orders magnitude of all the known conventional sources of natural gas. Combine that and 20 times quicker… u get the picture!

    In the meantime I will be buying land on a mountain peak near the Arctic somewhere. It will soon be a nice patch to graze on (hopefully).


  • AlexColina

    The tape and a mobile app would achieve the same thing expect it might actually be viable. In fact one could plant trees and put the tape on it to have it offset some of your footprint. if you give the tapes official ids of some sort and plant enough trees you might even be able to sell your extra credits.