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Ice, Ice Baby: How to De-Ice your Property without Degrading the Environment

I hate to tell you folks, but salt is bad news. Salt is about as bad as Vanilla Ice was, but without the bad rapper reputation. So why is salt so bad? Check it:

  1. Salt can accumulate in soil damaging your lawn and garden by preventing plants from taking up water and nutrients.
  2. Salt runs off hard surfaces and into storm drains with rain or snowmelt, which feed into local streams where it negatively impacts aquatic species and vegetation. Remember, they call them freshwater species for a reason (they don’t want to live in saltwater!).
  3. Salt can flush through the soil and into groundwater, which can slowly move into streams, elevating salt levels well after winter is over.
  4. Different types of salt mixes have different impacts. Sodium chloride can contain cyanide (obviously bad all around).
  5. Certain salt mixes can cause algal growth in local waterways, further depleting oxygen levels, which aquatic species need to survive.
  6. Salt increases the concentration of sodium in drinking water which can impact health.
  7. Salt is corrosive and damages our cars, paved surfaces, etc.
  8. Salt hurts our pets feet if it gets caught inside their paws.
  9. Salt can attract animals, which may be hit by cars if they’re licking the salt from the ground near a roadway.
  10. Road salt is expensive! Reducing the use of road salt would save lots of money for municipalities.

So what are the options, if you want get out of your house and driveway without slipping and sliding?

1. Get out and Shovel– You need exercise, the ice and snow need to go…it’s a match made in heaven!
2. Don’t want to shovel? Ok, pay someone from your hood to shovel the snow; there are usually plenty of kids willing to shovel your driveway for a few bucks.
3. Be patient! Snow and Ice will eventually melt so just get some traction with bird seed or gravel. Sand is not ideal, as it can clog storm drains.
4. Sugar Beet Extract – Yup I said it! Beet extract is a more eco-friendly way to melt ice, but since most of us don’t have a beet farm in our backyards (like Dwight from The Office) you can purchase sugar beet extract online. There are some places that are now mixing sugar beet extract with salt to de-ice roadways; to go the greener route purchase an organic formula.
5. Alfalfa Meal- This one is a twofer, it melts the ice and it provides traction. A natural fertilizer that contains nitrogen, alfalfa meal can also contribute to algal blooms in our waterways (so it’s not ideal); however, it is less problematic that nitrates from synthetic fertilizers or urea.
6. Bare Ground- Bare Ground is non-toxic, biodegradable and less corrosive than water. Check it out online. Apply it to a walkway before a storm and it reduces snow accumulation.
7. CMA- CMA stands for Calcium Magnesium Acetate which is a natural acid that is soluble in water. Similar chemically to vinegar, different types of CMA can be found online.
8. Safe Paws – Another more eco-friendly brand.
9. Get a snow blower – Ok snow blowers are not the most eco-friendly option on this list, but they are definitely better for our local streams; choose an electric model above a gas-powered one.
10. Be Informed! – Read about the pros and cons of a product before you purchase it.

So let’s get out of our driveways the eco-friendly way this winter. Word to your mother…earth!


Kacey Wetzel is a senior program officer for the Chesapeake Bay Trust. She can be reached at 410-974-2941, ext. 104.