Green Your Snow
Switch to deicers that have organic or anticorrosive
That bucket of blue-tinged rock salt is a familiar weapon against Old Man Winter, but the environmental draw- backs of sodium chloride will be noticeable in the spring. From killing plants to harming wildlife, traditional deicers
are nothing but bad news for the environment. There are a number of safer but equally effective options that will tackle ice and
sleet lingering on your property.
The Disadvantages of Rock Salt
Rock salt (sodium chloride) is great for making ice cream, but
think twice about spreading it on your sidewalks. The resulting
brine can choke out vegetation and increase the salinity of water
so it’s unfit for animals to drink or live in. This can create ongoing costs if you have to replace damaged landscaping and grass
“Some deicers can also corrode some exterior surfaces of
buildings, especially steel, and can deteriorate concrete if it has
not been properly sealed,” notes Stephen Ashkin, Founder of the
Green Cleaning Network and President of the consulting firm The
Ashkin Group. “While it is clear that traditional deicers contain
powerful ingredients that help promote safety, they also cause
It’s understandable that facility managers continue to use rock
salt when it’s familiar, has a proven track record and costs are
low, concedes Ashkin. And given all of your numerous respon-
sibilities, snow removal expenses are probably at the bottom of
your priority list. But if your organization is pursuing sustainabil-
ity, this is an obvious opportunity to make a better choice.
“Understand that the purpose of rock salt isn’t to melt snow
and ice – it’s supposed to be applied before a snow event so it’s
easier to remove accumulation,” Ashkin clarifies.
The basic chemistry of sodium chloride means that the com-
pound dissolves in moisture and the resulting brine has a lower
freezing point than water. Most users also overlook the fact that
rock salt only works in temperatures no lower than 15-20 degrees
F. The offices of BUILDINGS, located in the Midwest, know a thing
or two about the joys of negative wind chills.
There is also a great temptation to spread salt with a liberal
hand, which is wasteful of the material and your budget.
“No matter how inexpensive rock salt is, if you’re using two,
three or five times the amount necessary, you’re fundamentally
changing the cost equation as well as increasing the environmental impact,” Ashkin stresses.
A Better Choice
Replace sodium with other chloride compounds, such as calcium,
magnesium or potassium chloride. There are a number of acetates
that work similarly as well, such as calcium magnesium or potassium
acetate. You may even choose a blend with urea, which is commonly
used as a nitrogen fertilizer but also has melting properties.
continued on page 16
ALTERNATIVES TO ROCK SALT
Not sure what to look for when replacing rock salt? The EPA offers the Safer Choice Standard (formerly the Design for
the Environment label), which has vetted dozens of eco-friendly
deicer brands for commercial use. Review your choices at epa.
gov/saferchoice – most of them will have one or more of the
■ Uses magnesium, calcium, or potassium chloride or calcium
■ Is either non-corrosive or includes a corrosion inhibitor
■ Works in temperatures below 15 degrees F.
■ Uses naturally sourced tints or dyes
■ Pet friendly (won’t irritate animal paws)
■ Derived from plant sugars, such as corn, sugar cane or beets
■ Organic-based additives are biodegradable
■ Available as a liquid form for better adherence
■ Requires less volume to achieve the same effectiveness as salt