Snow Way

Snow Way

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Just as in summer when sustainable gardens reap abundance so too does winter display its eco-potential. From drinking water to ice storage, snow is an environmental gift. Most people, however, find snow a nuisance and will go to any length to remove it. Learn how to use snow to your advantage, and remove snow in an environmentally responsible way.

Winter Water Breach

When spreading salt and chemicals on your driveway and foot paths to melt snow this winter you may want to think twice before buying a conventional formula. Rock salt (sodium chloride) has been found to infiltrate and damage nearby water wildlife. In Toronto, Ontario it was reported by journalist Michael Lehan that the Don River had been affected by snow removal dumping which contained high amounts of rock salt. Researchers only found seven remaining fish species in comparison with the nearby Humber River, (not used for snow dumping), which supports upwards of thirty species. If you want to break down stubborn ice or keep a pathway cleared during a downfall, use calcium magnesium acetate or calcium chloride which are less harmful and offered right alongside sodium chloride in most stores. You can also set up an ice and snow melting electric mat for sensitive areas or even a place to put wet boots after entry.

Two State Solutions

With many other reports of water toxicity due to snow dumping as well as accumulation of snow removal chemical leached into the system, two states took some preventative measures.

  • Maryland – The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDT) comments on using sodium chloride (rock salt), “this salt can make nearby freshwater ecosystems uninhabitable for plant and wildlife species, and can affect the quality and taste of local drinking water supplies.” As a deterrent, brine, a saltwater solution is being used to coat roadways prior to inclement  weather. Apparently it helps reduce the sticking of snow and ice thus needing less salt to be used. In addition, they have experimented with adding beet juice to the solution which has shown to improve it even more.
  • Massachusetts – Pre-treating roads with magnesium chloride as well as a calcium/sodium chloride mix prior to storms helps quell incoming storms as well as protect the environment in Massachusetts.

History Repeats?

There have been some historical uses of snow that may possibly apply to uses today. Virgin snow has been brushed from Chinese plum blossom trees and used for tea; collected and left to melt for indoor plant watering and/or cleaning; as well as boiled and used to supply drinking water to farm animals. Here is a poem from Qing (1644-1911) poet Mao Ti about collecting snow for tea:

In the mountains, hungry crows clamor on a thousand trees,
I myself brush the icy flakes together, I myself brew the tea.
I don’t care that the freezing cold causes me to shiver all over:
I worry only that the snow may crush the old plum blossoms.

Respect your winter treat of fresh snow. If you are in an area where there is none, go to the mountaintops and experience it firsthand.


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