Manitobans have strong opinions about winter. Now that the snow has landed we can finally clear up one matter of debate. Can a snow plough navigate a traffic circle? I have contacted the City of Winnipeg for confirmation, but I understand the data is not yet in on this important matter.

The first snow fall always brings up several debates around snow clearing practices. One question we often get asked what is better for the environment sanding or salting your sidewalk?

We recommend against using any form of salt to clear your sidewalk. “Salts are soluble, they’re mobile. They’re going to find their way into surface water and groundwater” according to Ryerson University biologist, Andrew Laursen.

Salts and de-icers are harmful to vegetation, can kill trees, poison wildlife and pets, and damage vehicles and infrastructure.

Not only are salts bad for the environment, the most common salts, sodium chloride and potassium chloride work only in temperatures above minus 7 Celsius. Sand is a better alternative, but the large amounts of sand used by the City of Winnipeg also come at an environmental cost. Sand production is an intensive contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. In Winnipeg the city wastes 3.5 million dollars by not recycling road sand, sending it to the dump each year.

More information about the salt vs sand debate can be found at Treehugger.

The most environmental option for snow clearing is to get out your shovel, but even so, there is debate about how deep to go. Keeping the sidewalks cleared of excess snow is an important element of maintaining our active transportation system year-round. Too often pedestrians are confronted with insurmountable snow drifts that have been cleared from side streets or drive ways. However, is it always best to have the snow cleared right to the concrete? In Manitoba, the sleigh is still a significant mode of transportation in winter, practical for transporting kids to school or carrying groceries. For this purpose, leaving a thin layer of snow helps ease passage, while also preventing the build-up of dangerous icy surfaces.