March 23, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 44°F


Snowy Ithaca

Clearly Ithaca College is not a tropical paradise. With the recent cold streaks, sometimes it can feel as if your nose might actually fall off your face. What can be even more dangerous for accident-prone people like me is the ice. The college does a great job at putting down plenty of rock salt. Seeing these green gems like salts covering the ground though has made me question the environmental safety of this ice-melting tool. Excess salts can build up in soil, similar to chemical fertilizers.  The residue left behind prevents plants from absorbing moisture and nutrients. Salts have the possibility of leaching heavy metals, which could easily pollute the water supply. These colored salts also attract animals, increasing the amount of road kill in the winter season. Not even mentioning how they can get stuck in your poor pet’s paws!

So here are some alternatives to the standard rock salt:

1)   Try a “snow melt mat”- If you’re installing a new driveway or replacing an old one, lay down electric wires to heat the driveway from below and radiate heat upwards. Yes, you pay for electricity, so it’s not as “eco” as shoveling by hand, but it is better than using chemicals that pollute the water and endanger plants and pets.

2)   Pick your salt with care.

3)   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 increases algae growth, clogging waterways. Potassium chloride is another salt to avoid.

4)   Be generous with your sprinkling- salts are an ice melter, not an ice remover. The more you add does not mean the more efficient it will work. Use about a handful of rock salt per yard you treat.

5)   Get some traction- spreading sand or birdseed does not melt snow, but they do give you a better grip on icy surfaces.