Sustainability Analysis of the Commercial Winter Management Industry’s Use of Salt
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CitationSexton, Phillip Charles. 2017. Sustainability Analysis of the Commercial Winter Management Industry’s Use of Salt. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractThere is a quiet yet significant environmental epidemic occurring. Freshwater resources throughout North America are becoming increasingly contaminated with chlorides as a result of salt used for managing snow and ice conditions. This thesis evaluates the current snow & ice management practices of the commercial winter management industry and how the industry can leverage existing research, data and best practices to reduce its use of sodium chloride (“rock salt”) for managing slippery conditions in parking lots and roadways.
My research focus is on the primary drivers and variables that influence the amounts of salt being applied to mitigate these slippery conditions. The primary question I address is: How can a highly fragmented industry reduce the rate and frequency of salt it applies? My main research objective is to develop a context based analysis of the commercial winter management industry’s sustainability issues that ultimately influence how much salt is applied and reveal possible reduction interventions. The primary hypotheses I examined are: current rates of salt applications used in commercial winter management operations for parking lots, and private roadways are higher than established guidelines indicate they need to be; less salt is applied when the established salt application guidelines are followed; the rates and frequencies of salt application increase when contracted levels of service or perceived levels of quality for snow & ice control are increased; and the amount of salt applied is higher when property owners or contractors are liable for slip and fall claims.
I utilized five sets of existing salt application rate guidelines, five categories of industry context data and three methods of analysis to develop: 1) a comparative analysis of salt application rates; 2) a sustainability analysis of the commercial winter management industry; and 3) a materiality analysis of the primary drivers and variables that influence salt application.
My research results revealed the two most heavily weighted drivers that influence the rate and frequency of salt applications are the clients’ level of service expectations, and contractors’ reliance on salt applications as the primary driver of profit margins. The results further suggest that rather than invest in government regulation of salt application rates, which would be impossible to enforce in an extremely fragmented industry, a model of self-regulated interventions and guidelines is more likely to be accepted by the industry. The context analyses also revealed a number of other sustainability issues experienced by the commercial winter management industry that are important to understand and include for future salt reduction research and initiatives. The issues I examined include: fear of liability for slips and falls, budget constraints, variable perceptions of quality, lack of education and training at the field level where salt is applied, and lack of automation and consistent tracking of salt application data.
I merged my findings of the current sustainability issues assessed in this research into a proposed framework of solutions interventions that could reduce chloride contamination of freshwater bodies from salt applications. These interventions I advocate can be reasonably adopted by the broad categories of winter management stakeholders as a future national model for developing standards of policies and practice.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:33826971