It’s a little bit funny to associate the word ‘green’ with snow removal, but because of annual pollution levels from chemicals used for melting and de-icing, it’s important to add some color to the situation. Substances like sodium chloride, rock salt (halite), magnesium chloride and others have been dropped on roadways for decades affecting people, plants, and animals.
While low doses may be excusable, higher amounts kill organisms in our soil, affect wildlife up to hundreds of feet from roads, leach into aquifers contaminating drinking water, and flow into rivers and streams harming aquatic life. This problem is multiplied when regions receive harsh winters and municipalities use more chemicals.
Furthermore, the plows delivering salts, sands and chemicals for melting and improving traction also have an adverse impact on the environment. Rarely fuel efficient, they leave a stinging carbon footprint despite trying to assure safe streets and highways.
In the end, chemically melted snow swishes together in a slushy soup with noxious fluids and exhaust residue left from passing vehicles. What results is a muddy picture of what’s happening when snow removal isn’t green.
States are definitely making strides towards a more ecological approach to harsh weather on the roads, but as with so many other things ‘environmental,’ greater change is needed to make a real difference. Still, every bit counts, including how we as individuals manage precipitation in and around our homes. It’s our personal responsibility to prevent the effects of public snow removal and de-icing from tainting our communities.
Walkways, sidewalks, and yards need to be zones devoid of chemicals as much as possible. After all, aside from the fact that we’ll track it back into our homes, our children play in it, roll around in it, and may even eat from it!
To help keep the snow around our humble abodes purer and its removal safer, here are a few eco-friendly tips to take into consideration in stormy weather:
Shovel: Only use gas or electric powered snow blowers when absolutely necessary, as both leave carbon footprints and pollute. Shoveling may not be fun, but it’s the environmentally friendly way and, providing you shovel correctly, safer. If lifting is difficult, hiring help is another option.
Also, when clearing snow from sidewalks, especially after a plow pushes it there from the street, don’t shovel it into your yard. Pack it on the edge of the sidewalk so chemicals and other harmful particles are away from your property.
Salt: If you need to salt, only a small amount is necessary for effectiveness and concrete contractors in any cold weather state will tell you too much will damage your cement and masonry. The same goes for deicers.
Eco-friendly products: Some products like calcium chloride are better choices when it comes to the environment. The down side is they are more expensive and require larger quantities to take effect, but if you can afford them, it’s the better choice.
Heat: Utilize anything warm to melt away snow. This doesn’t mean starting a fire, but using ashes from the chimney, boiled water you no longer need, or hot water collected from a shower are some examples.
Sand: Spread sand, but not near gutters or water ways where it can clog them up.
Litter: Kitty litter is a good substitute for sand, but make sure it’s an eco-friendly brand.
Sawdust: This is another worthwhile choice for better traction.
Planks: Have a few boards or planks handy to place on the ground. Position them well so they don’t slip.
Footwear: Yes! Wearing well-made shoes can sometimes make a world of difference on slippery and wet surfaces. It may be an investment, but it’s one that usually lasts for years.
Jakob Barry is a home improvement journalist for Networx.com. He blogs for Concrete contractors across the U.S.