Hold the salt

The chemicals used in commercial salt spread on the ground to melt ice often end up in water and subsequently food supplies intended for human and animal consumption, according to water quality scientists. Known as “ice melters,” the salt—often white, blue or reddish in color—can be more harmful than helpful. While the products work effectively to make sidewalks, driveways and streets safer to walk on, pets can ingest the salt and become ill. Gardens, too, can be contaminated when the snow melts. According to the Journal for Surface Water Quality Professionals, some states, including California and Nevada, “restrict road-salt use in certain areas to reduce chloride injury to roadside trees.”

If it’s absolutely necessary to melt the ice near homes or workplaces, environmental publication Grist suggests looking for “pet-friendly” rather than “eco-friendly” formulas. Ice melter companies have been known to greenwash—claiming that a product is environmentally sustainable when it’s not. But products safe for pets generally means that it’s digestible, although the America Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals encourages pet owners to keep an animal’s exposure minimal, even to pet-friendly options.

But scientists have also discovered that beet juice is an effective ice melter. When mixed with brine—using sea salt or table salt mixed with water—it can be sprayed onto the ground, and while significantly more time consuming, has a similar effectiveness. Beets can melt ice in temperatures as low as minus-20 degrees.