We all know the sights well by now; the white lines on your boots, the crunch on the sidewalk, and the giant beds of salt coating our paths around campus. Intense New England winters drive Wesleyan to extreme measures to keep students safe as we trudge along the icy routes to and from our classes. But isn’t this salt use excessive? The Environmental Protection Agency recognizes that road salt is a serious environmental pollutant, and Wesleyan could be using a lot less, saving the planet, and saving a lot of money too.
You would be hard-pressed to find a Wesleyan student willing to eat the dense clumps of road salt caked onto our paths, but many of us may be eating this salt without knowing it. Chloride ions, which according to the New Hampshire Dept. of Environmental Services comprise over 50% of road salt by mass, are very water soluble, and run off of roads and paths, entering local groundwater, streams, and lakes. From there, it poisons plants, birds, and small animals alike, degrading our ecosystems and endangering our health. Local co-op members, this is your food! Both for the planet and for ourselves, we should demand the use of less road salt.
But wait! If we reduce salt use, won’t conditions for walking become treacherous? No. As anyone walking around campus can see, Wesleyan currently uses much more salt than is necessary for safety. There are piles of it everywhere, so one change to be made is to ask our contractors to spread the salt out when they put it down. Also, techniques to make less salt go farther exist, such as pre-wetting salt, which has been hugely successful in Canada, according to Bloomberg Business. The state of Wisconsin estimated that pre-wetting salt alone could reduce use up to 30%. What’s worse, is salt harms our grass and shrubs, no doubt costing Wesleyan huge amounts of money every spring to re-seed and re-landscape. Reducing the amount of salt we use will save Wesleyan money both in fixing salt damage in the spring and in buying less salt. And, we will be releasing fewer toxins into the environment! The choice is clear. Less salt means a better, greener Wesleyan.