Mercy Tips to Care for Earth

Earth-friendly Snow and Ice Removal

Mercy Tips to Care for Earth

By Marianne Comfort, Mercy Justice Team  

If you live someplace that gets lots of ice and snow each winter, you’re used to seeing trucks spreading salt on roads and highways to reduce hazardous conditions for cars. You might even have a bucket of salt for your sidewalks and driveway. 

While salt (technically, sodium chloride) is the most effective and least costly method for de-icing outdoor surfaces, it comes with an environmental cost. An estimated 20 million tons of salt is scattered on U.S. roads annually—about 123 pounds for every American. All that salt eventually makes its way into streams, lakes and groundwater, causing harm to plants, fish and other aquatic life. Animals such as moose and deer like to lick salt, and when they wander close to salty roads, that increases the chances for accidents and roadkill.  

Staff at the University of Minnesota Extension know about both ice and the effects of using salt to minimize walking and driving hazards. Their recommendations to eliminate or reduce salt use include: 

  • Shovel, scrape and sweep snow often to remove as much as possible. This prevents ice buildup and reveals more of the dark surfaces that absorb the sun’s radiation and promote melting.  
  • Avoid dumping your shoveled snow onto nearby shrubs as it may contain salt or break branches. 
  • If it’s a warm day, just let the sun melt any remaining ice and snow. 
  • Read product labels and apply salt sparingly to critical areas only. A coffee mug of salt (about 12 oz.) is all that is needed for about 1,000 sq. ft., approximately the area of a 20-ft driveway or 10 sidewalk squares. 
  • Spread salt evenly leaving about 3 inches between salt grains. Avoid spilling piles of salt. 
  • Sweep up any salt grains you see on dry surfaces to prevent it from washing or blowing into plantings and waterways. Save it to reapply later in the season.