Another footprint? Good thing we only have 2 feet

by Karen Topakian

Most of us humans have two feet. When we walk on sand or soil. Or wet cement. We leave a footprint.

We also leave a carbon footprint. (The amount of greenhouse gases produced in our day-to-day lives through burning fossil fuels for electricity, heating and transportation, etc.)

I’ve just learned about another footprint that we need to heed. Our nitrogen footprint.

Yup nitrogen. Symbol N. Atomic number of 7 and atomic mass of 14.00674 u.

Nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas. Sounds pretty harmless, doesn’t it? Don’t be fooled. Nitrogen may be essential to plant life but synthetic nitrogen is a polluter. And a killer.

For example, in the Mid-West when chemical fertilizers, which contain synthetic nitrogen, are applied to boost crop production the excess nitrogen runoff eventually flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Producing toxic algal blooms that suffocate coastal waters. Producing hypoxic zones – dead zones – that kill fish and shellfish.

Combustion of fossil fuel also contributes to nitrogen pollution. Cumulatively, this pollution has become a top threat to global biodiversity. Contributing to human health problems, water pollution, ozone layer depletion, smog, and climate change.

See I told you it was worth heeding.

If you’re wondering about the size of your nitrogen footprint, check out this hand dandy new tool, The Nitrogen Footprint Calculator. The questions are simple. Just answer honestly. And let me know your score.

The average American’s is 91 lb per year. Mine was 64. The average German’s is 58 lb per year and the Dutch beat that score with a 54.

Warning: If you eat meat, drive a car, fly often in an airplane your footprint might resemble Bozo the clown’s. If you’re a vegetarian, who walks everywhere your foot might be able to fit comfortably into one of those cute size 5 shoes that decorate every shoe display.