Clean Nature Team

Clean Nature: Protecting Ecosystems by Optimizing Road Salt Use

As we’re navigating a global pandemic and a just recovery, we want to amplify the stories of those that are working harder than ever for a low-carbon future. We’re profiling each of our 16 ventures in Earth Tech – CSI Climate Ventures’ accelerator for startups and nonprofits working on climate and freshwater solutions.

Icy roads can be harrowing. Unfortunately, the results of the solutions to icy roads can be equally harrowing. The often-excessive application of road salts since the 1940s has led to major problems for our waterways and ecosystems. Climate change has been increasing the frequency and intensity of snowfall events. If we don’t change how we approach road salting, things will only get worse.

Salts accumulation in water bodies affects both aquatic ecosystems and the surrounding fauna and flora. Salinity can even reach lethal levels for some species. An estimated 7,700 North American lakes could be facing elevated chloride concentrations due to road salt runoff. Road salts are widely applied on Canadian roads. This means chloride contaminated water is a growing and worrying issue.

But Earth Tech venture Clean Nature knows that it wouldn’t be safe to stop the practice of salting all together. So they have found a way to prevent excessive salt use. Their tools? Local real-time meteorological, environmental, and road conditions.

As a bonus, this solution also saves municipalities valuable time and money.

“Excessive application of de-icing salt has negative impacts on the environment and leads to damages on public infrastructure such as roads, sidewalks and bridges,” explains Clean Nature’s Co-founder Patricia Gomez. “We are convinced that it is essential to provide the right tools to those involved in winter maintenance, so they can optimize road salt use while minimizing environmental impacts.”

Addressing the excess use of road salt was one of the topics proposed in the 2019 AquaHacking Challenge. Clean Nature’s innovative solution took the second place prize. Following that, they participated in WWF’s Generation Water Tech Challenge. They were one of four winners awarded a grant and a spot in the Earth Tech program.

Their success in those competitions — paired with their passion for environmental protection — showed Patricia and her team realize their idea had a lot of potential. So they decided to pursue the development of the tool in order to make it commercially viable.

“We believe that it is possible to ensure road safety while protecting our water resources and our aquatic systems from road de-icing agents,” says Patricia. “So we conceived guiA, an innovative smart decision-making tool to prepare, intervene, and adapt road salt spreading more efficiently while reducing costs and environmental impacts.”

Around the same time, Clean Nature began the Earth Tech program. According to Patricia, the impact was immediate.

“Earth Tech has been an essential resource in our company development, providing us valuable resources that have helped us to validate our solution and to move forward in our business consolidation. It has been a very rewarding experience that prepared us to face the challenge of being entrepreneurs.”

Clean Nature is still navigating how to use their scientific expertise and tech solution to create and develop a business opportunity. Patricia remains motivated to contribute to sustainable development by using science to reduce our impact on the environment.

“Innovation and new technologies are an essential pillar in the fight against climate change and environmental protection,” she insists. “They provide a source of tools to help communities adapt to climate change through sustainable management, conservation, and restoration of natural resources.”

Learn more about Clean Nature here.

Learn more about Earth Tech and meet the other ventures here. Earth Tech is made possible because of our partners: RBC Foundation, Bullfrog Power, Vancity Community Investment Bank (VCIB), and WWF-Canada.