It is officially that time of year when we buy salt by the bagful and throw liberal handfuls of the stuff on our doorsteps and sidewalks. There’s no doubt about it – salt is effective at melting ice and snow, and it’s cheap. But what about the effect of salt on the environment? Environment Canada has published the results of their study on salt and the environment in their online newsmagazine EnviroZine. They say the harmful effects of salt on the environment can be minimized by careful management and judicious use. Additionally, because of the corrosive nature of salt, we would all do well to reduce its use, if for no other reason than to save our doorsteps. Salt can also make quite a mess of our indoor floors when it gets tracked inside. Alternatives worth considering include sand, wood ash, and kitty litter. All three of these substances provide good traction and are better environmental choices, but they won’t melt ice or snow. So if salt is still your choice, how much is enough? Harrowsmith Country Life has the answer in their February 2006 issue:
You only need a few grains to effectively remove snow and ice over an area that measures 1 square foot. To calculate how many ounces you really need, multiply the square footage by 0.08 and resist the urge to use any more than you require.
Something I’ve tried that works incredibly well is to simply sweep the doorstep bare. However, this is a pretty high-maintenance procedure – you have to sweep before any of it becomes icy, and before anyone walks on the snow and packs it down. Admittedly, this is likely impractical for those of you with sidewalks, but it is manageable for a small area like your doorstep, and it will keep your doorstep from becoming pitted and corroded.