With red tide impacting life along the shores of Sarasota Bay, it’s crucial to know what each of us can do to be more Florida-Friendly. Here’s a list of 8 things you can do to reduce personal nitrogen pollution:

1) Be Floridian – Fertilize responsibly.

Fertilizer containing can contribute excess nitrogen pollution to local waterways when it rains. Did you know that there is a summertime ban in Sarasota and Manatee Counties on applying fertilizers that contain nitrogen and phosphorus? During the rest of the year, use a product with slow-release nitrogen, or try amending your soil with compost. Visit befloridian.org for product recommendations and local ordinances.

2) Pick up pet waste and reduce poo-lution (even in your own backyard).

Sarasota and Manatee County dogs deposit an estimated 12 tons of pet waste on the ground every day. Animal waste contains nitrogen and bacteria that pollute our waterways when it rains. You can help by picking up after your pet on walks and in your backyard.

3) Keep leaves and grass clippings on the lawn – don’t blow them into the street or down the drain.

Lawn clippings and leaves contain nitrogen. When we blow them into the street and down the drain, they can pollute the stormwater that eventually reaches Sarasota Bay. Leaving clippings on the lawn keeps those nutrients in your yard as a natural fertilizer. Leaves should be bagged, not blown.

4) Direct downspouts into plant beds (rather than down the driveway).

Simply redirecting your gutter downspouts from your driveway to your lawn or garden can help reduce the volume of stormwater that carries nutrients to Sarasota Bay during rainstorms. Rainwater will percolate through your soil rather than wash down the drain. It’s a 5-minute fix that will make a big difference.

5) Drive less.

Burning fossil fuels, including the gasoline in our cars, releases nitrogen-containing compounds as well as carbon dioxide. This air pollution moves back to the ground in rainwater and pollutes surface waterbodies. Combining car trips, carpooling, and using alternative transportation like the bus or a bicycle helps reduce air and water pollution.

6) Get your septic system inspected annually.

Regular inspections can help identify leaks in septic systems before they become big problems that pollute local ground and surface water. Visit EPA’s SepticSmart website for more information.

7) Plant trees and other native plants.

Plants help reduce runoff by soaking up stormwater along with the nitrogen that often comes along with it. Fuel the growth of plants in your yard, not algae in the Bay! Visit the Public Stewardship page on the SBEP website for more information about landscaping with native plants.

8) Use a commercial car wash rather than washing at home.

Commercial car washes are required to properly dispose of wastewater. At home, soapy water runs from your car into the nearest storm drain. If you do wash the car at home, wash it on a pervious surface like grass (i.e. not your driveway or the street) and use a nontoxic and phosphate-free soap.