With colder temperatures and the onset of snowfall, now is a good time to talk about de-icing and frozen dog poop … two environmental issues that deserve some attention here in western New York in winter.
Salt and sack deicers do a great job at melting ice and preventing snow from building up on sidewalks and driveways. But did you know that some deicing agents like rock salt can be dangerous to children, pets and the environment? When salt dissolves, it is washed away, into sewers and into lakes and streams – and can even seep into the groundwater and contaminate drinking water. Not only does it damage vegetation, but if ingested directly, it is harmful and potentially fatal.
When a de-icer is required for safety reasons, the best way to protect our environment is to use less salt. By reducing the amount of salt, you are reducing how much salt gets into our soil and waterways. More salt doesn’t mean more snowmelt. Salt is not effective at temperatures of 15 ° C or below. As an alternative, consider using traction materials containing acetate, potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, or cracked cornmeal in place of the less environmentally friendly alternatives of sand or cat litter.
Another strategy is to reduce the number of areas that require salt and de-icing. Eliminate access to places or entrances in your home or office that are not needed in winter and let the snow pile up. If there is a large parking lot or open area that needs snow removal and is prone to drifting snow, strategically place native trees and shrubs as a natural snow fence.
Here are some more eco-friendly tips when salt is required:
¯ Shovel or sweep first and remove as much snow as possible. You may find that you don’t need that much salt at all.
¯ Choose the right deicer by researching eco-friendly, child-safe, and pet-safe options. Calcium Magnesium Acetate is one of the friendliest deicing products on the market. In colder weather, calcium chloride or a calcium chloride blend are your best choices as they will work in very cold temperatures, but you can use a lot less to get the job done.
¯ Read the instructions carefully and only distribute the product on ice.
¯ Sweep up any remaining material after the snow / ice has melted.
And what about frozen dog poop? Many of us let our dogs in and out all winter long while we crouch in front of the wood stove and leave the mess for warmer days. Then, when the snow melts, we discover a minefield of partially frozen dog poo, wonderfully hidden under the beautiful accumulation of snowflakes.
Dog poop is not suitable as a fertilizer. In order for waste to be used as an effective fertilizer, it must contain mostly digested plant matter. Since dogs are carnivores, their by-products are unsuitable for soil enrichment, so these by-products should not just be left on our lawns. When pet waste decomposes, harmful bacteria and nutrients are absorbed into local waterways if not properly disposed of. It may not seem like a rainwater problem, but animal waste is one of the many seemingly small sources of pollution that can add up to major problems for water quality and even human health. The easiest, safest, and healthiest way to avoid these issues is to clean up after your pet every time and dispose of the trash properly!
And this is where dog waste bags come into play.
I know what you’re thinking – isn’t there just one way to use a poop bag? In fact, it doesn’t matter how you scoop up the poop, but how you throw it away. It takes a little extra legwork to maximize the environmental friendliness of a poop bag. So what’s the best way to dispose of dog poop?
If you want to dispose of dog waste in the most environmentally friendly way possible, you should consider the following:
¯ Research the greenest dog poop bags, choose a company that does testing to back up its biodegradable claims, and throw them in your trash.
¯ Avoid flushing your dog’s feces down the toilet.
¯ Don’t take the composting into your own hands. (The home composting methods aren’t strong enough to kill all of the bacteria and disease in dog poop.)
These are just a few small changes we can all make in our daily winter routine that are safer for us, our pets, and the environment! Contact the CWC for more environmentally friendly gardening tips!
The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a non-profit organization that aims to maintain and improve the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and catchment areas of the Chautauqua region. For more information, visit chautauquawatershed.org and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.
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