No matter how you cut it, snow removal on a large scale impacts the environment. The use of salt and other ice melt products has consequences, whether they’re big or small. As a business, it’s your responsibility to minimize that impact as much as you can rather than let it run rampant for the sake of convenience. Yet, how can you reduce your ecological footprint?
For one, everything in moderation. We’re also proponents of running your business similarly to how you’d do your snow removal at home. Think of your family, pets, and neighbors when you run that plow. With that said, here’s a list of eco-friendly precautions you can take at home with your snow removal as well as when you’re on the clock, in the plow truck. If science has taught us anything, it’s that everything matters, no matter the size of your contribution to the environment.
Use a Snow Shovel When You Can
There is no cleaner energy source than that of pure physical labor. However, it’s incredibly difficult to translate that to a commercial snow removal business. For residential snow removal, the simple use of a snow shovel rather than a plow or snow blower will save you energy, give you a great workout in the process, and limit your carbon emissions.
Yet, hear us out. There’s a local business here whose entire model is around eco-friendly trash removal. They forego the garbage trucks and hire a team of cyclists that tow around a train of trash bins, which they use to pick up garbage using only the power of their own body and their bicycle. Is it efficient? Is it easy? The answer to both of those questions is probably “no”. However, they’re extremely successful and serve to fill a niche in the community.
While shoveling seems like it’s not worth the effort in the commercial game, with the right strategy and the right pricing model, you could find yourself at the forefront of a successful eco-friendly snow removal business. Maybe your next venture is a purely “human powered” snow business?
Look into Electric Snow Removal Equipment
Electric equipment, depending on the primary energy source in your region, is a much cleaner way to operate a snow removal business. You could strategize a way to include an electric snow blower into your snow removal business. While we don’t suggest you go out and buy an electric truck (not yet, anyway) for plowing, there are ways to switch from gas to electric, especially in a residential setting.
Have a Better De-icer Application Strategy
While it’s fun to dance around the topic of residential snow removal, the big changes you can make are at the commercial level. The biggest changes of all have nothing to do with upgrading equipment or even changing the product you use. On the contrary, the best change you can make is to be more thoughtful about how you use a product, both in the sense of how much and where it goes.
Whether you’re using eco-friendly ice melt, calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, or any number of other products to melt snow and ice, the amount you use has the most impact on the environment at large. Look at the application instructions for that specific product—it should tell you how much to use per square mile, or how much to mix into a brine solution. Using too much won’t make it work better; it’ll waste your money, damage the concrete, and enter your local water supplies.
Beyond that, ensure you have a handle on where your product goes. That is to say, spread your product evenly. Don’t spray or spread it thinly all over your clients’ parking lots. In the same vein, don’t pile it on. Invest in a spreader or sprayer that you can fine-tune; one that reliably applies your product in exactly the way it should. Lastly, train your staff how to apply products in the right amount; we’ve all seen parking lots that have been graveled with salt!
At home, we suggest you invest in a spreader, whether it’s the push variety or a handheld spreader. This ensures that you’re not simply dumping products all over your property. Both rock salt and pet safe ice melt will have an impact on your property if overused.
Minimize the Use of Product
There are ways to minimize the amount of product you use by increasing its effectiveness. How do you make a product more effective? To start, ensure you’re using it within its effective temperature range. Pretty much all products melt ice and snow. However, they all work under different temperatures and some are even most effective when applied before ice and snow form on a surface.
When working with rock salt on a commercial scale you should consider turning it into a salt brine solution. We’ve discussed this in the past; a well-made salt brine will stretch your dollar, adhere more effectively to surfaces, and make your job a little easier in the process. Its increased effectiveness also means you use less and reduce its impact on the environment.
Look into Salt Alternatives
There are some eco-friendly snow removal products out there that have virtually no impact on the environment because they’re derived from things that exist naturally in the environment. Think of these suggestions as fun ideas (we’ll let you figure out how they fit into your business model if at all) rather than serious recommendations. While you may struggle to figure out how to fit these into a commercial business, you could do them at home or even suggest them to clients as an interesting talking point. Let’s dive into a few completely eco-friendly products.
Why not put the byproduct of that morning cup of coffee to use? After all, you’ll be outside decked head-to-toe in your warming clothes pushing snow around so the rest of your family can sleep in and pull the car out of the garage without a second thought to the snow that fell overnight.
Coffee grinds have two things going for them; acidity and grit. The pH of coffee is just high enough to work away at snow and ice. Beyond that, the grinds will add much-needed traction to any surface they’re applied to, much in the way of sand and gravel.
Sugar Beet Juice
You might think this one is the craziest of all. However, beet juice may be the one alternative you should look into for your commercial business as a friendly ice melt additive. Used as a supplement to existing salt brine, beet juice will lower the brine’s effective temperature, reduce the corrosiveness of the salt, and will add some welcome color to the solution so you can see where you’re applying your product. We’d recommend warning clients about this one, or else they might drive up to their business in the early morning hours and think they’ve stumbled upon a crime scene.
Now this is a paw safe ice melt! What is pickle juice if not a brine? Most traditional pickle juices are an amalgamation of water and salt; the primary components of a commercial brine. While we think a traditional brine would be a little more practical on a commercial scale (unless you want one of your employee perks to be unlimited pickles), pickle juice would be a great thing to save after that jar in the fridge is empty.
Once it’s sprayed on a surface, pickle juice will melt snow and ice. However, it also shares the same perks of an actual brine in that it will allow you to proactively treat the surfaces of your property—spray it on before a storm and watch the snow and ice slough off the next morning.
What it Means to be “Eco-Friendly”
We admit that not all of this advice would be considered practical at face value. However, the point of this article is to promote one thing; being thoughtful about how you get things done. When you work and plan with intention, you get both a better result and a more efficient solution. Eco-friendliness, above anything else, is about getting as much as you can out of as little as possible.