Before heading off to Home Depot to buy another bag of rock-salt de-icer in advance of this interminable winter’s next snow storm, you may want to take a look in the back of your fridge. According to a new article by the Associated Press, “many state and local agencies are seeking ways to reduce salt use as its environmental impacts are becoming more apparent,” substituting with the likes of beet juice, beer, molasses, and cheese and pickle brine.
While salt has long been considered an effective and fairly inexpensive way to rid roads of snow and ice, the high amounts of sodium are unsurprisingly taking a toll on the environment. The use of more than 20 million sodium chloride crystals nationwide each year has led to an increase “in the salinity of hundreds of lakes, especially in the Northeast and Midwest. That’s putting everything from fish and frogs to microscopic zooplankton at risk”—freshwater organisms unused to so much saltwater. Salt corrosion also damages cars, roads, and bridges. As a result, “agencies from New Jersey to North Dakota are using a mixture that includes beet juice; New Hampshire and Maine use one with molasses. Highway departments also have turned to beer waste, pickle brine and, in at least one Wisconsin county, cheese brine.”
This might be something to try on your own driveway or sidewalk. If you’re like us, you likely have three almost empty pickle jars in the back of your fridge, so why not put the brine to good use? Molasses sounds super-sticky, and we’re not huge fans of beets, but we also have that super-hoppy IPA someone brought over at Christmas that we’ll never, ever drink, so we’re willing to give this a try to save a few bucks and some freshwater organisms. Plus, pickle brine has to be easier than the toxic salt mix on the paws of neighborhood pups.