As a large land grant university with more than 32,000 students, Colorado State University has both on-campus non-agricultural and agricultural sources of nitrogen (N) released to the environment. We used the Nitrogen Footprint Tool to estimate the amount of N released from different sectors of the university for the CSU 2014 academic year. The largest on campus sources were food production, utilities (heating, cooling, electricity), and research animals. The total on-campus N footprint in 2014 was 287 metric tons. This value was equivalent to the nitrogen footprint of agricultural experiment stations and other agricultural facilities, whose nitrogen footprint was 273 metric tons. CSU has opportunities to reduce its on-campus footprint through educational programs promoting low-meat diets and commuting by bicycle or bus. There is also an opportunity to advance ideas of agricultural best management practices, including precision farming and better livestock management. This article describes the planned and ongoing efforts to educate CSU about how societal activities release nitrogen to the environment, contributing to global change. It offers personal and institutional options for taking action, which would ultimately reduce CSU’s excess reactive nitrogen loss to the environment. The N-footprint for CSU, including scenarios of possible future nitrogen reductions, is also discussed.
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Adding a nitrogen footprint to Colorado State University’s sustainability plan