Seeking to minimize nutrient overuse and pollution through University practices and purchases is integral to Brown’s sustainability goals.
Nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus are essential for life. But an overabundance creates algae-choked waterways, carcinogenic drinking water, unhealthy air and acid rain. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cites nutrient pollution as one of America’s “most widespread, challenging and costly environmental problems.”
To do its part in combating this problem, Brown has committed to reducing its nitrogen and phosphorus footprint by 15% by 2025, and 25% by 2030.
Brown was one of the first schools to join the Nitrogen Footprint Network and to quantify the amount of nitrogen that flows through campus. Food purchases — red meat and dairy in particular — make up about 85% of Brown’s nitrogen footprint. Phosphorus is more difficult to quantify, but it is also inexorably tied to food production and consumption.
Reducing Brown’s nitrogen footprint will require reducing red meat consumption and supporting agricultural practices that minimize nutrient pollution. With this in mind, Brown’s objective is to reduce red meat consumption on campus by 25% by 2025. Lessons learned from this first step will allow a push to a 50% reduction, or beyond, by 2030.