The New Year

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Green ways to remove snow

Several inches of snow piled up outdoors may seem like paradise to children eager for a day off from school and a chance to spend all day outside building a snowman. But adults typically have different views on snow that have more to do with shoveling than sledding.

Though nothing can make removing snow fun for many homeowners, those with their minds on the environment might be glad to learn there are some eco-conscious ways to remove all of that white stuff.

While it might not be glamorous, human-powered snow removal remains the best method of removing snow safely with the least impact to the environment. Ashovel and broom may not be the fastest ways to clear driveways and walkways, but they have little impact on the environment. Shoveling produces no toxic side effects that can damage plants, animals and even young children. In addition, shoveling snow is an ideal winter exercise, working most areas of the body while providing a cardiovascular workout.

There are several different snow shovels on the market. Ergonomically designed shovels will help reduce injury to the back and shoulders and could make each pass through the snow more efficient. Another option is snow-plow style aluminum shovels that enable shovelers to plow the snow toward the lawn, saving them the effort of lifting and tossing snow.

Standard shoveling may be easier than using a mechanical blower, especially when the snowfall was not significant. However, snow blowers may be more effective after a particularly heavy or thick snow. Electric snow blowers are better environmentally than gas-powered blowers. If you have solar panels, then no additional energy is needed to fuel the electric blower. However, electric blowers are not as powerful as those powered by gas. If you must purchase a gas blower, opt for one that runs on diesel fuel. This way you can use a more eco-friendly alternative bio-diesel, such as discarded cooking oil, to fuel the snow blower.

When snowfall is not significant, you may not need to shovel at all. Abrasive materials like wood ash and sand can make walkways less slick. Furthermore, dark ash will absorb the sun's rays and help to melt the snow faster. Use sand sparingly because it can clog storm drains and add to excess silt in streams and rivers. Other products can be used for traction, including a product called EcoTraction(R) which uses hydrothermal volcanic mineral to provide traction.

If you are like the many who rely on a salt product to de-ice, choose a less harmful alternative. Salt runoff can damage plants and irritate pet paws, so choose a calcium magnesium acetate de-icer instead. Though a calcium magnesium acetate de-icer is not necessarily ideal for the environment, such products are more eco-friendly than salt-based products.

Homeowners who live in areas that get heavy snowfall may want to hire a snow removal company. One truck plowing a neighborhood is better for the environment than several homeowners firing up individual snow blowers. Otherwise, think about investing in a radiant heating system that can be built into driveways. The warm driveway will melt away ice and snow. This relies on electricity, which is not as harmful to the environment if that electricity comes by way of solar power.

Snow removal is a chore few look forward to. But eco-conscious homeowners should know that there are environmentally friendly ways to remove snow.