De-icing your driveway: The eco-friendly way

It is already late November, which means we need to start preparing for our cold and wet Vancouver winter. Keeping our driveways, sidewalks, and walkways safe can be a challenge at the best of times, and is often a hassle in the cold December and January months. There are several ways to melt the ice on your driveway and walkways; some good for the environment, some not so good. Let’s take a look at the benefits and faults of each.

Rock salt has been used for years to melt ice, and make driveways and walkways a safer stepping ground. Unfortunately, rock salt is very bad for the environment, as well as your stone structures. Rock salt has a tendency to eat away at stones, creating divots, which ultimately wear the stone down. Similarly, rock salt also has the ability to break down heavy metals, which can leak into our garden, or even worse; our water supply. When this substance builds up in the soil, it absorbs a great deal of nutrients and moisture, which should be used by the natural environment around the house. Lastly, Rock salt has been known to attract those pesky little animals into your gardens, such as squirrels and racoons

De-Icers claiming to be Eco-Friendly are generally a mixture of salts, in an effort to lessen the effects of a specific type of salt. Many of these de-icers are made of three main ingredients: Sodium-Chloride, Calcium-Chloride, and Magnesium. Although better than using just Sodium-Chloride, these eco-friendly de-icers still cause a great deal of harm to the environment, and have similar disadvantages to rock salt.

Eco Friendly Alternatives:

Shovelling: The best way to de-ice your driveway, sidewalks, and walkways is through some good old’ fashioned shovelling. Try to get your driveway shovelled as soon as possible. If you are unable to do this yourself, you can always pay some neighbourhood kids to help you!

Cat Litter: is a great way to gain traction on an icy walkway, while simultaneously breaking down the ice and snow buildup. Make sure you double check that you choose a natural and bio-degradable product.

Sand: is also a great way to gain traction on those icy walkways, but does come with some downfalls. As the snow and ice melt, sand can be washed into waterways and storm drains. This is not only hazardous to the environment, but your home as well, as it can cause clogged drains and flooding.

With this being said, sand is a great alternative to salt when used sparingly, and in conjunction with other means.  Sand can generally be found at any landscaping or home improvement stores. To get traction on icy surfaces, you can also use sawdust, gravel, straw, and woodchips.

Organic Ice Melt: There are a handful of products available specifically designed to be good on the environment, while making your driveways and paths safe in the winter. These chloride-free products are generally marketed as pet-safe, and can be found at any local hardware store.

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