In tackling snow, be kind to the environment and your back

    It seems like the most efficient ways to clear snow also hurt the environment. But environmentalists say there are safer alternatives.

    Before firing up that gas-guzzling snow blower or tossing the salt around, consider eco-friendly ways to battle a storm’s aftermath.

    Try using an abrasive material such as sand or wood ash instead of chemical salts tom improve traction on your sidewalks. If you must use a deicer, use one made of magnesium chloride, which is much milder than salt.

    Adam Garber with PennEnvironment said a good old-fashioned shovel and some elbow grease are, by far, best for the Earth.

    “Get a little bit of exercise, go pick up a shovel, take a little bit of time,” he said. “Shovel out your walk and definitely help reduce the environmental impacts of removing the snow.”

    Dr. Alan Hilibrand with the Rothman Institute said shoveling is like weightlifting

    “It is exercise. It’s a lot of upper body exercise, but it’s best done in smaller amounts and more frequently unloading the shovel,” he said. “Rather than taking really large amounts of snow and trying to toss it to the side.”

    Hilibrand said during the winter he sees a lot more people with back problems because of shoveling too much at once. As a physician,  he said an electric snow blower may be a good compromise.

    But Garber doesn’t want you to run out and buy one just yet. “It definitely adds up over time, especially if it’s a diesel-powered snow blower that has other pollutant sources,” he said. “If you compare it to a coal-fired plant, you’re not going to have to worry. But if thousands of people in the Philadelphia region are using snow blowers, that air pollution really adds up.”

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