From: Maureen Mackey, Examiner
Published April 9, 2009 01:27 PM

Reduce your nitrogen footprint

Our carbon footprint is not the only impression we leave on the environment. It's time we reckoned with what a nitrogen footprint is, and especially about the role excess nitrogen plays in global warming and damage to marine ecosystems.

Nitrogen is an essential element in our atmosphere, and all life requires nitrogen compounds. Yet our environment is being threatened by reactive forms of nitrogen, created by burning fossil fuels and agricultural fertilizer run-off. According to Discovery News, these reactive forms of nitrogen produce smog, acid rain, coastal dead zones, climate change and a growing ozone hole.

Scientists are studying ways to combat these effects, including more precise fertilizer application to prevent run-off, along with methods of capturing tailpipe and power plant emissions. Yet there are things that individuals can do to reduce their nitrogen footprint as well.

One is to reduce your own fossil-fuel burning emissions. Ways to do that include driving less, using alternative fuels, and switching from a power lawn mower to one that is electric or battery operated. Even better, use a manual or push mower to mow your lawn.

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And while you're mowing, take a good long look at your lawn for another way to reduce your nitrogen footprint. Combat the effects of excess nitrogen by reducing the number of times you fertilize your lawn, or stop fertilizing it altogether. Replacing your lawn with groundcover, or a mix of plants and hardscape, will prevent fertilizer run-off from getting into our streams and contributing to marine dead zones.

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