Recently, I bought an ice melt product which said it was eco-friendly and listed four ingredients ending in the word "chloride". No other chemicals were listed on the label. I have stairs and steps which must be free of ice for the tenants living upstairs, so I was seeking to purchase a de-icing product which would not hurt my gardens or lawn and would not end up in the Long Island Sound via the storm drains on the street either.
I reached out to Joe Magazzi, President of Green Earth Ag & Turf, located in Branford, Connecticut, to ask him about how to select an eco-friendly product and how to differentiate among the products available. Here is what Joe had to say:
Advertising environmentally-friendly in the ice-melt world is a bit sketchy…it is largely unregulated and ice-melts aren’t required to list their ingredients like fertilizers or most other products we put down on our plants, trees and turf. Most ice-melts are made from rock salt (which is sodium chloride or common table salt). So it can be organic or all natural, but it is also corrosive and can kill turf, trees and plants due to the salt toxicity caused by the sodium. For that reason, our ice melts are potassium-based (made from food grade ingredients and in fact produced in food facilities).
Potassium is actually a required lawn nutrient, so if anything, it will have a minor fertilizer value (although you wouldn’t use it as a fertilizer) instead of burning. Potassium is also the best for pets…it does not burn their paws, and better for concrete as it does not freeze thaw as readily – which is what causes the damage. Besides the burning, the sodium chloride would not be a huge environmental pollutant. Some fertilizers, however, contain ammonia, nitrates or urea. All of these molecules are basically nitrogen sources. These ice melts will have the same environmental impact as over-fertilizing with nitrogen does. In fact, more so as the nitrogen is less likely to absorb into the frozen soil or vaporize and is thus more likely to run into our water systems in the winter, thus becoming sources of eutrophication.
For that reason, we suggest and sell the potassium-based ice melts as it has the least impact on people, animals, all things green and water and the environment in general. There is more information on our website here which may be helpful for you.
Thanks Joe! That was very informative!