Going Green at Home

Why “Go Green” at your home?

As storm water flows over driveways, lawns and sidewalks, it picks up debris, chemicals, dirt and pollutants.  Storm water conveyance systems, such as curbs, gutters, storm drains, channels, ditches, pipes and culverts carry runoff to a discharge point. These conveyance systems do not treat storm water. Once arriving at the discharge point, which is often a dry or wet bottom detention area, the storm water runoff is either contained or gradually released at a controlled rate. Storm water runoff eventually ends up in streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands and other natural water ways.

Unfortunately, storm water runoff transports a number of non-point source pollutants such as fertilizers, pesticides, leaves and lawn clippings, pet waste, cigarette butts, oil dripped from cars, antifreeze, litter (plastic bags), salt from driveways and roadways, and sediment from improperly managed construction sites.  Water sources can then contain sediments, metals (copper, lead, zinc), nutrients (nitrates, phosphorus, ammonia), petroleum products, salt and bacteria.

Consequently, storm water runoff contributes to water quality problems. Polluted runoff into water bodies can affect aquatic plant and animal life in streams and lakes (e.g. algae blooms), reduce recreational activities such as swimming and boating, and increase flooding conditions (e.g. shoreline erosion).

SW problem pics  
Algae growth in creek  Clogged storm drain   Fuel, oil, brake leaks  Sediment (soil,sand)   Shoreline erosion          Most plastic bags take 500 years to biodegrade.

What is a Homeowner Best Management Practice (BMP)?

In order to help improve both water quality and water quantity (e.g. flooding and erosion), there are a number of best management practices that a homeowner can implement. A best management practice (BMP) is a technique designed to control adverse storm water related effects.

A number of homeowner BMPs are listed below. 

Lawn Care Treatment

Most homeowners want a decent lawn, but do not want to pollute the environment in the process. Prior to fertilizing, aerate the soil with a rototiller or shovel.  Also, conduct a soil test with a kit to see what nutrients are missing to help prevent over-fertilization. No mater what type of fertilizer used, over-fertilization will harm your lawn and the environment!
Lawn care pic

U.S. Department of Agriculture,

Agriculture Research Services

For further assistance and questions relating to soil testing and lawn care preparations, please click on the following link for the  University of Illinois Extension - Will County Office or call them at 815-727-9296.

When using a synthetic or chemical fertilizer, please select the proper fertilizer for either a new or established lawn; and read and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and directions for use, such as not fertilizing before a rain storm, keeping fertilizer and spreader off of pavement and avoiding over-fertilization.  If a chemical fertilizer is chosen, a homeowner can still achieve an environmentally-friendly lawn by utilizing a product with a slow release nitrogen technology, as opposed to a fertilizer with water-soluble chemicals that may require more applications and increased potential for over-fertilization and grass burning resulting in excess nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus) carried away by storm water runoff.
lawn care details

  Zero Phosphate / Slow Nitrogen Release Lawn Fertilizer 

Another alternative is to use an organic fertilizer, which uses natural nutrient sources instead of a chemical fertilizer from a manufacturing plant. A main advantage of an organic fertilizer is that the natural materials must break down in order for the nutrients to be released in a form that grass roots can use. The natural materials break down at rates that correlate with the times when lawns need them the most (for example, a faster breakdown in spring / rainy periods and slower breakdown during summer / drought periods). Some other common advantages of organic fertilizers include: 1) does not cause growth spurts after feedings that lead to excess mowing, 2) less likely to lead to thatch problems than chemical fertilizers, 3) does not result in streaking that occurs at times when faster acting chemical fertilizers are not evenly applied, and 4) the naturally fertilized lawn is more drought and pest resistant and uses less water, so it needs to be irrigated less often. On the other hand, the chemically fertilized lawn is water hungry and needs constant irrigation because the grass relies on the chemical to supply the nutrients.
Organic fertilizers typically do not produce as thick or green of a lawn as a chemical fertilizer, can be more expensive per bag than a chemical fertilizer, and some can have a manure smell that dissipates after a few days, but can offer a more environmentally-friendly lawn.  Not all home improvement and gardening supply stores offer organic fertilizers, so please consult the phone book or internet for nurseries and stores offering them.

