April is Earth Month, the perfect time to get inspired and take action.
In honor of this year’s earthday.org theme – Invest in our planet – Puget Sound Starts Here has compiled a resource of 23 simple actions you and your family can take to help protect what you love and prepare for a future we want. Use it as a starting point to inspire your own path to healthier, safer choices for your home, yard, car, dog, community, and environment – and for new ways to save money and the planet.
Challenge yourself and others to get informed and commit to small steps every month of the year for cleaner water. Our lives and livelihoods depend on it, and it feels good to be part of the solution. Together our investments compound over time for a healthy future and beloved Salish Sea. Ready to get started?
April is Earth Month. I’m making positive changes. What new actions will you start in 2023? #PugetSoundStartsHere #EarthMonth #EarthDay #InvestInOurPlanetTweet
1. Stop spraying
Think twice before using pesticides. Identify the problem before you spray, squash, or stomp. Maybe it’s a good bug or other issue that can be solved naturally. Use chemical pesticides as a last resort. Even “safe” products can kill beneficial insects. Weed & Feed and other chemicals can put the health of your family and pets at risk – and harm aquatic life as polluted runoff flows into our local waters, creeks, and Puget Sound.
What are better alternatives? Explore these free resources to learn more about natural yard care and integrated pest management options:
2. Go native
Attract pollinators with native plants. Beneficial insects contribute to a healthy and biodiverse ecosystem. To provide for their wellbeing, think of your yard as native habitat. Incorporate flowering plants into your landscape and vegetable garden for year round bloom. Opt for native plants, as they are often more disease-resistant and require less maintenance and water.
How can you tell if a plant is native or noxious, or a species is beneficial or invasive? What should you do if unwelcome invaders show up and take over? There are many free resources, native plant sales, and fun plant identifier apps to guide you. Start here:
Washington Native Plant Society
3. Pull weeds
Practice natural lawn care to protect your family, community, and Puget Sound. Natural lawn care can save you time and money by reducing the need for fertilizer, weed control, reseeding, and replacement. Try these actions: “Grasscycle” by leaving the clippings on the lawn (mulch mow). Mow high. Water deeply. Hand-pull weeds (and eat them!), and avoid using Weed-and-Feed and harmful chemicals. If you must fertilize, use organic, slow-release fertilizer. Consider shrinking your lawn and adding native habitat or a rain garden for a beautiful, functional yard.
Learn more best practices and smart tips for healthy lawns:
4. Manage rain
Save it for another day. From rain barrels and stormwater cisterns to permeable pavement, rain gardens, and bioretention systems, there are many ways you can help manage stormwater or harvest rain. Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) solutions increase the number of trees and plants in our neighborhoods, provide habitat for pollinators, improve air quality, and naturally replenish groundwater.
King County and SPU offer a variety of resources and incentives for homeowners and community projects ranging from donations of trees to sizable grants. Lean more:
5. Water smart
Practice smart watering and let your lawn go for the gold. The right amount of water leads to healthy, beautiful growth; too much or too little can stress plants and make them targets for pests and disease. Our region is known for the damp and moss, but it has dry summers, often with little rain. This summer, take a vacation from mowing and let your lawn go dormant golden brown. It will green up again when the skies turn gray.
Get more smart tips on how to water less frequently, more efficiently, at the right time, and just the right amount for your soil:
6. Plant a tree
For you and me. Trees are beautiful and beneficial additions that contribute to climate change mitigation, forest and mental health, improved salmon habitat, and more tree canopy in urban areas. Whether you’re looking to plant your own tree or help within your community, there are resources available to you.
Watch for local tree planting volunteer events in the fall, and get involved in year-round urban forest stewardship and habitat restoration opportunities to help achieve a sustainable and resilient ecosystem benefitting all residents.
7. Leave the leaves
Mulch and compost for healthier soil and plants. Mulch is a layer of material such as wood chips, bark, grass clippings, leaves, or compost placed on the soil surface around plants and trees. It feeds the soil as it decomposes, reduces soil erosion on slopes, inhibits weed growth, insulates the soil from cold and heat, and increases moisture retention, which saves you money and water.
When leaves fall to the ground, leave them! They bring benefits and nurture your garden: an all-natural fertilizer, mulch, soil microbe multivitamins, insect habitat, and a bird buffet. Just be sure to keep them out of your storm drains. Learn more:
8. Adopt a storm drain
Keep it clear to prevent stormwater pollution and local flooding. Storm drains on your street flow directly to local waters and Puget Sound and can be a harmful conduit for trash and organic pollutants. What can you do? Be a hero and take a few minutes per month to keep storm drains clear of leaves, trash, and other debris. You can even “officially” adopt a storm drain in your neighborhood for cleaner waterways and healthier communities! It’s easy to sign up and you can even give your drain a name. While you’re at it, consider adopting a street in Seattle to keep it clean and receive free cleanup supplies.
