GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — Ice and snow produce special sets of environmental challenges. How you decide to deal with these winter inconveniences impacts the ecosystem.
Salt, debris, dirt and other pollutants accumulate in snow and ice. As the accumulation melts, the pollutants within can clog storm drains and negatively impact local waterways. Emissions from items used to battle the elements — snow blowers, wood burning fires and idling cars — can negatively impact air quality and human health.
Here is a list of actions that you can take this winter to help protect both human and environmental health:
- Shovel snow shortly after it falls, and do not allow the it to accumulate or compact. Shovel it onto your lawn, planters and other areas that are grassy and gently sloped. Doing so allows the snow and ice melt to gradually soak into the ground.
- Rethink how you deice, because rock salt and calcium chloride options can be dangerous for children, pets and the environment.
- Consider using small amounts of sand, or sawdust, instead of deicer. Apply the product sparingly, and sweep up remnants after the ice melts.
- If you do choose to use a chemical deicer, be sure to apply it appropriately. Too much deicer releases excess chemicals into the environment. Read the package for information on the proper quantity to apply. Then immediately sweep up any excess, or spilled, material.
- Do not idle your car, because it generates unnecessary emissions. While it may be nice to enter a warm car, under German law idling is illegal and violations can result in fines. Until the cabin is comfortable, warm up by instead wearing extra layers, hats, gloves and scarves.
- New technologies remove snow with fewer emissions. In larger areas, people can use battery, electric and hybrid snow removal equipment to prevent gasoline spills. And in smaller areas, remove snow by employing man-power, shovels and brooms.
- Consider electric fireplaces for heat. Electric heating technologies produce less emissions than wood burning fireplaces, have less impact on natural and non-renewable resources, and are more efficient than their gas powered counterparts.
Editor's Note: The author, Megan McKnight, works with the USAG Bavaria Environmental Division.