You’ve worked hard to reduce your carbon footprint. But what about your nitrogen footprint? A new Web-based tool called N-Print from the International Nitrogen Initiative, a global network of scientists, was recently released to help concerned citizens curb their contribution to the worldwide problem of nitrogen pollution.
Nitrogen pollution–in case you hadn’t heard–is a major factor in fish kills in coastal areas, threats to human health (as a result of air and water pollution), and changes to global biodiversity and climate. Known largely to residents of the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico–many of whose health and livelihood have been affected by this component of agricultural run-off–nitrogen pollution remains a relatively obscure subject to even the country’s most eco-aware citizens.
“Nitrogen, as any farmer knows, is essential to plant life,” said environmental scientist James N. Galloway, associate dean for the sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia, in a statement. “But the widespread use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer to boost crop production has resulted in excess nitrogen coming off farms – essentially adding unwanted, unneeded fertilizer to our natural systems, with disastrous results.” He adds that the combustion of fossil fuels adds even more nitrogen to the natural environment we share, and that it’s a largely untold story.
Galloway, in conjunction with Allison Leach, a staff research assistant at the University of Virginia and colleagues from the Netherlands and the University of Maryland, has launched this tool in an attempt to foster a greater understanding of nitrogen’s role in our lives. It is now available, free of charge, online.