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‘Tis the Season for Salt — And Frozen Dog Poo

With the colder temperatures and snowfall arriving, it’s a good time to talk about salt deicers and frozen dog poo…two environmental issues that deserve some attention during wintertime here in western New York.

Salt and bagged deicers do an amazing job of melting ice and preventing falling snow from accumulating on sidewalks and driveways. But did you realize that some deicers, such as rock salt, can pose a threat to children, pets and the environment? As salt dissolves, it washes away, down sewer drains and into lakes and streams – and can even seep into groundwater and contaminate drinking supplies. It not only damages vegetation but is also harmful and potentially lethal if ingested directly.

If a deicer is necessary for safety, the best way to protect our environment is to use less salt. By reducing the amount of salt, you reduce how much gets into our soil and waterways. More salt does not equal more melting snow. When temperatures hit 15∂ or below, salt is not effective. As alternatives, consider using traction materials that contain acetate, potassium chloride, magnesium chloride or cracked cornmeal instead of the less eco-friendly alternatives of sand or kitty litter.

Another strategy is to reduce the number of areas that need salt and deicing. Eliminate access to locations or entrances into your home or office that don’t need to be used in the winter and let the snow accumulate. If there is a large parking lot or open surface somewhere that needs snow removal and it tends to suffer from drifting snow, strategically place native trees and shrubs to act as a natural snow fence.

Here are some more eco-friendly tips if salt is necessary:

¯ Shovel or sweep first, removing all the snow you can. You may find you won’t need that much salt at all.

¯ Choose the right deicer by looking for eco-friendly, kid-safe and pet-safe options. Calcium Magnesium Acetate is one of the friendliest deicing products available and when you have colder weather, then Calcium Chloride or a Calcium Chloride blend are your best options because they work in very cold temperatures, yet you can use a lot less to get the job done.

¯ Read directions carefully and spread product only on ice.

¯ Sweep up any material remaining after the snow/ice melts.

And what about frozen dog poo? Many of us let our dogs in and out all winter long as we huddle in front of the woodstove and leave the mess for warmer days. Then, when the snow melts, we uncover a minefield of partially frozen dog poo piles that were wonderfully hidden under the beautiful accumulation of snowflakes.

Dog poo is not suitable as a fertilizer. In order for waste to be used as effective fertilizer, it must contain mainly digested plant matter. Because dogs are meat eaters, their by-products are unsuitable for soil enrichment, so those by-products should not just be left on our lawns. As pet waste decomposes, it adds harmful bacteria and nutrients to local waterways when it’s not disposed of properly. It might not seem like a stormwater problem, but animal waste is one of the many seemingly small sources of pollution that can add up to big problems for water quality – and even human health. The easiest, safest and healthiest way to avoid these problems is to clean up after your pet each and every time and dispose of the waste properly!

And that is where doggy poop bags come in.

I know what you’re thinking — isn’t there only one way to use a poop bag? Actually, it’s not how you scoop the poop that matters, but how you throw it away. It takes a little extra legwork to maximize a poop bag’s earth-friendliness. So, what is the best method of dog doo disposal?

If you want to dispose of dog poop in the most eco-friendly way, here are a few things to keep in mind:

¯ Do research on the most eco-friendly dog poop bags, choose a company that has testing to back up their biodegradable claims and dispose of them in your trash.

¯ Avoid flushing your dog’s poop down the toilet.

¯ Don’t take composting into your own hands. (At-home composting methods aren’t strong enough to kill all the bacteria and disease in dog poop.)

These are just a few little changes we all can make in our daily winter routines that are safer for us, our pets and the environment! Contact the CWC for more environmentally friendly yard tips!

The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a not-for-profit organization with the mission to preserve and enhance the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. For more information, visit chautauquawatershed.org and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

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