Caring for Our Lakes Now and All Winter Long

While the lakes will soon freeze over and the idea of them being “water” may be far from our minds, our actions now, and through the frigid months ahead, can do a lot to keep Minnesota water clean. We can welcome winter peacefully and consider our planet in every season.

Run-off and excessive nutrients flowing into our lakes and streams cause a lot of damage. According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, fall leaves decomposing on streets are a major source of excess nutrients in Minneapolis area lakes. These nutrients contribute to unwanted algae growth in the summer and use oxygen needed by native fish and plants. Lakes are also polluted from the salt and sand we use in the winter.

Thankfully, simple actions can make a big difference!

In the fall, clean-up leaves:

Rake leaves that accumulate along the curb and sidewalk. While street sweepers certainly help, decomposition and rain storms can happen anytime and lead to nutrient runoff.

Use leaves to mulch. Mulch benefits the soil and reduces weeds. You can add them to your gardens (think of them as a warm blanket) and mow over a layer to keep on your lawn.

Compost your leaves. Take them to a drop-off site, add them to your backyard compost, or simply put them curbside. In Minneapolis, be sure to use a compostable bag for curbside. I use empty flour sacks from a local bakery.

In the winter, salt responsibly:

Shovel early and often. Clear walkways before snow turns to ice and before you apply salt. This is the best way to avoid ice altogether.

Select the right product. Salt doesn’t melt ice if the pavement is below 15 degrees, so use sand for traction when it’s too cold.

Scatter sparingly and only where needed. A 12-ounce coffee cup of salt is enough to cover 10 sidewalk squares or a 20-foot driveway.

Sweep up leftover salt and sand to prevent runoff and reuse it later! Ideally there is no leftover salt (this indicates you used the right amount).

And if you’re really interested in protecting the lakes from runoff consider adopting a storm drain. They’re so cute and cuddly………. ok maybe not, but it is a cute program and a simple way to give back.

“Be Green” is one of Modo’s 6 pillars, as the care, respect, and protection of our planet is tied to our own well-being. The above tips are from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Don’t Let Leaves Litter Our Lakes, and Clean Water MN –an outreach program of the Metro Watershed Partners that promotes water-friendly practices.

Written by Kim Richards