Rain Gardens


Urban Storm Water Retrofit Practices, Version 1


A rain garden is a landscape area, approximately 100 to 300 square feet in area and located at least 10 feet from a house, which is planted with wildflowers and other native vegetation that soak up rain water mainly from roofs, but also from the driveway and lawn areas.  A rain garden is designed to slowly infiltrate and drain runoff in less than 24 hours (no mosquito breeding concerns), which results in less storm water running off into storm sewers and eventually into detention areas, streams, lakes and other water bodies, causing less flooding and stream erosion. The native plantings in the rain garden also filter and trap pollutants, which results in better water quality. Most native plants require little or no watering or fertilizing; do not need to be mowed; and also are not allergens. Overall, a rain garden allows for an attractive amenity, attracting birds, butterflies, etc. while also allowing for improvements to water quantity and water quality.

For step-by-step rain garden installation instructions, please click on the link for the rain garden manual published by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and University of Wisconsin Extension

For more information on native plantings in Illinois, please click the following links from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA) / Native Plant Guide and Illinois Natural Historic Survey.

Rain Barrels

A rain barrel (see illustration below from Low Impact Development Center) stores runoff from the roof, which can be used for other watering needs, such as gardens.  A typical rain barrel can hold between 50 and 80 gallons of roof runoff. A number of rain barrels are made from recycled plastic. There are many different shapes, colors and styles of rain barrels that can fit into the aesthetics of a residential lot.  There are many rain barrel suppliers that can be found on the internet, or check out local home improvement stores.
Rain barrel diagram  

For rain barrel installation and maintenance instructions, please click on the following links from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, Rain Barrel Guide and The Conversation Foundation.

Rain barrel pics  
Different color and style of rain barrels (attempt to get one made from recycled plastic)

The Village of New Lenox has partnered with Upcycle Products and the Conservation Foundation to offer low cost Rain Barrels to the resident of New Lenox.

Click Here to purchase your Rain Barrel.

Permeable Pavers

As an alternative to asphalt, concrete or standard brick pavers, a homeowner or hired professional can install permeable pavers for a driveway, walkway or patio. As seen in the adjacent picture, the wide joints or openings, typically filled with gravel, allow for water to drain through and into the soil beneath. As a result, the amount of storm water runoff entering natural water ways is reduced (leading to less flooding and erosion) as is the amount of contaminants and pollutants carried by runoff (due to naturally occurring bacteria helping to digest contaminants before they reach the water table).
Paver example  
For more information, including installation steps, finding a paver contractor and viewing different permeable paver designs and colors, please click on the following link from PaverSearch.       
  paver driveway example  

    Driveway before (inset) and after with permeable pavers

     (Masonry Construction Online)

Integrated Pest Management: Avoid pesticide use whenever possible!

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices. IPM programs use current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment.  This information, in combination with available pest control methods, is used to manage pest damage by the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard to people, property and the environment. IPM techniques can be used within the home and on the property surrounding it.

Some IPM treatment options include sealing cracks, keeping branches trimmed and away from the house, pulling soil and mulch away from the foundation to reduce chances of termite infestation, pulling weeds, keeping gutters and downspouts unclogged, directing downspouts towards vegetated areas such as rain gardens, removing food and water sources (e.g. standing water for 5 or more days allows for mosquitoes to complete life cycle), selecting pest resistant plant varieties and only using pesticide treatments when necessary.  When using pesticides, please read and follow directions, such as avoiding application if rain is in the forecast.

Avoiding the use of pesticides whenever possible, particularly the excessive use of pesticides, will help improve overall water quality, while avoiding harm to people, pets, beneficial organisms and the environment.

For more information on integrated pest management, including a number of homeowner tips, please click the following: http://www.whatisipm.org/

Residential Solar Panels

For more information and questions relating to the installation and cost of residential solar panels, please click the following: Residential Solar Panels 

Other Homeowner BMPs /Recommendations

  • Avoid excess watering and keep sprinkler water only on lawn areas and away from sidewalks, driveways and other paved areas that will drain to storm sewers.

