One ton of recycled newspaper saves 17 trees.








Nationwide, more than 32 million pounds of household cleaning products are poured down the drain each day!

The average family uses 25 gallons of chemicals each year, including:

  • car products
  • household cleaners
  • paints and home improvement products
  • arts and crafts supplies
  • nail polish remover and shoe polish
Sewage treatment plants and septic systems cannot adequately remove all toxic substances.

In the home

You can reduce the amount of pollutants and wastewater from your home while saving money and time, as well as benefiting your health, streams, rivers, drinking water supplies and the Chesapeake Bay. Learn more about the products you use in your home and how waste is managed in your community.


Household cleaners

Your choice of products and how you use and dispose of them have a direct impact on water quality. Many commonly used household products contain hazardous ingredients. If used improperly, these products could be dangerous to you, your family and the environment. The best way to know if products can be hazardous is to check labels for words such as: flammable, caustic, corrosive, caution, danger, warning or poison.

Use extreme care with these products. Follow label directions and store them in a safe place, away from children. Never mix products unless directed by the label. Never mix products containing bleach and ammonia. Buy only the amount you need to avoid disposal of spoiled or outdated products. Dispose of hazardous household products at a local hazardous waste collection center or an authorized recycling center.


Reduce, reuse and recycle
The average American generates 1,500 pounds of trash per year, more than citizens of any other country. This means more landfills to contain our waste. What can we do to reduce garbage and improve the health of our natural resources?

  • Choose durable goods and reusable products. Buy fewer disposable products. Look for "refillable" and "rechargeable" labels.
  • Recycle paper, plastic, glass and cans according to your community's guidelines. Recycling an aluminum can saves 95 percent of the energy it would take to make a new one from scratch!
  • Buy recycled products and materials.
  • Borrow, rent or share with family and friends items that are used infrequently.
  • Buy bulk items, concentrates and products with less packaging. Packaging is nearly one-third of the cost of our purchases and an even greater percentage of our trash.
  • Carry purchases in reusable bags. Return plastic bags to grocery stores.
  • Use old clothing as cleaning rags around the house or garage.
  • Repair or refurbish old or broken machinery, appliances and furniture.
  • Buy second-hand items.
  • Donate unwanted, usable items to charity.
  • Be creative -- find new uses for old things!


Water conservation
We take clean water for granted. In the United States, the average person uses 125 gallons of water a day! Conserving water is environmentally smart and saves money. By conserving water in your home, you can help increase our water resources and reduce the need for, and cost of, wastewater treatment.

A leaking faucet can waste up to 100 gallons of water a day! Billions of gallons of water are wasted each day because of dripping faucets, leaks, running toilets and excess use of water.

Here are ways you can conserve:

  • Repair all drips and leaks.
  • Turn off the faucet while brushing teeth, shaving and lathering.
  • Don't use the toilet as a trash can.
  • Install low-flow fixtures such as faucets, shower heads and toilets.
  • Take short showers instead of baths.
  • Wash only full loads of clothes and use the machine's water-saving settings.
  • Avoid using a garbage disposal. Compost kitchen scraps or discard in trash.
  • Keep a bottle of water in the refrigerator to avoid running the water to get it cold.
  • Wash only full loads in your dishwasher. If washing by hand, turn off the water until you are ready to rinse.


Septic systems
Human and pet waste contains nitrogen and phosphorus, the two leading nutrients harming the Chesapeake Bay. Fortunately, as a society, we no longer dump raw sewage directly into our water.

One in five Maryland residents relies on one of nearly 400,000 private septic systems. When a septic system malfunctions, it not only causes problems for your home, it becomes a serious source of ground and surface water contamination as well. The average life of a septic system is 12 to 20 years -- not forever. In Maryland there are nearly 30,000 households with acknowledged failing septic systems. Fixing them could cost as much as $250 million! Improperly functioning septic systems are a major source of well contamination.

