Research at Eastern Mennonite University and six other institutions into all aspects of nitrogen recycling, including composting of plant and animal materials, has been recognized by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. (Photos by Joaquin Sosa)

EMU among sustainability award winners for nitrogen footprint study

For its collaborative efforts in the study and reduction of nitrogen pollution, Eastern Mennonite University is among seven institutions to receive a Campus Sustainability Research Award from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

The collaborative study — titled “The Nitrogen Footprint Tool Network: A Multi-Institution Program to Research and Reduce Nitrogen Pollution” — also involved Brown University, Colorado State University, Dickinson College, Marine Biological Laboratory of the University of Chicago, University of New Hampshire and University of Virginia. Each is a member of the Nitrogen Footprint Tool Network, a network that is initiated by the University of Virginia.

Ten winners from 230 entries were announced at the annual AASHE Conference & Expo in San Antonio, Texas. Entries in three categories were judged on overall impact, innovation, stakeholder involvement, clarity and other criteria specific to each category.

“EMU was fortunate to receive an invitation to participate in this leading-edge research project with such prestigious institutions of higher education,” said Jonathan Lantz-Trissel, who contributed to the study as EMU’s former sustainability coordinator.

Sustainably produced food is one way to lower EMU’s nitrogen footprint.

“While we often hear about carbon footprints, nitrogen footprints can be very detrimental as well,” says Professor Doug Graber Neufeld, director of the Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions. “This research and collaboration helps to raise awareness about an issue that is not as prominent in the news. Most importantly, there are things we can do to reduce our nitrogen footprint, and this helps us to know how we can reduce the impact of nitrogen on the environment.”

 Nitrogen from agricultural practices and burning fossil fuels can have detrimental environmental impacts, including on “ecosystems, water quality and air quality, including excessive algal blooms that deplete oxygen in water bodies and harm aquatic life, smog, acid rain, forest die-back, stratospheric ozone depletion and an enhanced greenhouse effect,” the study states.

A hen and chicks on campus.

Significantly reducing nitrogen footprints is a feasible goal, it states, and as a result of the study each of the participating institutions “have either adopted nitrogen pollution reduction goals or are considering their adoption.”

“The 2017 award winners demonstrate an inspiring passion for solving some of the world’s most complex challenges. They are truly pioneering the campus sustainability movement,” said AASHE Executive Director Meghan Fay Zahniser in a press release.

Award recipients received recognition in a variety of formats as well as a plaque made of Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood from Rivanna, a woman-owned B Corp with a strong commitment to sustainability. To date, more than 75 campuses been recognized through this award program since its inception in 2006.

AASHE empowers higher education administrators, faculty, staff and students to be effective change agents and drivers of sustainability innovation, offering resources and professional development.

Discussion on “EMU among sustainability award winners for nitrogen footprint study

  1. Bravo EMU sustainability! You continue to astonish the community around you and generate gratefulness for your continued “can do” attitude.

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