The Green Blog
Winter Eco Tips
For those of us experiencing the full-blown effects of the winter weather in our part of the country right now, we're no doubt busy trying to stay warm and keep the ice and snow at bay. You don't always think of being eco-friendly in the winter time, but there are many things you can do to help the environment now that will reap rewards when plants and flowers start to bloom in the spring and animals emerge from hibernation or return from migration.

Winter Weatherproofing
For an average home in a cold climate, reducing home energy usage by just 15 percent saves the equivalent of 500 pounds of coal a year. Even if your home is insulated, small cracks can add up to big losses. The following projects are not high-tech or expensive but can provide significant savings:
- Add a storm door.
- Install weather stripping around doors and windows.
- Seal patio doors with rubber compression strips and door insulator kits.
- Seal entry points for TV, phone and water lines with expanding foam insulation.

De-icing
Covering key areas with plastic before a storm, and removing it before it has a chance to freeze in place is a good preventative measure that is certainly a more environmentally sensitive option. Spreading sand or gravel over slick spots will not melt the ice or snow but offers some traction.

Considering that pets are a part of the equation too, the choice to opt for salt-free alternatives provides for their safety as well. Salt build-up from deicers accumulates on an animal's paws and coat causing mild to fatal illnesses as they attempt to lick themselves clean. One alternative salt-free deicer guaranteed not to be harmful to humans, pets or the environment is trademarked under the name of Safe Paw™.

Another option being tested is calcium magnesium acetate (CMA) made from dolomitic limestone and acetic acid, which we know as vinegar. This salt-free melting agent is being studied as a substitute in environmentally sensitive areas. Although it is expensive, so far research has shown that it is non-corrosive and there is little impact on plants or animals.

So while it may be necessary to use melting agents at times, it doesn't seem to me we should risk harming our pets, soil or the water supply in the process of melting a small amount of it, any more than we have to. Finding salt-free and more pet and eco-friendly alternatives is a good choice.

Here's more news on green ways to de-ice this winter. Also, see our blog, "Green ways to stay warm in the winter," for great tips on smart energy usage during the coldest months of the year.

For more great, green winter tips, see Kevin's Winter Weather Preparation blog here.