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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Treating icy driveways and sideways in an environmentally friendly manner

    I have blogged previously on the problems that we have when we fertilize our yards to keep them green and today I want to mention another homeowner enhanced problem for the winter season.

     With this morning's light snow it is a good time to discuss this environmental issue. The use of salt on our sidewalks and driveways creates environment problems for our waterways.  Here are the facts:
1. Excess salts build up in the soil, just as they do with chemical fertilizers.
2. Salt residue prevents plants from absorbing moisture and nutrients.
3. Salts can leach heavy metals, which eventually make their way into water supplies.
4. Salt on grass or sidewalks close to roads can attract animals, which may be hit by cars if they’re licking the salt from the ground.
5. Plus, salt can burn our pets if it lodges in their paws.
   So what are you to do to avoid the dangers of ice on our sidewalks and driveways? The best solution takes some work with frequent shoveling and sweeping the loose snow with a broom. 

 An ice chipper works with ice. 

Here are some alternatives to salt:

      1.  Sand. This is a great alternative to salt. Sand provides traction, is inexpensive, does not harm the environment, and sweeps up easily. Brick sand is best because it is coarser and more granular than regular sand. Brick sand can be purchased from building supply stores. Sand also has a relatively low albedo, which means it will absorb sunlight, helping to warm ice/snow and contribute to faster melting. It does tend to track easily into homes, however.

      2.  Ashes. If you have a wood burning fireplace at home, ashes are a convenient and economical alternative to salt. Ashes provide traction and will melt ice quickly when it is sunny (ashes have a low albedo, which means they will absorb sunlight). Please be careful to keep ashes away from food gardens, as there may be heavy metals present in ashes.

     3. Kitty Litter. This option may be more expensive than other alternatives, but it provides a great deal of traction. If you already have kitty litter at home, this can be an easy alternative to salt. Unfortunately, the residual material has a tendancy to turn into mush as the snow and ice melts.

     4.  EcoTraction. One commercial alternative that shows promise is "EcoTraction". Limited application of this product used in conjunction with sand. Check out the EcoTraction website for more information on this salt alternative.   Locally available at  Morin Distribution, 9305 Gerwig Lane,
Columbia, MD 21046,  301-953-0250

   If you are going to buy a de-icer then here is some information on the environmental issues with each choice.

1 comment:

Ned said...

great post!! Thanks for this timely article. I hope everyone who reads it will get something out of it.