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Nutrient Pollution

What You Can Do: In Your Home

Quick tips

  • Choose phosphate-free soaps and detergents.
  • Pick up after your pet.
  • Use water efficiently.
  • Wash your car on your lawn or in commercial car washes.
On this page:

Cleaning Supplies-Detergents and Soaps

  • Choose phosphate-free detergents, soaps, and household cleaners.
  • Select the proper load size for your washing machine.
  • Only run your clothes or dish washer when you have a full load.
  • Use the appropriate amount of detergent; more is not better.

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Pet Waste

  • Always pick up after your pet.
  • Avoid walking your pet near streams and other waterways. Instead, walk them in grassy areas, parks or undeveloped areas.
  • Inform other pet owners of why picking up pet waste is important and encourage them to do so.
  • Take part in a storm drain marking program in your area to help make others aware of where pet waste and other runoff goes when not disposed of properly.

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Septic Systems

  • Inspect your septic system annually.
  • Pump out your septic system regularly. (Pumping out every two to five years is recommended for a three-bedroom house with a 1,000-gallon tank; smaller tanks should be pumped more often).
  • Do not use septic system additives. There is no scientific evidence that biological and chemical additives aid or accelerate decomposition in septic tanks; some additives can in fact be detrimental to the septic system or contaminate ground water.
  • Do not divert storm drains or basement pumps into septic systems.
  • Avoid or reduce the use of your garbage disposal. Garbage disposals contribute unnecessary solids to your septic system and can also increase the frequency your tank needs to be pumped.
  • Don't use toilets as trash cans. Excess solids can clog your drainfield and necessitate more frequent pumping.
  • When installing a septic system, maintain a safe distance from drinking water sources to avoid potential contamination. Avoid areas with high water tables and shallow impermeable layers.
  • Plant only grass in the drain field and avoid planting trees, bushes, or other plants with extensive root systems that could damage the system's tank or pipes.
  • Visit EPA's Septic Smart website to learn more about how your septic system works and simple tips on how to properly maintain it. You can also find resources to launch a local septic education campaign.

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Water Efficiency

shower head spraying water
Devices like low-flow showerheads can reduce the volume of wastewater discharged to home septic systems and sewage treatment plants.
  • Choose WaterSense labeled products which are high performing, water efficient appliances.
  • Use low-flow faucets, shower heads, reduced-flow toilet flushing equipment, and water-saving appliances such as dish- and clothes washers.
  • Repair leaking faucets, toilets and pumps.
  • Take short showers instead of baths and avoid letting faucets run unnecessarily.

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Energy Efficiency

hand plugging a power cord into an outlet
Using less electricity at home can reduce emissions of nitrogen pollution from energy production.
  • Turn things off or unplug them when you're not using them.
  • Adjust the thermostat by a few degrees to be slightly warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter.
  • Replace old light bulbs with new energy efficient bulbs.
  • Use a power strip to turn on and off electronic devices.
  • Open shades to utilize daylight instead of turning on lights; on cool days this helps to keep rooms warmer.
  • In the summer, close shades when not in the room to keep rooms cooler and use less electricity.
  • Hang-dry clothes instead of using the dryer.
  • Find out if it is possible to switch to wind generated energy.
  • Check out EPA's Energy Star homepage for more tips on how to reduce your electricity use

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Washing Your Car

  • Use a commercial car wash; commercial car washes are required to properly dispose of wastewater and many filter and recycle their water.
  • If washing your car at home consider the following actions:
    • Wash your car on a pervious surface such as grass or gravel (not concrete or asphalt) so water is filtered before reaching a water body.
    • Use nontoxic, phosphate-free soaps.
    • Use soap sparingly.
    • Minimize runoff by reducing water use, using a spray nozzle to restrict water flow.
    • Wring out sponges and rags over the bucket or in a sink, not the ground.
    • Empty wash water into the sink or toilet, or the grass if you wish to dispose of it outside.
    • Use waterless car wash products for spot-cleaning or a car wash kit, which redirects water from storm drains.
  • When conducting car wash fundraisers use a car wash kit; many cities will lend kits free of charge to groups conducting car washes for fundraising, or you can buy car wash kits.


  • Plan out your errands for one trip so you can reduce the amount of time you have to drive.
  • Carpool with friends or coworkers.
  • Take public transportation.
  • Consider alternative means of travel, such as biking or walking whenever practical.
  • Telecommute from home.
  • Choose for flex fuel, diesel, hybrid, compact, or other fuel-efficient vehicles.
  • Get better gas mileage:
    • Routinely checking tire pressure.
    • Avoid using the air conditioning during city driving.
    • Be light on the gas by using smooth acceleration and deceleration and maintain a constant speed.
    • Regularly service and perform maintenance on your car.
    • Avoid driving with extra weight in the car; transport only necessary items.

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