Life / Health

Be safe, be eco-conscious while shovelling snow

Shovelling snow is a pain in the back. The pushing, the lifting … the throwing.

Yes, a snow shovel is green and eco-friendly. It doesn't chew up power like electric or gas-powered snow blowers.

But injuries are a real risk ' and clearing snow can be fatal, as well.

The Canadian Heart & Stroke Foundation estimates that over 16,000 Canadians die of heart attacks every year.

The Huffington Post has reported snow shovelling accounts for less than half of one per cent of fatal coronaries, but that's around 50 Canadians ' annually ' who go out to clear their snow, and never come back.

Snow blowers are an obvious alternative. But they have an environmental impact ' fossil fuel-powered ones especially.

“These blowers emit a ton of carbon emissions that pollute the air,” notes Trish Smith, a popular blogger at

“(They) also use gasoline that can eventually wind up in our streams or in our soil, and that's no way treat our earth.”

So is there a way to build a better shovel?

There's a broad variety of ergonomic snow shovels on the market.

Some have bent handles designed to ease the strain of lifting.

Others use wide blades and conjoined double handles to distribute and minimize physical stress.

And then there's the Sno Wovel ' ' an innovative invention that combines a traditional shovel with a wheel.

“It's not only more efficient ' there's a three-quarters reduction in exertion ' but this takes the real pain out of shovelling, greatly reducing exertion and the risk of injury,” says Mark Noonan, president of Nootools, who's been making and marketing Sno Wovels for the past six years.

Traditional shovels focus most of the physical force of lifting and throwing snow on the small of your back.

Adding a wheel moves the fulcrum away from the spine and onto the axle, cutting down on jarring and twisting.

“The shovel blade is actually angled at 45 degrees,” Noonan adds. “That helps you throw more forward.”

Shovelling snow is one of those rare cases where the greener solution can be significantly more dangerous than the power-burning alternatives.

Perhaps the best solution is to carefully consider all the alternatives ' and always remember to be careful.

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