Green digest // Salt responsibly

With the arrival of icy sidewalk season, it’s a good time for a refresher on how to limit the use of sand and de-icing salts this winter.

Frequently used to prevent slips and falls during the winter season, both salt and sand can pollute area lakes and waterways when they are carried away by melting snow and ice. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency reports the chloride in just one teaspoon of road salt is enough to taint five gallons of water.

In high enough concentrations, salt can harm aquatic plants and animals, birds and even terrestrial plants growing near water. Of course, trees and plants growing near salted sidewalks and driveways can be injured by exposure to salt, too (which is why it’s a good idea to consider salt-resistant species for boulevard plantings).

Both the pollution control agency and Minnehaha Creek Watershed District offer some tips for winter de-icing. At the top of both lists is a simple first step: shovel, and then shovel some more.

More shoveling means less need for salt and sand, so the organizations suggest shoveling early and often when the snow falls, before the job gets out of hand. If you’re a homeowner who doesn’t own an ice chopper, consider buying one; they’re essential for breaking up the toughest, crustiest layers of snow and ice.

When you do use salt, don’t go overboard. The recommended ratio is less than four pounds of salt for 1,000 square feet of sidewalk or driveway. One pound of salt, nearly enough for two average-sized parking spots, would fill a 12-ounce cup to the brim.

When it’s really cold, use sand instead of salt. Most de-icing salts don’t work at temperatures below 15 degrees (but check the “practical melting temperature” listed on the label to make sure).

Finally, when the snow and ice are melted sweep up any remaining sand and ice. Either reuse the leftovers or dispose of them in the trash.

Metro Blooms honors city’s top gardens

Southwest was once again well represented at Metro Blooms’ annual Minneapolis Garden Awards.

The awards ceremony was held in early November at the Columbia Manor in Northeast, and photos of the award-winning gardens in their summer prime are now posted on Metro Blooms’ Facebook page. Go to metroblooms.org to find a link.

Among the 2012 honorees were Southwest Journal Everyday Gardener columnist Meleah Maynard of Linden Hills, who won in the category of Best Environmental Steward Garden. In that same neighborhood, Kerry Sarnoski and Sue Lowum won Best Boulevard Garden honors.

Further south in Fulton, the Best Container Garden award went to hunt & gather antiques at 4944 Xerxes Ave. S. A CARAG neighborhood shop won in the Best Business Garden category, with the award going John Meegan, owner of Top Shelf, 3040 Lyndale Ave. S.

Anna and Tom Erbes of Tangletown nabbed the top spot in the Best Residential Garden category. And a stretch of Garfield Avenue South in Kingfield was doubly honored, with resident Chris Turpen winning Metro Bloom’s Nate Siegel Award for inspiring the multi-home gardening project that earned Best Neighborhood Collaboration.

Green gifting

Do It Green! Minnesota’s annual green gifts fair has already come and gone, but if you’re an eco-minded shopper looking for some last-minute holiday gift ideas, you might find some on the organization’s website.

The all-volunteer organization maintains a list of local businesses with products that are locally produced, recycled, less toxic, organic or otherwise just a little bit better for the planet. Check out their Do It Green! Directory at doitgreen.org/directory for a listing of businesses.

Bike coalition honors traffic operations engineer

For demonstrating a commitment to bicycling and bike safety in the city, Minneapolis Traffic Operations Engineer Steve Mosing was honored in late October by the Minneapolis Bike Coalition.

The volunteer-run nonprofit presented Mosing its first Bicycle Champion Award during its Oct. 27 annual member celebration. On its website, the coalition announced plans to make the award a tradition, recognizing one person each year who has “gone to exceptional lengths to keep biking safe, accessible, and enjoyable in the City of Minneapolis.”

The coalition cited several of Mosing’s recent accomplishments, including his leading the response to bicyclist safety concerns in Dinkytown, where a student cyclist was struck by a car and killed in 2011, and at the Midtown Greenway intersection with East 28th Street, where an island was installed in the roadway to assist cyclists in safely crossing the street. The coalition also cited Mosing’s willingness to test innovative bicycle lane designs on city streets and his efforts to promote cycling to the public.

To read more about the award or the coalition, go to mplsbike.org.