Learn more and search the map for adoptable drains:
9. Be safer
Read the labels. Choose less toxic. Safer doesn’t mean less effective if you know what to look for! Cleaning products with the EPA Safer Choice label are certified to work well and use safer ingredients for your health and the environment.
Search for certified products using EPA’s product finder to discover safer alternatives:
Want to choose products designed to enable a healthy, equitable, and sustainable future? Look for the Cradle to Cradle Certified label. Learn more here:
10. Use a car wash
Wash right to keep waters clean. When you wash your car, the rinse water contains harmful pollutants like oil, grease, heavy metals and soaps. If you wash your car on the street or in your driveway, the pollutants run on the street and into the storm drain, and then flow untreated into our local creeks, lakes, rivers and Puget Sound.
What can you do?
- Take your car to a commercial car wash. Commercial car washes, both tunnels and bays, are required to treat their dirty wash water.
- If using a commercial car wash isn’t an option, wash your car in a grassy area. The grass and soil will soak up the wash water, preventing it from running down the street into a storm drain.
11. Fix that leak
Don’t drip and drive. Even a small oil leak can have a big impact on your car and our creeks, lakes, rivers, and Puget Sound. When it rains, stormwater picks up and carries toxic chemicals from our cars into storm drains, and from there into streams, lakes, and eventually into Puget Sound where they can harm wildlife and habitat.
Take these steps to maintain the health of your vehicle and the environment:
- Check your vehicle for leaks regularly and get them fixed promptly.
- Always dispose of used motor oil properly by bringing it to your local auto shop for recycling. Call or visit 1-800-RECYCLE to find a location near you. Do not pour it down drains.
- Use ground cloths or drip pans if you find a leak or are doing engine work. Clean up spills immediately.
12. Don’t wait to inflate
Check your tires monthly and keep them properly inflated. Why? Car tires have many chemicals that help protect them from damage. As we drive, the tires wear down, leaving tiny bits of tire (aka “tire dust”) behind on our roads. When it rains, the runoff picks up the tire bits and carries them down storm drains and into our waterways. Scientists recently discovered the chemical 6PPD-Quinone from tire dust, which is highly toxic to coho salmon and killing many before they have a chance to spawn.
What can you do to lessen the impact?
- Check tire pressure at least monthly. Don’t wait for the next service or for the low pressure light to turn on. The recommended tire pressure is listed in your owner’s manual, on the tire, or inside the driver’s side door.
- Get your tire alignment checked and rotate tires according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Proper alignment and regular rotation prevent uneven wear on your tires, reducing the amount of tire particles that wear off as you drive.
13. Pump the septic
Maintain your system. If your home has a septic system, be sure to have it regularly inspected and maintained (which may include repairs and replacements as your septic system ages).
Why? If septic systems are not properly maintained, they can have harmful impacts on groundwater and pollute lakes, streams, and beaches. They can even cause sewage to surface in your yard or back up into your house.
Start here to learn more:
14. Save your bacon
Keep grease out of the sink. Fats, cooking oil, and grease (FOG) clog pipes. No one wants their sewage back!
Oil and grease from preparing food and washing dishes builds up in pipes and leads to sewage backups, expensive plumbing bills, and pollution in Puget Sound. When grease is washed down the drain, it sticks to the inside of sewer pipes (both on your property and in the streets). Over time, it builds up and can block an entire pipe, even if you use dish soap. Garbage disposals do not keep grease out of the pipes. They only shred it into smaller pieces.
What’s the best way to dispose of FOG? Depends on where you live. Start with these resources:
15. Don’t flush that wipe!
Flushable wipes clog pipes! Don’t flush trouble. Only flush toilet paper down the toilet, never wipes or trash. Why? Wipes and other debris can build up in the sewer system and cause overflows, damage property, hurt the environment, and make people sick.
Learn more ways you can help prevent pollution and keep water clean:
16. Do the zero poo
Dog poo left on the ground flows into Puget Sound! Wayward dog poo (dog poo not properly disposed of in the garbage) is harming people, pups, and the planet, but you can help – even if you don’t have a dog. Start by squishing the myths and aiming for zero poo for a happier, healthier community and planet.
