Snow Be Gone: Eco-Friendly Methods of Snow Removal
Traditional snow removal methods, such as rock salt and gas-powered snow blowers, are great for clearing icy roads but bad for the environment. Salt can accumulate in waterways and fossil fuels contribute to climate change. Luckily, you don’t have to resign yourself to being snowed in this winter – there are eco-friendly snow removal methods you can use instead. Here are a few examples.
Electric Snow Blowers
Instead of using gas-powered blowers, opt for an electric or battery-powered blower instead. They’re not as powerful, but they’re typically smaller, quieter and lighter compared to traditional snow blowers. This makes it easier to wield them, allowing you to clear large areas without putting out harmful fossil fuel emissions. Save them for the toughest, deepest areas of snow and clear the rest manually.
If you can’t afford a heated driveway, see if snow-melting mats would work instead. There are portable electric pads that can cover your driveway or sidewalk. They keep the area warm and prevent snow and ice from forming. As far as installation goes, all you have to do is unroll them and plug them in, making setup a breeze. You can turn them off during the day to save energy. Use solar panels to make this option even more eco-friendly.
Putting down mulch chips, clay kitty litter or sand helps provide traction on hard surfaces. Although these substances don’t actually melt snow, they allow your shoes and car tires to grip the ground more easily, meaning you don’t have to spend as much time removing snow and ice from around your house.
Avoid using generic birdseed for traction purposes, since spreading the seeds will introduce non-native plants to your yard. However, if you do want to use seeds to provide more traction on the ground, you can buy seeds from plants native to your area. You’ll help feed the birds through the winter, and in the springtime, you just might find you have a yard full of flowers.
One way to prevent snow and ice buildup is a heated driveway. Although this is the costliest option, it’s one of those long-term winter weather solutions – like installing a chimney cap on your roof or putting in plumbing that won’t freeze every year – that could pay for itself in the long run. Heated driveways require little maintenance, and they’re practical if you live in an area known to get heavy annual snowfall.
The reason rock salt is environmentally harmful is when the treated snow eventually melts, it runs off into streams and lakes. The brine is toxic to aquatic wildlife in certain concentrations. It’s like dumping salt into a freshwater aquarium – the plants, plankton and fish simply aren’t equipped to handle it and the entire ecosystem can collapse over time.
More alarmingly, road salt can also trigger the release of mercury when it comes in contact with soil, which can contaminate human drinking water. We need to look for alternative solutions to de-icing roads and sidewalks.
Some unconventional methods include using beet wastewater, which is left over after processing sugar beets. Potato and pickle juice are also being tested as alternatives to traditional road salt. In the future, solar-powered roads may even heat themselves, eliminating the need for de-icing altogether.
Of course, there’s always good old-fashioned shoveling. What could be more eco-friendly than that? Invest in a snow shovel, rise a little earlier and scrape the sidewalks the traditional way. It’s a great workout and can get you outside to see your neighbors.
If manually shoveling the walkway is physically challenging, consider hiring a friend or neighbor who wants to earn some extra cash to do it for you. Chances are good there’s a local teenager who’d be more than happy to help.
Eco-Friendly Snow Removal
Although traditional snow removal methods can be harmful to wildlife and the climate, there are several environmentally safer alternatives to choose from. This winter, use a little elbow grease, invest in an electric snow blower or use radiant heating to clear your path from the house to the outside world.