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The Unforeseen Consequences of UTM's Road Salt Reduction

05 Feb 2024 9:06 AM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

The unforeseen consequences of UTM’s road salt reduction - The Medium

The University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) prides itself on its efforts to foster environmental sustainability on campus. Each year, the school takes incremental, yet powerful steps toward a greener future. Unfortunately, this winter, UTM students aren’t so pleased with some of the university’s “sustainable” choices. 

Here in Canada, crunchy white-and-blue salt on sidewalks, roads, ramps, and staircases is a sign that winter doth approach to plunge us into four to six months of dismal darkness. In Southwestern Ontario, as winter begins, the temperature rapidly dips above and below zero degrees Celsius, resulting in the freezing, melting, and subsequent refreezing of precipitation. Due to this cycle, walking surfaces are covered by layers of ice, some of which are virtually invisible. Luckily, road salt provides us with traction on these slippery surfaces and melts away ice quickly. 

Unfortunately, this frequent use of road salt can be environmentally problematic. Not only does it cause discomfort by getting in between your dog’s widdle toesies, but the salt can also seep into bodies of water, making the fish taste way too salty. It is because of these environmental tolls that UTM took the initiative to reduce road salt use on campus by a whopping 80 per cent during the winter of 2022/2023. This reduction continues this year. 

By the end of last year’s winter, UTM’s Health and Counselling Centre released data suggesting a massive influx in head injuries among UTM students, specifically those related to blunt-force trauma, like falling and hitting your head. Apparently, the frequency of head injuries among students increased by as much as 80 per cent between the winters of 2022 and 2023. 

The Medium reached out to a UTM administrative spokesperson to get some answers. When asked what the cause of this strange increase in head injuries could be, the spokesperson replied: “Honestly, I have absolutely no idea what could be causing this issue. Like no idea at all. Maybe go ask someone who cares.” When the spokesperson was asked to step outside for a headshot, he exclaimed: “Are you kidding me? I’m not going out there on all that ice! I’ll crack my head open!” With that, The Medium’s interviewer was ushered out of the room with a scoff from the spokesperson. 

Without very much guidance from UTM officials, students have begun taking things into their own hands amid this head trauma epidemic. Starting in January of this year, some students took to sliding between classes on their bellies, like penguins. By early February, almost all UTM students had adopted “the penguin technique” and can be found slipping and sliding between classes all together, in great colonies. 

Oddly enough, the adoption of the penguin technique appears to not only encompass sliding to class on one’s belly, but it also seems to have resulted in a widespread mental snap among students. Students can frequently be seen huddling closely together for warmth at bus stops, stealing hard-boiled eggs from Coleman Commons to sit on during class because it “just feels right,” and diving headfirst into medium-sized bodies of water to “hunt for krill and fish.” Some students have even begun to rapidly molt feathers that they reportedly didn’t even know they had. 

In early February, an interviewer from The Medium slid over to the office of Principal Alexandra Gillespie, seeking answers about UTM’s recently coined “penguin ‘pocalypse.” Unfortunately, by the time they reached her office, it was already too late. Gillespie was found swallowing minnows whole while relaxing in her office aquarium, feathers scattered across the floor all around her. 

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