I just had a conversation about this a couple days ago. We were discussing how dirty everything looks by the time spring rolls around, and how awful salt it for the environment. At the same time, it really is a necessity when it comes down to the safety of drivers, bikers, and walkers alike. We came to a conclusion, which as you hinted at is that there really doesn’t seem to be any eco-friendly solution. The best we can do is to use salt as wisely as we can.
Being in a wheelchair, I will tell you straight out that the winter is without a doubt the most frustrating time of year. While having a sustainable studies minor I hate to admit that I have to like seeing people sprinkling salt and removing snow, because as bad as it is for the environment, I need to get from place too. Whereas an able-bodied person can tromp through the snow, people with mobility impairments are flat out stuck.
So this post gave me a good excuse to see if there are any better solutions out there. Although I don’t know that it can be called a solution, one better option would be a product called MeltDown 20 made by EnviroTX. “MeltDown 20 draws moisture from the ice, snow and air to form a melting brine that breaks the bond between ice, snow and the road surface. The magnesium chloride portion immediately begins aggressively melting the ice while the percentage of red complex chloride acts as an abrasive and a slower melting agent, providing a fast-acting ice and snow fighting solution with longevity (1).”
The biggest improvement in this product in my mind is that it uses, “100-150 lbs per lane mile vs 500-1000 lbs of salt/sand” (1). However, this product remains very chemical based, which is no help to the environment. Also, whereas the corrosion problems of salt eat away at our infrastructure materials, MeltDown 20 is 75% less corrosive as tested by TXDOT (1). Which brings up another point, that this product is made in Texas where obviously winters are much milder. So while this certainly is not a solution, it’s about as good as we can do right now.