If you own a private septic system, you are responsible for maintaining it. Without regularly scheduled pumping, septic tanks will fail. Signs of failure are not always obvious. Left unpumped, solids will leave the tank and clog the drain field. If this happens, a new septic system must be installed.

Here's how to care for your septic system:

  • Ask your local health department for a copy of your septic system layout and location.
  • Do not plant trees or build decks, driveways, sheds and pools over septic systems. These activities can interfere with systems and lead to costly repairs.
  • Have your septic system pumped every one to five years (depending on use) by a licensed professional. Check your phone book under "septic tank cleaners."
  • Make sure the tank is completely cleaned. See that baffles are checked and the tank is inspected for leaks.
  • Do not flush toxic substances down the drain.
  • Keep deep-rooted trees away from your septic tank or drain field.
  • Avoid using a garbage disposal. Garbage disposals cause tanks to fill faster.
  • Do not run the dishwasher and washing machine during the same times when your family members may take showers -- this can over-burden your system.
  • Put paper towels, tissues, cigarette butts, disposable diapers, baby wipes, sanitary napkins and tampons in the trash, not the toilet.
  • Direct downspouts and runoff away from the septic field to avoid saturating the area with excess water.
  • Protect your well water
  • Follow these simple steps to keep your well water safe:
  • Grade your lot so that water drains away from your well casing and doesn't puddle around the well.
  • Make sure your well cap is not cracked and is tightly secured. If water tests show contamination, have a well driller check the grout.
  • Have your fuel tank checked for leaks, especially if it is underground.
  • Avoid using gasoline, automotive products, solvents, pesticides or excessive amounts of fertilizers near your well.
  • Contact your county health department for directions for shock chlorinating your well.


Where does your drinking water come from?
Two-thirds (67%) of the households in Maryland depend on surface water sources (such as the Patuxent River or Gunpowder Falls) treated and delivered by public or private water companies. Surface water sources include reservoirs and river intakes. The other one-third (33%) of households depend on groundwater sources provided by either public or private companies (17%) or individual wells (16%).


Check the label on your faucet
You will soon know exactly what is in your drinking water. Under new Environmental Protection Agency requirements, your community water provider must tell you by October 1999 what's in the water, from low levels of lead and copper, to pesticides, disinfectants and chemicals. This information must then be updated at least once a year. Think of it as a label of ingredients for what's coming out of your faucet.

So when the details come with your water bill, take a look. If you have any questions, call your water supplier. It's your legal right to know.


After you flush
If your wastewater goes to a sewage treatment plant, chances are that you are already helping to protect the Bay and its rivers. Maryland has some of the most advanced wastewater treatment systems in the nation. More than 90 percent of the large wastewater treatment plants in Maryland have installed or agreed to install biological nutrient removal (BNR). BNR goes beyond conventional treatment in protecting river and Bay ecosystems by removing nitrogen and phosphorus. Since 1985, the state's wastewater treatment plants have reduced their nitrogen emissions by 36 percent and phosphorus emissions by 55 percent.

You can control the flow of water and products into and out of your home. Buy fewer toxic products and help reduce pollutants that enter our water. A healthier home and a healthier environment will be your reward!

Quick Facts
Try these eco-safe alternatives for household cleaners:

Instead of:

Ammonia-based cleaners

Vinegar, salt and water for surface cleaning. Baking soda and water for the bathroom.

Abrasive cleaners

Rub area with one-half lemon dipped in borax or baking soda, then rinse.

Floor or furniture polish

1 part lemon juice, 2 parts olive or vegetable oil.

Toilet cleaners

Baking soda and a toilet brush.

Drain cleaners

Plunger, flush with boiling water, 1/4 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup vinegar.

Oil stains

White chalk rubbed into stain before laundering.

Glass cleaner

White vinegar and water or rubbing alcohol and water.

Copper cleaner

Paste of lemon juice, salt and flour.

Stainless steel polish

Baking soda or mineral oil for shining, vinegar to remove spots.

Stain remover


Mildew remover

Lemon juice and salt or white vinegar and salt

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