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Think green for safer snow removal

Most people just want to remove snow and ice from their sidewalks and driveways as quickly as possible, and get out of the cold. But taking a few steps to remove snow in an environmentally friendly way can make your home safer for you and your family, your pets, and your yard.

Salt is usually the first thing we grab to melt ice. According to the experts at, that’s not such a great idea:

  • Salt can harm our pets if it becomes lodged in their paws.
  • Because salt is corrosive it can damage cars. It will also damage any concrete surfaces that come in contact with it.
  • If salt gets into your yard, it will keep plants from absorbing moisture and nutrients. This will kill your flowers and grass.
  • Salt run off from sidewalks and streets can increase salinity in local bodies of water, causing long-term damage. It also  can leach heavy metals which can end up in our water supplies

Kitty litter and ash aren’t good alternatives for salt, according to Groovy Green Livin. They only give better traction on surfaces — they don’t melt ice. They also can harm your grass and flowers. And they can be messy once spring arrives.

So, what’s a snowman to do? Esquire magazine has some suggestions.

1. Pick your salt carefully. If you do use salt, check the labels. “Sodium chloride (NaCL) may contain cyanide. Calcium chloride (CaCl) is slightly better since less goes farther, but it is still not ideal, since its run-off still increases algae growth, which clogs waterways,” according to Esquire. You also should avoid potassium chloride.

Whatever you use, keep it away from landscape plants, especially those that are particularly salt-sensitive. These include tulip poplars, maples, balsam firs, white pines, hemlock, Norway spruce, dogwood, redbud, rose bushes and spirea bushes.

2. Scrimp on the de-icer. The purpose of using a de-icer is to loosen ice from below to make it easier to shovel or plow. Don’t dump a bunch of  de-icer on your driveway thinking you’ll remove the ice completely. You won’t.

According to Esquire, the recommended application rate for rock salt is around a handful per square yard you treat. Calcium chloride will treat about 3 square yards per handful.

3. Use sand for traction. Scatter sand or even birdseed for traction. The grains won’t melt snow or ice, but they will give you more grip on icy surfaces. Avoid the birdseed if you’ve had problems in the past with rodents or other household pests.

4. Avoid de-icers with nitrogen-based urea.These products are not effective if the temperature drops below 20°F. And they’re more expensive to buy and use. You need 10 times as much fertilizer to de-ice an area as you do to fertilize your yard.

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