Footprint calculators are useful tools for measuring personal impact on the environment. A global research project called the N-Print Team has come up with a tool for calculating how many pounds (or kilograms) of nitrogen your lifestyle releases into the environment. I visited the website today and found a very user-friendly, informative, and visually appealing calculator.
CO2 Has Had the Limelight, but Human Nitrogen Emissions Need to be Reduced as Well
There has been a lot of public discussion about CO2 emissions, but less publicity about how nitrogen affects the environment. The N-Print website explains that there has been more carbon research over the last decade, and nitrogen issues are more complex. The nitrogen knowledge gap is about to reduce as the N-Print team and its sponsors, the International Nitrogen Initiative Project, do their work.
What’s the Nitrogen Problem?
Over 100 years ago the development of nitrogen fertilizers was a breakthrough, allowing food production to keep up with the world’s growing population. However, excess nitrogen used in crop farming has been running off into waterways and escaping into the atmosphere. Farm animal excrement and fossil fuel burning has also increased the nitrogen load, resulting in smog, acid rain, dying forests, clogged waterways, and the greenhouse effect.
Basically, just as we have upset natural carbon cycles, we have upset the planet’s nitrogen cycles. As you may notice, I’m not an expert on this topic, but I highly recommend the UTube video below which is also found on the N-Print website.
How Can We Reduce Our Nitrogen Footprints?
Recommended steps for solving the nitrogen problem may sound familiar:
- Eating less animal protein, particularly beef,
- Buying food from sustainable farms that take measures to reduce nitrogen runoff —and asking governments to help farms to adopt sustainable practices,
- Limiting activities that depend on fossil fuel burning (e.g. electricity, home heating, car use, air travel etc.)
- Using and supporting development of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power.
The Nitrogen Cascade Video
The Nitrogen Cascade is a collaboration of Erin Siegel (director, writer, visuals) and Myrna Jacobson Myers (co-writer, scientific advisor) and is a 2010 production of the University of California. Enjoy: