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What can I do to influence my N footprint?

While some elements like electricity production are out of your control, there are many things that you can do to reduce your nitrogen footprint. Here are a few, stratified by food and energy – aspects of the N footprint:


  • Alter your diet: try to choose foods produced on more sustainable farms. These use practices that reduce their amount of nitrogen fertilizer runoff into the water and air. If they raise livestock, they take care to manage their manure so it doesn’t pollute.
  • A protein-heavy diet is nitrogen-intensive. The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) recommendation is 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day for adults (or 0.8 g protein per kg body weight).  See page 4 of this document from the Institute of Medicine for more information. If you eat more than your recommended protein intake, try replacing some protein with other types of food like fruits, vegetables and grains.


  • Limit your household utility usage by using more efficient appliances.
  • Choose more sustainable transportation methods like carpooling, public transit, bicycling, or walking.
  • Reduce your consumption of goods and services by limiting unnecessary purchases, reusing, and recycling

It is important to note that doing many of these things even just one day a week can make a big difference over time.  Most of these lifestyle changes will reduce not only your nitrogen footprint, but also your carbon footprint and your ecological footprint.  These changes will generally lead you to live a more sustainable life.