By now, we’ve all heard of our carbon footprint but maybe not your nitrogen footprint. Nitrogen makes up 80% of our atmosphere and is harmless unless converted to reactive nitrogen which can wreak havoc on the environment. Reactive nitrogen is primarily produced through the “Haber-Bosch Process” used to make synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, a current staple in modern agriculture.
The reactive nitrogen that is not absorbed by the plants is absorbed into the environment instead and then moves through the Earth's atmosphere, forests, grasslands and waters. This causes a cascade of changes that are detrimental to the environment resulting in smog, forest degradation, acid rain, ozone depletion, ocean algae bloom, loss of biodiversity, and an increase in greenhouse effect.
Fortunately, there are ways to reduce your nitrogen footprint:
The longer water spends at the treatment center the more time there is to remove nitrogen. Consider replacing your showerhead, retrofitting your toilet for low or dual flush, and only run full loads of laundry and dishes.
These absorb, process, and store nitrogen better than turf grass and require less watering. You can also install barrels to collect rainfall for watering your garden and yard.
Meat production is a nitrogen intensive process, especially beef. Opting for protein from both plant and animal sources is better for your health and the environment.
Approximately 30% of food is wasted at either the retail or consumer level. Only buying what you need and making use of every scrap of food will reduce the amount of food produced.
Organic farming utilizes crop rotation, composting, and manure as fertilizer instead of the harsh synthetic alternative. This recycles nitrogen instead of introducing more to the environment making it a great choice!
At Terramera, one of our goals is to reduce the synthetic chemical load by 80%. Join us in our mission by making these simple changes to reduce your nitrogen footprint, a stepin the right direction. You can learn more about the nitrogen cycle online and calculate your personal nitrogen footprint here.