Q&A.; Sustainable Snow Shoveling

Q. Well, I don’t like putting salt out. Sand is bad for the storm drains. Both are bad for my floors. A couple of things, though:

I need something more sustainable than a snow shovel. Oh, yes, the shovel will last a long time and can be made of fairly friendly materials... But the surgical materials needed to eventually repair my back or replace my heart will not be, and then there'll be my corpse to dispose of organically as well... I'm not getting any younger.
Anyway. Have you any suggestions on inexpensive alternatives to the simple traditional snow shovel? I have over 1000 sq ft of sidewalk, walkway and driveway to shovel. Even a one-foot snowfall is a serious pain in the...back. JBB

A. Thanks for the question, John. Actually, John gave us a few leads to check out, too. He found that using Bare Ground, which we mentioned in our deicer Q&A;, made it easier to remove snow and ice from walkways. We’re a bit wary of that one, since the shaker jug mixes the Bare Ground with salt, and the spray itself is still introducing a foreign chemical into the environment. Bare Ground is made from agricultural and distillery by-products added to magnesium chloride, which can harm plants. Many manufacturers of deicing products claim they’re environmentally friendly, but that’s unfortunately not always the full story.

As we said last time, the only really sustainable way to deice is to shovel. John’s other suggestion, the Whovel pictured above ($119 USD), uses your body weight to throw the snow so removing it isn’t the back-breaking labor of conventional shoveling. It’s been given the MetaEfficient seal of approval, and it beats the pants off a gas-powered snowblower (for green points, if not for down-and-dirty effectiveness). But it’s not going to be much help for ice, or for that crusty snow that refuses to let go of the driveway.

This is where we wish we had a miracle product to offer you, which would melt away the ice without harming either the environment or your wallet. Alas, we’re still waiting for the miracle. Unfortunately for those of us in snowy climes, snow and ice are a part of the natural world, and removing them isn’t. Removing them chemically can cause ecological damage. The most eco-effective solution is still shoveling. But there is hope: if your back breaks at the merest sight of a snow shovel, we have a couple of suggestions.

1. Hire someone. Conscious Choice suggests hiring a local teenager to shovel for you, or trading services with a neighbor. Students always need extra cash, and while it may be more expensive than doing it yourself, it’s just as sustainable.

2. Move south. Not the most affordable option perhaps, but always an enticing one.

If anyone has any favorite tips or products for making shoveling easier and more sustainable, let us know! [by KK]

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