When Mother Nature hits us with a terrible snow or ice storm, we may not have her best interests at heart when all we want to do is be rid of all the white stuff. However, there are some ecologically responsible approaches that you can take.
A number of different salts are used in traditional ice melt products but sodium chloride is the most widely available and inexpensive. Unfortunately, it is also terrible for your pets, your landscape plants and the environment. Essentially, the salt damages vegetation, accumulates in soil and pollutes water sources. It can even damage your deck or concrete if not swept off after use.
Quantity matters – No matter which product you choose, do not exceed the manufacturer’s recommended usage. Overuse of anything is a bad idea and can cause problems down the road. Overuse of salts and urea is particularly harmful because it can compound the environmental impact of the product.
“Eco-friendly” labels – since there is no certification board for these types of products, manufacturers can make any claim they want on their labels to try and sell more of their product. So although many products state that they are “green”, they may contain one or two environmentally safe ingredients in small amounts but also contain mainly toxic products.
Cat litter – although not its primary purpose, cat litter offers extra traction and melts some ice and snow. However, it is not as effective on thicker and accumulated ice. If you’re going to try this, try the non-clumping type of litter. Other household products that can add traction are sand, sawdust and even ashes. Although, don’t go too heavily with any of these either.
Less salt, more shoveling – the surest way to prevent snow and ice buildup is regular, prompt slush and snow removal. Environmentally, nothing beats old-fashioned elbow grease and a shovel. On a safety level, you will probably want to use some form of ice melt in areas of high foot-traffic to prevent slip and fall injuries, just keep it to a minimum.
Next time you see a winter storm brewing and you decide to run out to the home improvement store to pick-up some ice melt, remember to check out the package labeling, read the ingredient list (no sodium chloride!) and make the right decision. (If there’s no ingredient list, you’ll probably want to steer clear.) If you’re unsure of which products to use, talk to a snow removal contractor in your area who will be happy to share their knowledge.