Salt has become a winter staple when it comes to keeping Canadian roads clear of ice.

However, sodium chloride can have damaging effects not just on cars and footwear, but on vegetation, animals and other wildlife.

Some cities are now on the hunt for more ecofriendly alternatives. Toronto is one of several municipalities turning to beet juice, which is safer for the environment and more effective than using salt alone.

Here are some other creative alternatives North American cities have been looking into:

1. Cheese brine

In Wisconsin, the mecca of the U.S. dairy industry, cheese brine is now part of the de-icing process. The liquid is used in factories to soak certain cheeses, such as mozzarella. As a bonus, because it’s a byproduct that’s thrown away after the cheese is made, it’s free. 

Road salt alternatives infographic

(Duk Han Lee/CBC)

2. Molasses

Some towns in the U.S. are favouring sweet over salty as they turn to molasses. Mixing it into a salt brine solution apparently helps salt stick to the roads and makes it less corrosive.

3. EcoTraction

Invented by a Canadian company, EcoTraction is made of non-toxic, all-natural volcanic rock. According to the Earth Innovations website, the granules embed into ice and snow, creating a solid, non-slip surface. Founder Mark Watson developed the product after his dog died of cancer, which may be triggered by toxins in road salt.

4. Garlic salt

When a spice factory in Ankeny, Iowa, needed to get rid of nine tonnes of garlic salt, the city gladly took it off their hands. The spice, a mixture of dried garlic and table salt, was used to de-ice Ankeny’s streets and filled the air with a garlic aroma.

5. Solar-powered roads

Instead of clearing ice from the roads, some engineers are trying to build roads that clear themselves. Although not a reality — yet — one U.S. company wants to revamp the country’s road network, replacing traditional asphalt with solar panels that would help melt ice and snow as well as provide electricity for nearby buildings.