Good for the Earth, Good for Your Septic Tank

Written by Dominique Buhot
Updated February 3, 2015
For top performance, you want the landscaping over your septic system to promote drainage and prevent erosion. Grass is ideal for this purpose. (Photo courtesy of Angi member Tracy F. of Dayton, Ohio)

Living a little more lightly is not only good for our planet … it can help your septic tank to function better

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What if you could help the planet, dodge some annoyance and save some cash?

By going a little greener and living a little more lightly, you can save wear and tear on your septic system, which can avoid the inconvenience and expense of costly repairs.

Your goal

The maintenance of your septic system is the key to maximizing its longevity. About 95 percent of the sludge and scum in your septic tank is digested and broken down by bacteria. The remaining 5 percent accumulates in the tank.

That’s why the tank must be pumped every three to five years. You want to avoid having the solid material wash out to the drain field, which can prematurely cost you thousands of dollars for repair or replacement.

Here’s how you can extend the life of your system and be a little kinder to the environment, too.

1. Conserve water

A large volume of water over a short period of time will flush untreated sludge from the septic tank to the drain field … which you want to avoid.

To reduce your water usage:

● Turn the faucet off while shaving or brushing your teeth.

● Space out activities that use a lot of water, such as running the dishwasher, showering and washing clothes.

● Replace an old toilet with a quality model that uses less water (1.2 gallons per flush); check out low-flow shower heads; and repair a leaking toilet or faucet as soon as possible.

VIDEO: Questions about low-flush options?  How to select a toilet

2. Balance is key for your septic tank

What you put into your septic system can not only create clogs, it can upset the balance of bacteria responsible for breaking down the contents of your tank.

● Avoid household chemicals, disinfectants and the heavy use of bleach and bathroom cleaners. Try environmentally friendly products, such as vinegar, instead.

● Chemicals don’t just upset the balance; they can contaminate your groundwater. Don’t allow paint, oils, chemical drain cleaner, solvents, pesticides, printing ink or toxic chemicals to enter your septic system.

Cleaning green

● Mild-mannered vinegar is a cleaning superhero.

● Be a friend of the earth with these environmentally friendly cleaning tips.

● Make your own green cleaning products.

3. Go with the flow

A clog in your system is not only a major hassle; it can be expensive to resolve.

● To avoid a blockage, don’t flush or dump these items down the drain, even if they claim to be “flushable” or safe for septic systems: grease or cooking oil, coffee grounds, cigarette butts, tissues, sanitary napkins and hygiene products, diapers, wipes, cat box litter or cotton swabs.

Composting is a great way to avoid using a garbage disposal for your kitchen waste. It’s good for your garden AND your septic system.

4. Look at the big picture

Soil erosion, compaction or oversaturation aren’t good for the environment or your septic tank. Where the water flows in your yard — or where it doesn’t — can make a big difference.

● Divert downspouts, roof drainage and driveway runoff away from your septic system to avoid oversaturation and erosion.

● Plant the right landscaping over your septic system. Grass is a good choice, to promote drainage and prevent erosion. Avoid trees; heavy tree roots can penetrate your system and create major damage.

● Don’t drive over any part of the septic system. It will compact the soil and reduce its performance and it will damage the septic tank. Don’t obstruct the tank and the drain field with a concrete patio or walkway.

Focus on the long term

Like electricity and heating, we tend to take our septic systems for granted. A well-maintained septic tank is a valuable asset to your property. Know its location and use a professional septic tank contractor to keep it properly maintained.

By living a little greener, you can reduce the strain on your septic system, enjoy many years of safe usage and do your part to help the environment.

RELATED: Tips for living green

As of  February 3, 2015, this service provider was highly rated on Angi. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angi for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angi.

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