Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 81.45
Liaison Lindsey Lyons
Submission Date March 1, 2018
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Dickinson College
IN-27: Innovation D

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.00 / 1.00 Neil Leary
Center for Sustainability Education
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Name or title of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:
Measuring and Reducing College Nitrogen Footprints

A brief description of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome that outlines how credit criteria are met and any positive measurable outcomes associated with the innovation:

Dickinson and six partner institutions won AASHE’s 2017 Campus Sustainability Research Award for groundbreaking research to measure their nitrogen footprints, compare them and analyze options for reducing their footprints. Results of the collaborative research were published as a collection of articles in Sustainability: The Journal of Record in April 2017, including four articles that have Dickinson staff, students and alumni as authors.

Humans release reactive nitrogen into the environment at a rate that is 4 to 5 times as large as from natural terrestrial processes. The result is excessive accumulation of reactive forms of nitrogen such as nitrate, nitrite, ammonia, ammonium and nitrous oxide, causing detrimental local and global impacts on public health, ecosystem health, air quality, water quality and the climate. Colleges and universities contribute to this nitrogen pollution directly and indirectly by feeding their students and employees, burning fossil fuels to heat and power their facilities, commuting to work, traveling for study abroad, fertilizing campus grounds and conducting research. With roughly 20 million students attending college in the U.S., their collective contribution to nitrogen pollution is significant. As institutions of learning and research, they are also well positioned to explore solutions and model best practices.

So, it makes sense that colleges and universities would take actions to reduce their nitrogen pollution. But an initial hurdle is that you can’t readily manage what you don’t measure. Researchers at the University of Virginia developed the Nitrogen Footprint Tool (NFT), applied it to measure UVA’s footprint, and invited Dickinson and four other institutions to use the tool to measure their own footprints. The initial group has expanded to include 20 colleges, universities and other institutions that are now members of the Nitrogen Footprint Tool Network.

Results of the research have been presented to and discussed with Dickinson’s President’s Commission on Environmental Sustainability (PCES). PCES is considering setting targets and implementing measures for reducing nitrogen.

AASHE award announcement: http://www.aashe.org/news/2017-award-winners-announced/.

Huffington Post article about the project: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/nitrogen-pollution-an-emerging-focus-of-campus-sustainability_us_58f41cd1e4b04cae050dc8ae

Dickinson article on the research and award: https://www.dickinson.edu/news/article/2850/nitrogen_is_the_new_carbon.

Which of the following impact areas does the innovation most closely relate to? (select up to three):
Food & Dining
Collaboration across higher ed

A letter of affirmation from an individual with relevant expertise or a press release or publication featuring the innovation :

The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.