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Dig out from the storm – with a sustainable alternative
Lifestyle

Dig out from the storm – with a sustainable alternative

There are less aggressive but equally effective options than rock salt to keep your walkways free of ice

Wednesday’s Nor’Easter pummeled the region with snow, ice and rain –  much of which is now frozen solid to our roadways and sidewalks. 

With temperatures barely going above freezing, much of that snow and ice is now there for us to dig out. The City of Philadelphia implores residents to clear the sideways in front of homes and businesses within the first six hours following the end of the storm. 

The easiest approach is digging out and de-icing with rock salt. Rock salt works fast to keep ice off walkways but it’s perhaps one of the most damaging compounds as it dries out sidewalk surfaces, corrodes metal, but perhaps is most damaging when it gets into the soil, groundwater and, of course, our waterways. 

With that said, there are alternatives that are just as effective as salt without damaging property and the environment.

Before you dig out, consider these four options that aren’t as harmful to groundwater as rock salt

  1. Coffee grinds

Biodegradable, all-natural and actually does absorb sunlight to help snow and ice melt faster. Instead of pouring grinds down your drain (which if you do, definitely reconsider) pour it on the sidewalk to ensure a non-slip surface. 

2. Sand

Sand is a great option since sand absorbs sunlight and heats the ground below in addition to providing traction over ice and snow. However, use sand sparingly given sand does wash away and when it ends up in drains doesn’t easily wash out, instead collecting gunk and sediment that could harbor and pass bacteria into our waterways. 

3. Kitty litter

Litter acts similarly to sand to also provide traction on ice, but it doesn’t have melting properties. It’s a great alternative over salt but only on a fully shoveled walkway or step to deliver some additional traction. 

4. Vinegar

As an all-natural liquid, vinegar contains citric acid which melts snow and ice and is great for steps and small walkways. 

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Kerith Gabriel
Kerith Gabriel started out as a sports writer over a decade ago for the Philadelphia Daily News. He left sports to focus on issues that deeply affect Philadelphians but really, he just loves telling a good story, regardless of genre. When he’s not prowling for a story, you can most likely find him playing soccer at Penn Park, or doing the dad thing around town. Email him at kerith.a.gabriel@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter via @sprtswtr. View all posts by Kerith Gabriel

1 thought on “Dig out from the storm – with a sustainable alternative

  1. Shoveling the snow, then sweeping the sidewalk–at intervals while it is still falling–helps prevent compaction underfoot from pedestrians and thus icing. If any ice stiil forms, take advantage of daytime moments when the temperature is above 32 degrees by breaking up the melting ice with a spade with a straight edge, then shoveling or sweeping aside the ice shards.

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