Conserve and Preserve Blog

Exploring ways we can conserve and preserve Rosemount.

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January 15, 2018

Photo of food in trashLearn how to prevent household food waste by participating in Dakota County’s Food Waste Challenge February 1-28.

In the United States, households throw out around 25 percent of all food they purchase, which adds up to $1,800 each year for an average family.

The Food Waste Challenge will teach participants how to make simple shifts in how to shop, store, and prepare food to conserve money, water, energy, and other resources that would otherwise be wasted. 

Win great weekly prizes for reporting food waste!

Participants must attend an info session before the challenge start date. Tools and resources will be provided and there is no fee to participate. The Challenge is open to residents in Rosemount and Apple Valley.

Get ready for the challenge by attending any info session:

  • Saturday, January 26, 10:30-11:30 a.m., Robert Trail Library, Rosemount (In-person)
  • Wednesday, January 30, 6:30-7:30 p.m., Galaxie Library, Apple Valley (In-person or online)

Register by January 25 online or contact Jenny Kedward, Dakota County Environmental Specialist, at (952) 891-7043. If you want to attend the session virtually, you will receive a link to view the session online when you register.

-Jes Braun, MN GreenCorps member serving in Rosemount

January 8, 2019

We live in an icy and snowy place. Many of us love it! Ice fishing, snowshoeing, cross country and downhill skiing . . . winter is stock full of outdoor adventures.

No matter your love or dislike for it, we all need to get around in the winter. It’s too cold or too far to walk or bike.  So we drive.  But that ice and snow is on our roadways, and in our way.  

Old photo of truck with skis instead of wheelsWe used to have horses pull us around or put skis or chains on our cars.  Snow plows and brushes were invented for everything from the back of your mule to the front of your bicycle!  

Old photo of horses pulling snow brushIn the mid-twentieth century, we discovered a great trick to de-ice the roadways: Salt!  Salt lowers the freezing point of water, thawing the ice for less slippery conditions.

Now, road salt and its application is a booming industry, and a normalized way of life. City trucks put salt on main roads, homeowners salt their driveways, and businesses salt their walkways and parking lots.

But all this salt is piling up.

The problem is, it’s not natural to our Midwest environment. No plants uptake it in their growth. No aquatic or land animals use it. And most of it ends up in our lakes, rivers, and streams . . . and stays there.

In fact, 78% of salt used in the Twin Cities Metro Area (TCMA) settles to the bottom of our surface water bodies. It doesn’t move downstream. It’s toxic to our fish, contaminates groundwater, and disrupts lake mixing, which is a natural process imperative to its health. Research shows road salt has been linked to harming rainbow trout, butterflies, wood frogs, and even moose, as well as a plethora of other species.

Salt also helps mobilize heavy metals in soils, sediment, and pipes, which means they become suspended in water and transported to lakes, oceans, and our drinking water. 

Not only is it poisoning our landscape, it’s eroding it. Our infrastructure is damaged. Our cars, bridges, doorways, and signs are being eaten by rust. The economic and environmental cost of salt and its application is profound. 

So what do we do?

Well, we took salt use too far.  A major problem is we over apply it. 365,000 tons of road salt is applied each year in the TCMA. A very little bit of salt goes a long way. Just one grain works quickly and impacts a larger area than you might think - up to 3 inches all the way around it! 

If you have time, get out right after a storm to plow, shovel, or scrape the snow away and minimize the need for salt. Salt should never be used as traction or left to lie on bare pavement. Any excess after an application can be swept up Logo suggesting scattering saltand reused for the next storm. Sand can be applied and swept up in this same fashion. And did you know if it’s colder than 15 °F outside, traditional road salt (sodium chloride) stops working! It can only lower the freezing point of water from 32 °F to 15 °F.  Special (more expensive and equally as damaging) salts are needed when temperatures fall below 15 °F.

Another problem is social expectations. As soon as we started salting our roadways, it’s like we all forgot how to drive in the snow. We expect to get to the grocery store in the winter at the same time and same speed as we do in the summer. If we all just take a few more minutes, and drive a little bit slower and safer, we wouldn’t need to have completely bare roads and the environmental impact they cause.

So as we try to move beyond our salting days, see what you can do to help solve the problem.  Prevention is the only option for reducing salt. And little changes add up to a bigger movement! 

Let’s ditch the salt and help save our lakes.

(Salt Smart logo courtesy Western Lake Superior Regional Stormwater Protection Team (RSPT) at www.lakesuperiorstreams.org/stormwater/rspt.html)

-Jes Braun, MN GreenCorps member serving in Rosemount