  • Keep your mowing height high. Set the mower blade at 3 inches to provide a “taller” lawn that slows runoff, requires less irrigation, and helps minimize weeds.

  • For more information on watering and mowing guidelines, as well as other lawn care recommendations (search by multiple topics), please click on the following link from the University of Illinois Extension.

  • Vegetate, seed or mulch bare soil in your yard to prevent erosion.

  • Sweep up your sidewalks, patios and decks of yard debris and dispose of it in a covered compost pile or trash can. Do NOT hose, sweep or blow yard debris into street, gutters or storm drains.

  • Before beginning any outdoor project, locate the nearest storm drains and protect them from debris and other materials.

  • Recycle: Grass clippings, leaves and yard trimmings composted and recycled on-site provide nutrients to the soil and reduce water disposal.

For more information and homeowner tips for composting, please click on the following links from the University of Illinois Extension and the Environmental Protection Agency.

  • Car Washing: Use a commercial car wash where water is reused several times before it is sent to a wastewater treatment plant. If washing at home, place the car on a lawn or other unpaved area so the ground can filter the water naturally, as opposed to the soapy water running towards the nearest storm sewer, which picks up other pollutants along the way. If washing on a driveway or other paved area, redirect the wash water (using a piece of lumber) to vegetated areas such as landscaping or your lawn, or use a wet vacuum to collect wash water and then dispose of it in your sink or toilet where it will be treated at a local wastewater treatment plant.  Do NOT clean or pressure wash the engine or undercarriage of your car at home, where oil, grease and other pollutants can impact water quality, but rather take your car to a commercial car wash for this type of cleaning where the wash water will be treated properly.

    Wash your car with non-toxic, low phosphate soap and use water sparingly.  Pour your bucket of soapy water down the sink when you are done, not in the street, gutters or storm drains.

  • Drain your swimming pool or hot tub only when a test kit does not detect any chlorine or other toxic chemicals.

  • Minimize the use of salt in the winter for melting ice. Substitute with sand, or chip ice away.

  • Pick up pet waste. Flush or secure it in a garbage bag and dispose of it in your trash. Otherwise, nutrients and bacteria could be washed into detention areas, lakes and streams.

  • Clean water-based painting equipment in the sink, not outdoors. Dispose of excess paints, cleaners, solvents, etc. through a household waste collection agency. If you have leftover or unused paint, please consider donating it to local organizations.

  • Check vehicles, machinery and equipment for leaks and spills. Clean up spilled fluids with an absorbent such as kitty litter or sand. Do NOT hose spills into the street, gutters or storm drains. Make repairs as soon as possible to avoid future leaks and spills.

  • Always properly dispose of or recycle automotive fluids such as used motor oil at appropriate disposal sites or recycling facilities.
For more information on household waste disposal solutions and waste disposal locations, please click on the following links from Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Will County Green.
  • Buy no-phosphate cleaners and detergents. Phosphates act as a fertilizer and increase algae and aquatic weeds in wet basins. When these plants die, they rob the water of oxygen and fish may die.  Also, look to purchase other nontoxic, biodegradable, recycled and recyclable products whenever possible.

  • Plants and Trees = Energy Savings! – Plant trees and shrubs around the house to provide shade in the summer and create wind protection in the winter. Plant deciduous trees on the south and west sides of your home where the sun’s rays can be the most intense and direct.  Deciduous trees help shade the home in summer and allow sunlight in winter to heat the home. Plant shrubs and evergreens close to the home to counter strong winter winds.

  • Reusable Shopping Bags – Instead of paper or plastic bags, please consider utilizing eco-friendly reusable bags.

  • To calculate your carbon footprint, as well as tips to help reduce it, please click on the following link: http://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx.

  • For ways to “green” your home, please click on the The Green Home Guide  from the U.S. Green Building Council.

      Township Clean Up

      Township-Wide Clean up Day

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      Rain Barrels
      The Village of New Lenox has partnered with Upcycle Products and the Conservation Foundation to offer low cost Rain Barrels to the resident of New Lenox.

      Click Here to purchase your Rain Barrel.

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      New Lenox, Illinois 60451
      Phone: (815) 462-6400
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