Snow removal dilemma

I don’t mind the work involved in shoveling snow (especially not the relatively small quantities we get around here), but it presents a bit of a dilemma to my green sensibilities.  Sure, it’s the neighborly thing to do, but a shoveled walk almost always requires some salt to keep the newly snow-free pavement from being covered with hazardous icy patches, whereas the snow on an unshoveled walk usually provides plenty of traction, even if there is a layer of ice underneath.  The salt is not exactly the best thing environmentally, as it can harm plant life and usually ends up in the water supply, not to mention speeding the demise of the sidewalks themselves.

I dutifully, though somewhat guiltily shoveled the sidewalk in front of our building after the first two snows of the winter and pondered my dilemma during many snowy walks to the Y.  Assuming you’re an able-bodied individual with a decent pair of boots, walking on snow-covered sidewalks is not that big of a deal — I’d rather walk on the snow than on cleared, but unsalted and icy surfaces.

However, I realized that in addition to leaving out those who didn’t have (perhaps cannot afford?) boots, my thinking also left out people using wheelchairs, walkers, or other assistive devices to get around. I imagine snowy sidewalks are no fun for these folks.  People walking with small children would also fit in this category of “maybe not so easy to just tromp through the snow.”

Since I am all about promoting alternative and active means of transportation, I conclude that shoveling, along with the requisite and maybe not-so-green salting, is the best option.  That said, I use a light hand with the salt and don’t use salt for what could be accomplished with a shovel  — no need to overdo it!

What are your thoughts on shoveling?  Have you used any eco-friendly salt alternatives?  If so, are they effective?


  1. Hmmm… this is an interesting question, I’ve never considered it before. I’ve actually never used salt or any de-icer. Maybe this is a location specific problem. What I’ve noticed is that if you don’t shovel before somebody walks on it, you end up with icy patches where the footprints were. I think it’s because the snow gets packed down? maybe? If you shovel before that happens, then the albedo effect kicks in and within a few hours whatever snow or ice is left melts off and you’re left with dry pavement. Of course, I am in sunny Colorado, the same might not hold true in your neck of the woods.

    1. Melissa @ HerGreenLife says:

      Shoveling before it gets packed definitely helps. I think the icing up after shoveling depends on how thoroughly you’re able to shovel, how wet the snow is, temperatures, sunlight, etc. Your situation sounds ideal.

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