Navigation Links
New free, hands-on tool supports sustainable living choices

People who want to eat healthy and live sustainably have a new way to measure their impact on the environment: a Web-based tool [] that calculates an individual's "nitrogen footprint." The device was created by University of Virginia environmental scientist James N. Galloway; Allison Leach, a staff research assistant at U.Va.; and colleagues from the Netherlands and the University of Maryland.

The calculator is a project of the International Nitrogen Initiative, a global network of scientists who share research and data on the nitrogen dilemma. The project was announced Feb. 19 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington.

What's the nitrogen dilemma? Though some residents of the Chesapeake Bay and Gulf of Mexico likely are familiar with it, it's unknown to most Americans outside the agricultural world. For the last 30 years, Galloway and other leading scientists have been noting fish kills in coastal areas, threats to human health as a result of air and water pollution, and changes to global biodiversity and climate. This tool is one of their attempts to foster more understanding of nitrogen's role in our lives.

"Nitrogen, as any farmer knows, is essential to plant life," said Galloway, associate dean for the sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences at U.Va. and the Sidman P. Poole Professor of Environmental Sciences. "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. The combustion of fossil fuels adds even more nitrogen to our environment. It's a largely untold story."

Scientists are calling nitrogen pollution a major environmental problem that includes significant damage to air and water quality in places such as the Chesapeake Bay, where the federal government has dedicated hundreds of millions of dollars to reducing nitrogen runoff from farms and industry. Similarly, nitrogen runoff from Midwestern farms that ultimately flows into the Gulf of Mexico is largely responsible for toxic algal blooms that have suffocated coastal waters, leading to hypoxic zones, resulting in the loss of fish and shellfish.

To raise awareness, Galloway, a pioneering nitrogen scientist, organized a global team of experts to develop the footprint calculator as an educational tool one he and his colleagues hope will both raise the profile of the nitrogen issue and galvanize people into action. By measuring what and how much you eat, as well as other factors like how you travel, the calculator shows your impact on the nitrogen cycle.

The website also makes recommendations for how to lessen your "nitrogen footprint." They are similar to other sustainable living choices: reduce airplane travel, choose renewable energy and eat less meat, particularly beef (since cattle consume massive quantities of farmed feed, which requires much fertilizer). Professors and lecturers are already using the tool in classrooms to teach students how one individual can alter and help restore a natural nitrogen cycle.

"Solving the nitrogen dilemma is a major challenge of our time," Leach said. "By calculating our individual impact, and taking small steps to reduce it, we can all play a part and send a strong message to our nation's leaders that we want this issue taken seriously."

This new footprint calculator is the first in a series of research tools, known as N-Print [], which Galloway and his team are developing to connect the production of nitrogen with the policies used to manage it. The team is currently creating a similar calculator for farmers and other nitrogen users, as well as a tool for policymakers that will provide regional nitrogen emission ceilings, which will show how much nitrogen can be released in these regions without major negative environmental impact.

"There are readily available solutions to reducing nitrogen pollution," Galloway said. "By connecting consumers, producers and policymakers, we can solve it."

Chemical fertilizer use and combustion engines are the main sources of nitrogen pollution. Scientists who are recording dramatic changes to ecosystems from the U.S. to China say the disruption of the naturally occurring cycle of nitrogen through ecosystems due to human activity leads the list of global tipping points [] and have named it a top threat to global biodiversity. It contributes to human health problems, water pollution, ozone layer depletion, smog, climate change and coastal dead zones. Nitrous oxide, created mostly from grain and meat production, is also a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.


Contact: Fariss Samarrai
University of Virginia

Related biology news :

1. New catalyst of platinum nanoparticles could lead to conk-out free, stable fuel cells
2. Hands-on: From classroom to employment
3. The MDS foundation supports vidazas recommendation for European approval
4. Synthetic virus supports a bat origin for SARS
5. VCU survey: US public supports genetic research, testing and government spending on research
6. Research supports toxoplasmosis link to schizophrenia
7. Lancet study supports new, highly effective treatment for blood disorder
8. $10 million Simons Foundation gift supports new initiative with Institute for Advanced Study
9. Pfizer supports open access publishing for researchers in low-income countries
10. Wildlife Conservation Society supports worlds first study of egg-laying mammal
11. Powe Award supports research on how enzymes enable the pathogenicity of 2 human disease organisms
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/12/2015)... Research and Markets ( ) has announced the ... Market Shares, Strategies, and Forecasts, Worldwide, 2015-2021" to ... --> The study is designed to give a ... a selection from the mountains of data available of ... made by the most senior analysts. Commentary on every ...
(Date:10/12/2015)... , October 12, 2015 NXTD ) ... the growing mobile commerce market, reports on the recent SNS ... . --> NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" or the ... commerce market, reports on the recent SNS Future in Review ... --> NXT-ID, Inc. (NASDAQ: NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" or ...
(Date:10/9/2015)... 2015 ... "Samsung Galaxy S6 Fingerprint Sensor - ... offering. --> ) has ... Galaxy S6 Fingerprint Sensor - Reverse Costing ... --> Research and Markets ( ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/13/2015)... ALBANY, New York , October 13, 2015 ... Share, Growth, Trends, and Forecast 2015 - 2023 " ... bn in 2014 and is anticipated to reach US$7.59 bn by ... from 2015 to 2023. --> " Microbiology Culture ... 2015 - 2023 " , the global microbiology ...
(Date:10/13/2015)... TapImmune, Inc. (TPIV), a ... peptide and gene-based immunotherapeutics and vaccines for the treatment ... presenting company at the Dawson James Small Cap ... Jupiter, Florida on October 15, ... clinical-stage immunotherapy company specializing in the development of innovative ...
(Date:10/13/2015)... Charlotte, NC (PRWEB) , ... October 13, 2015 ... ... high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) technologies, announced today that it received de novo ... 450 in the U.S. for the ablation of prostate tissue. Sonablate® is ...
(Date:10/12/2015)... (PRWEB) , ... October 12, 2015 , ... Spirax Sarco, ... the release of the CSM-C 600 compact clean steam generator . This ... that meets the requirements of HTM2031, HTM2010, and EN285 standards. The CMS-C 600 ...
Breaking Biology Technology: