(By Alisa Howell-Smith, Communications Manager)
We have started experiencing some treacherous winter weather here in the Pacific Northwest, which means we are finding ways to combat snow and ice. Your first instinct might be to use salt to help defrost the ice in your driveway. But what about pickle juice? Because although salt may seem harmless, you may not be aware of the harm it could do to your pets, our water, and especially the environment. In this post we will go over the damage done by salt and environmentally friendly de-icing alternatives.
If you have a dog, salt from deicing can get on their paws, nose or skin, and potentially cause cuts or chemical burns. If your dog licks these areas, they can ingest the salt causing irritation in the mouth or intestinal tract. Animal salt poisoning is serious and owners should watch for any new symptoms in their pets, including neurological ones, and take appropriate action to keep them safe!
Did you know that deicing with salt can have a negative impact on our water supply and environment? Road salt can contaminate and pollute soil and waterways, impacting our drinking water reservoirs, wells, and natural waterways. When these contaminant levels are high they are toxic to wildlife, bugs, fish, and plants. Salt accumulation can even attract deer or moose to the roads, increasing the probability of accidents. With about 160 pounds of salt per person being dumped on roads, sidewalks, driveways and parking lots, salting has cost Americans billions. The EPA says road salt causes us to spend about $5 billion each year on infrastructure repair. Not to mention that salt can even corrode the metals on our vehicles.
While many exciting alternatives are currently in development at a larger scale, NCAP wants to provide you with less harmful options for at-home use.
For pets, you can protect your dog's feet on winter walks by dressing them in boots or paw coverings before going outside. You can also wash them or their feet off after returning home, or only take walks in areas where you know there will be no de-icing exposure.
On your pavement and driveways, it’s a great idea to start with snow removal. It’s cheap, effective, and sustainable. Even if you plan to de-ice, starting by reducing the volume of snow and ice can lower the amount of deicer you might need overall.
A popular method of biodegradable deicer can be found right in your refrigerator, pickle juice! It can be used before or after snowfall as an effective way to deice, as long as the temperatures stay above -23°F. Alfalfa meal and coffee grounds are both great alternatives as well since they are effective at melting the ice and adding traction to the ground. Although, these two methods should be used with caution and moderation as they contain nitrogen which can be harmful if overused.
If you try these methods with no success or still plan to use traditional deicer, you can reference the EPA’s Safer Choice Database for options with reduced impact on the environment: https://www.epa.gov/saferchoice/products#search=deicer