Examine the Impacts of Your Company Vehicles and Parking Area

  • Inspect regularly to make sure your company vehicles don’t leak fluids like oil and antifreeze that can be washed by rain or melting snow into surface water and groundwater;
  • When refilling fluid reservoirs, use funnels and drip pans to avoid and contain spills. Recycle or dispose of all waste fluids properly — not down floor drains, sinks, or storm drains;
  • Take your vehicles to commercial washers rather than wash them on-site, since commercial washers capture detergents and recycle water;
  • If you do wash vehicles on-site, and you have an oil/water separator in your drain, be aware that detergents can render it ineffective; therefore, wash without detergent or wash at some distance from the drain, perhaps over a permeable surface; and
  • Conserve water and detergent by using buckets of suds and rinse water rather than hoses, and select a low- or no-phosphate detergent.

Reduce the Percentage of your site Covered by Impervious Surfaces

  • If you are planning to construct or resurface a parking area or other parts of your site, consider scaling back the use of impervious materials like asphalt and concrete. Pavers, gravel, vegetated areas, and even porous asphalt and concrete allow precipitation to seep into the ground rather than run off;
  • Overflow parking areas, pedestrian areas, and other areas that do not experience heavy traffic may be particularly appropriate for porous surface materials;
  • Within the boundaries of a paved surface – e.g. between parking lanes – use grass swales and vegetated filter strips to direct, intercept and infiltrate water; and
  • During and after any resurfacing project, prevent erosion by securing bare soil: plant, sod, mulch, and/or net.

Rethink the Way You Deal with Snow and Ice

  • If your storm drain grates and catch basins are clean, runoff will drain from your site and you will have less trouble with ice and less need to use ice melt. Sweep your paved surfaces and make sure your drains are free of debris before snow season begins. Inspect drains periodically, and clean out sand, salt and other debris at the end of the season;
  • Plow or shovel before using salt or sand so you will not have to use as much;
  • Reduce the quantify of rock salt (sodium chloride) you use on walkways, driveways and parking lots in the winter by using it only where needed and distributing it carefully. Sweep or shovel up the excess after the ice has melted. Consider alternatives to rock salt such as calcium chloride, calcium magnesium acetate, and magnesium chloride. Use more sand and less salt; and
  • Store sand and salt in a protected area: contain within walls made of cinder blocks or concrete barriers, and cover with a tarp or board.

Make Landscaping Work for You

  • Have the soil in your lawn or border tested to determine its acidity, and what type and how much fertilizer and other soil additives you need. Choose plants that best suit the natural soil conditions, like Minnesota native plants that are also hardy, drought- and pest-resistant;
  • Avoid using pesticides, but if you or your landscaper needs to use them, look for less toxic products based on bacteria, hormones, oils, and soaps. Make sure your landscaper is licensed and certified to apply pesticides;
  • Use slow-release fertilizers to minimize runoff;
  • For best absorption and fewest pests, water slowly — by drip irrigation, soaker hoses, or just a trickle at the base of the plants — and in the early morning. Use mulch and organic compost to retain moisture in beds;
  • If permitted by local building code, direct one or more down spouts to well-planted areas rather than to storm sewers, dry wells, or (worst of all) paved surfaces; and
  • Plant trees to shelter your building and grounds from storm water.

Conduct Environmentally Responsible Building Renovation & Maintenance

  • In hiring contractors for painting, roofing, carpentry, paving, grounds keeping and other jobs, ask them to minimize waste and use less hazardous materials to avoid contaminating storm water;
  • Have painters use tarps or plastic sheeting to contain paint chips, dust and drips. Dispose of lead paint chips at a Household Hazardous Waste facility (for locations, see
  • Do not allow workers to dump paints, oil, detergents, solvents, or other liquids into storm drains;
  • Make sure all building materials and wastes are stored properly to prevent exposure to storm water and runoff;
  • Arrange the site so that truck tires will not track mud, cement, paint, or other materials off- site; and
  • Use wood treated with preservatives only where necessary to prevent pest infestation or likely decay, as preservatives can leach into water and soil.

Make Litter Management a Habit

  • Provide trash receptacles for customers and passersby to use to prevent littering;
  • Don’t create litter yourself: shelter your materials from the elements. For example, bags of fertilizer stored outdoors are more likely to deteriorate, tear and spill; castoff appliances and machine parts exposed to the weather can shed oil or other pollutants;
  • Sweep up litter, animal waste, and other debris you find on your site before it has a chance to wash away, and dispose of it in a trash receptacle rather than in the street; and
  • Cover your trash barrels or dumpsters to prevent spillage and leaching. Containing your barrels in a shed or your dumpster inside a fence provides backup protection and can discourage “drive- by” dumping. Customers will notice your efforts, and you’ll have fewer pests.

Adapted from Conservation Tips, Charles River Watershed Association