Test your knowledge: Can you pass the wayward dog poo quiz?
Check out this Poogooder Dog Poo 101 guide for solid answers when the conversation turns to dog poo:
17. Bring a spare
Show you care. Protect Puget Sound by being prepared and pledging to always pick up after your pet: Scoop it. Bag it. Trash it. Every time. Carry an extra bag so you have a spare, just in case.
I pledge to scoop the poop AT HOME at least weekly, rain or shine.
I pledge to scoop the poop ON WALKS every time.
I pledge to bag & trash the poop in my GARBAGE.
If I don’t have a dog, I pledge to encourage others to SCOOP.
Check out this Dog Doogity video for inspiration:
18. Keep dogs safe
Always on leash. Even if your dog is friendly and well behaved, always keep them leashed when out in public or on the trail. Why? It keeps everyone safer, prevents wild habitat destruction, and makes it easier to find and pick up any poo they may have left behind. Everyone deserves to enjoy going for a walk with their best friend in peace.
Is your dog reactive or need a place to run free? Search for official off-leash dog parks in your area or private options such as Sniffspot where they can safely get their wiggles out.
Avoid taking your dog to the beach where they can harm sealife and pollute water. Learn more about why this matters:
19. Keep pups safe
Stay off the beach. If you see a harbor seal pup resting on the beach, stay back, don’t touch it, and keep your dog far away. Mother seals leave their pups on the beach while they hunt for fish, but will abandon their pup if they feel threatened.
Marine mammals including seals, sea lions, sea otters, whales, and porpoises are protected by the federal laws that require the public stay 100 yards away. If you find a seal or other marine mammal that appears injured or distressed, contact the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 1-866-767-6114.
Want to volunteer or learn more about how to keep marine mammals safe? Start here:
20. See salmon run
Become a steward. There’s a primal link between orcas, salmon, and the Puget Sound. It’s thrilling to watch salmon return each year to their upstream spawning grounds, or to catch a rare glimpse of a pod of orcas who depend on them. But the ecosystem is fragile and these iconic species risk extinction.
What can you do? Become a salmon steward.
Washington State has a unique locally led structure for salmon recovery. This structure, in combination with strong recovery plans and effective on-the-ground projects, means cleaner rivers, healthier watersheds, and more fish.
See how you can get involved:
21. Install a rain garden
Filter stormwater and prevent flooding naturally. In an urban environment like Seattle, every storm washes pollution from rooftops, roads, and other hard surfaces into local waterways.
What can you do? Mimic nature! Install a rain garden or other Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) to capture, slow down, and clean runoff from storms. A rain garden uses plants, trees, soil, and engineering to reduce rainwater pollution and overflows in our drainage and sewer systems. Plus, it adds beauty, native habitat, and pollinators to your yard while solving flooding and drainage issues. Even better, there are many rebate programs and resources available to homeowners.
Learn more about rain gardens and other GSI solutions:
22. Let only rain down the drain
It flows to the sea. Stormwater is the leading contributor to water quality pollution in urban waterways. Pollutants enter our local waterways and Puget Sound when rain washes spilled oil, soap, paint, sediment, yard, or automotive chemicals down the storm drain. You can help keep our local waterways healthy and safe by ensuring only rain goes down the drain and by reporting any spills you see to your local Spills Hotline right away.
What do you know about stormwater? Test your knowledge with the Pollution Solution Quiz
23. Clean water is our future
Start now. Below are additional resources to explore, but there are many, many more! Follow and tag @PugetSoundStartsHere (Facebook and Instagram) to keep us growing forward together because #PugetSoundStartsHere.
Stewardship and Restoration
- Stop spraying (save the good bugs)
- Go native (attract pollinators)
- Pull weeds (practice natural yard care)
- Manage rain (save it for another day)
- Water smart (let lawns go brown)
- Plant a tree (for you & me)
- Leave the leaves (for mulch & compost)
- Adopt a drain (keep it clear)
- Be safer (choose less toxic)
- Use a car wash (keep waters clean)
- Fix that leak (don’t drip & drive)
- Don’t wait to inflate (check tires monthly)
- Pump the septic (maintain your system)
- Save your bacon (keep grease out of the sink)
- Don’t flush that wipe (wipes clog pipes)
- Do the zero poo (bag & trash it every time)
- Bring a spare (show you care)
- Keep dogs safe (always on leash)
- Keep pups safe (stay off the beach)
- See salmon run (become a steward)
- Install a rain garden (filter stormwater)
- Let only rain down the drain (it flows into the sea)
- Clean water is our future (start now)