Nitrogen footprints for institutions present a broad picture of campus sustainability because reactive nitrogen contributes to both local and global impacts on ecosystem and human health, from urban smog and eutrophication to global climate change. The Nitrogen Footprint Tool (NFT) estimates the total emissions of reactive nitrogen resulting from institution activities that include food served on campus, energy use, transportation, use of fertilizer on grounds, and research activities.
Sustainability: The Journal of Record has published an April 2017 Special Issue on Nitrogen Footprints, highlighting the work of eight institutions that are part of the NFT Network: University of Virginia, University of New Hampshire, Marine Biological Laboratory, Dickinson College, Eastern Mennonite University, Colorado State University, Brown University, and Colorado College. Authors from within the NFT Network assembled nine papers presenting findings that resulted from the group’s efforts to measure and assess campus nitrogen footprints.
The publication highlights the strength of the NFT as a novel and adaptable campus sustainability tool that brings together staff, faculty, and students across disciplines to understand how institution and community decisions contribute to nitrogen pollution. In calculating nitrogen footprints for institutions with a great degree of difference in size, location, population, and primary activities, the work brings to light the primary sources of reactive nitrogen and pathways for institutions to reduce their footprints. Unique among campus sustainability assessments, a nitrogen footprint calls to attention the environmental impact of food production, which makes up 50% of each institution’s total reactive nitrogen emissions on average. The utilities sector is another large contributor due to emissions of NOx and N2O that result from fossil fuel combustion. Because decisions that impact institution nitrogen footprints occur on multiple levels (from student food choices in the dining halls to electric utility management), strategies to address institution nitrogen emissions should address choices made at individual up to community-level.
Two publications with Colorado College Authors:
To learn more about nitrogen footprint tools for institutions and other entities, and to calculate your personal nitrogen footprint, visit: www.n-print.org.