University Sets to Calculate Nitrogen Footprint

nitrogenThe carbon footprint. This term has been in the news for years, sometimes assumed to be the highest tax on the environment.

But as Nitrogen Footprint Project Manager Castner points out, the nitrogen footprint holds equal ground with environmental issues.

An internationally supported project inspired by a scientist and carried out by Eastern Mennonite University seeks to raise awareness about nitrogen footprints specific to institutional environments. In addition to raising awareness, a list of how to reduce nitrogen pollution was created to inform institutions on how to cut back on nitrogen levels.

Excess nitrogen can cause smog often seen in urban areas, depletion of the ozone layer, ocean acidification, algae blooms, forest mortality, and an unsafe amount of greenhouse gases. The type of nitrogen performing the damage does not refer to the amounts already present in the atmosphere but chemically active forms that stem from human activities.

The university seeks to reduce its nitrogen levels by 25% by 2025. The research involves tracking nitrogen levels via a nitrogen-calculator. It’s used because food production and consumption, an issue relevant to universities, are one of the worst problems.

Despite obvious nitrogen contributions, the university, as stated by Lantz-Trissel, is already ahead of the game, “We have the lowest amount of nitrogen per person among participating institutions. We’re doing a lot of great things already.”

After tracking the nitrogen footprint, the university hopes to set a goal for its official nitrogen footprint maximum. Other universities have been included in the first cohort as well, including Brown University, Colorado State University, Dickinson College, the University of New Hampshire and the Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts.

The efforts put forth by the universities also aim to improve societal understanding of sustainability. A second cohort has been conducted, and a third cohort lies in the future.

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