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Calculating Nitrogen Footprints at Universities and Institutions

Universities and other institutions have far-reaching impacts through activities like education and research; however their operations can also negatively impact the environment. The growing interest in sustainability has prompted many educational institutions to assess their environmental impact through a carbon footprint. However, carbon footprints consider only part of a university’s environmental impact, generally related to fossil fuel energy consumption and the generation of greenhouse gases. A nitrogen footprint not only considers energy but also extends to a variety of other processes like food production and consumption, fertilizer usage, and—especially for a land grant institution—agricultural activities related to its educational and research missions. Universities and institutions are particularly well-situated to reduce nitrogen pollution because they can both educate a community and make management decisions to reduce their contribution to nitrogen pollution.


Institutions are particularly well-situated to reduce their nitrogen footprint because they can both educate a community and implement management strategies to reduce nitrogen pollution.

The institution-level nitrogen footprint tool (N-Institution) is in development. This tool was initially developed to calculate the nitrogen footprint of the University of Virginia, and the tool has since been updated and expanded to allow other universities and institutions to calculate their nitrogen footprint. A first cohort of universities and institutions (Brown University, Colorado State University, Dickinson College, Eastern Mennonite University, Marine Biological Laboratory, University of New Hampshire, USDA-NIFA) is now using the N-Institution tool to calculate their nitrogen footprint. Feedback from these institutions will help inform and improve the next version of the N-Institution model. If you are interested in calculating your institution's nitrogen footprint, contact us at info@n-print.og.