Can you remember the last time you saw a dark night sky, full of stars and planets, in vivid detail? For many of us living in the world’s cities, the answer may be “no” or “never.” When we think of pollution, we don’t often think of the lights that line our streets and illuminate our buildings. This week is International Dark Sky Week, so let’s dive into some related questions: what is light pollution, what are its effects, and how can we manage it?
Our health and the health of our planet are inextricably intertwined. When we take a walk in the woods or gaze at a natural scene, our stress levels decrease, and our mental health improves. When temperatures and humidity exceed certain thresholds, incidence of heatstroke and heat exhaustion skyrocket. When we consume fresh, whole foods and pure water, our physical health and energy improve. When air quality is compromised by pollution, cases of asthma flare up.
Whether you celebrated Punxsutawney Phil’s findings this year or not, it is likely that Nashville will face a bit more freezing weather. In preparation, the Department of General Services Division of Sustainability wishes to remind employees and residents about best practices for de-icing (the process of removing snow and/or ice from a surface). Safety is the most important consideration for de-icing and snow clearing efforts, but it is important to remember that de-icing materials impact more than the snow or ice they melt. How and when we use these materials is essential to the health of our environment.
The most effective de-icing agents have chemical formulas containing chloride and acetate. Salt (NaCl) is the most common. But others, such as magnesium chloride (MgCl2) and potassium acetate (CH3CO2K) are common examples too. Unfortunately, these extraordinary “melters” have negative effects on the environment. Some of these negative effects include preventing plants from absorbing moisture, leaching heavy metals, and creating algae blooms. Although researchers continue to pursue a completely safe alternative to those formulas containing chloride and acetate, none yet exists. Brands that advertise eco-friendly products often still contain large proportions of chloride or acetate; or, these brands are not effective at temperatures below freezing!
So what CAN you do?
1. Wear Proper Shoes
Boots with a solid toe and bottom tread will help increase your grip on icy surfaces.
2. Shovel First
Shovel snow early and often; then decide whether to use a de-icing agent. If you must use a de-icer, your shoveling will not have been in vain. De-icers work best on thin layers of precipitation.
3. Don’t Over-apply
Use just enough. A general rule is 2 lbs. of de-icer for every 500 sq. ft. One pound of de-icer is approximately one heaping 12 oz. coffee mug.
4. Place Carefully
Apply materials only where needed and keep de-icing materials away from plants and foliage.
5. Clean up and Reuse
Sweep up left over salt and store it properly for reuse. This saves money and keeps unused product from washing into streams and rivers, where it can negatively impact the aquatic ecosystem.
Material for this blog was compiled from the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies’ 2010 report, Road Salt: Moving Toward the Solution. Follow the link to the report below for further reading: http://www.caryinstitute.org/sites/default/files/public/reprints/report_road_salt_2010.pdf
Blog author, Mr. Jake Rachels, is an intern with the Division of Sustainability.
As the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Specialist for General Services’ Division of Sustainability, Michelle enjoys doing research to advance the sustainable practices within our buildings. As technologies evolve, General Services is working to conserve energy, water, and other resources in both new and existing buildings.
Michelle holds a Master of Engineering from the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa and worked as a biomedical engineer for companies on the U.S. East Coast. She wanted to combine her engineering background with her passion for sustainability and returned to Lipscomb University for a Master of Science in Sustainability with a focus on Green Building.
Winter is definitely here, but the days and hours we can spend outdoors in daylight are growing by minutes each day. With Spring just around the corner, now is the time to get familiar with the enjoyable outdoor spaces Nashville offers its residents and guests. It may seem hard to find nature in an urban setting, but in addition to its city parks, Nashville boasts almost 90 miles of paved greenways that connect people and activities throughout the city. It’s time to take a second look at your greenways!
“By being creative with food waste, utilizing compostable materials, and developing a composting/recycling program a restaurant can save considerable dollars over the long run... I definitely see a future in which Nashville leads the way for citywide composting and the restaurant community will be driving the charge.” – Jeremy Barlow, Owner of SLOCO restaurant
January 2018 -- Nashville, TN
On June 16, 2017, the Metro Nashville Fire Department's Station 19 was awarded the Governor's Environmental Stewardship Award in Building Green for its LEED Platinum Certification. Station 19 is the first fire station to achieve this level of LEED certification in the entire southeast, a major achievement for both the Fire Department and the Metro Nashville Department of General Services.
Read the Tennessee Public Works Magazine article here.