3 Ways to Be More Eco-Friendly this Winter!
We are sharing three ways to be more eco-friendly this winter. These are:
Reducing the impact of road salt
Leaving gardens be
Considering how you travel
Reducing the Impact of Road Salt:
Road salt (especially in excess quantities) can contaminate water, harm wildlife, increase soil erosion, hurt pets, and damage property. Let’s learn why.
Contaminating water: Road salts can corrode water infrastructure such as pipes. This can lead to contamination in the water supply as well as infiltration into groundwater sources. Additionally, road salt may help mobilize other heavy metals and harmful chemicals into nearby waterways. Aside from drinking water, it may also damage aquatic ecosystems.
Eroding soil: This happens through the disruption of soil aggregates. The structure of saline soil often changes healthy soil’s drying patterns and reduces its overall stability. Although erosion is one of road salt’s most notable impacts on soil, it also can cause damage to plants through a mode of methods.
Harming wildlife: Road salts can harm wildlife by its toxic, physical, and ecosystem altering effects. First off, this can be lethal to many creatures, especially those that are aquatic or semi-aquatic. One example of this is a Canadian Wildlife Federation study done on investigating salt’s negative effect on frog and salamander hatchlings. They also explored reduced growth in fish species as an impact of salt increase.
Hurting pets: It’s not just wildlife that can be impacted. It can be harmful to pets (especially dogs), as road salt is often sharp and therefore painful for them to walk on. It can result in cutting the paw pads, chemical burns, and even lead to infection among other concerns. Additionally, ingestion of road salt can be toxic to pets in high enough amounts and concentrations, resulting in poisoning.
Damaging property: As mentioned above, Road salts can corrode water infrastructure such as pipes. However, they can also corrode and damage bridges, vehicles, roads, plants, and trees.
Some ways to try to reduce the environmental impact of road salt include:
Green Infrastructure: This includes things such as rain gardens, permeable pavement, urban forestry, and green roofs. These help by reducing the amount of water that pools on pavement, thus decreasing the amount of water that freezes and produces ice. Green Venture has a rebate program for homeowners to help them install Green Infrastructure!
Sand: It won’t melt the ice, but it will help improve traction to prevent slipping.
Coffee grounds: These work in a similar way to sand to increase traction, but the additional acidity helps melt the ice faster.
Beet Juice: Beet juice brine is mixed with salt to help reduce traditional road salt’s corrosivity. However, there are many other problems than just the corrosivity associated with road salt as we discussed. Also, there is still lots of research being done into the drawbacks of beet juice, but this too may be harmful to aquatic ecosystems.
Tip: you can use white beets to avoid staining!
Using smaller quantities: Safety is important! If you find that using road salt is necessary to keep yourself and others safe, you might have to use it! However, try to only use as much as needed to melt the ice. Avoiding unnecessary build-up and increased concentrations of this harmful substance can still have a positive impact.
Leaving your gardens be:
Cutting back gardens during the end of fall might make them appear neater. However, there are a lot of reasons why you should consider letting them be:
- Native bee species may nest in hollow stems
- Insects hibernate in the leaves over the winter
- Pollinators need early and late season food
- Seeds provide food for birds
- Critters use the leaves as protection and/or homes
- It can cost money to cut gardens back- save money
- Cutting them back takes time- these hardy plants will be fine on their own
- Decaying leaves can help fertilize the soil
- Plants help reduce runoff and lowers flood risks
- The seeds will spread- free plants!
- It looks good- try and find some plants that bloom in the winter or have cute berries
- Winter is beautiful too- get that perfect winter garden picture
Reduce emissions while still getting outside
During the winter, we’re not biking or walking as much. Sometimes we rely on driving more, or go out less altogether. Let’s explore some ideas for reducing our emissions while still getting outdoors during winter:
- Combine errands when driving
- Public transportation is still an option
- Try a staycation
- Consider how long you really need to warm up your engine
- Go for a nature walk
- Go sledding
- Go skating
- Play winter sports
- Build a snowman
- Explore snowshoeing
- Go skiing
- Get local hot chocolate (some places give you a discount for bringing your own mug!)
- Enjoy maple syrup
- Go winter birding- take part in a bird count
- Take beautiful snowy photos
- Start some seeds
- Visit nurseries for discounts on plants
- Explore local (with the rougher roads, now is a great time to explore the places in your own community)