The Nitrogen Footprint Tool for Institutions: What it is and how it compares to the Campus Carbon Calculator
Abstract:Nitrogen footprints (NF) connect entities with the reactive nitrogen (Nr; all species of nitrogen except N2) lost to the environment as a result of their activities. While necessary to life, excess Nr can be detrimental to ecosystem and human health, causing impacts such as smog, eutrophication, biodiversity loss, and climate change. The NF tool was recently developed to help institutions measure and reduce their environmental impact. This tool accounts for the NF from energy usage, food production and consumption, fertilizer usage, research animals, and agricultural activities. The tool also provides scenario analysis to help institutions reduce their NF and establish a reduction target. Currently in a testing phase, seven institutions have used the tool to calculate their NF, and six additional institutions have calculations in progress.
Many institutions interested in sustainability have already calculated their carbon footprint (CF), which reports the total greenhouse gas emissions resulting from institution activities. The University of New Hampshire Sustainability Institute (UNHSI) Campus Carbon Calculator, developed in 2001, is used by thousands of institutions in the United States. While important, the CF addresses just one aspect of an institution’s environmental impact: global climate change. The NF broadens this perspective by connecting to additional environmental impacts that are both global and local. The data requirements for the CF and NF have a significant overlap, especially in the energy sector. Given the similarity of data requirements and the benefits of considering the two footprints together, the two tools are in the preliminary stages of being merged.
We will first provide an overview of the NF tool for institutions. We will then compare available NF and CF results from multiple institutions to assess trends and correlations and to determine the impact of different scenarios on both footprints.