Would you believe leaves and yard debris fill more than 12% of our nation’s landfills, a whopping 35.4 million tons a year! As with food waste, leaves need oxygen to decompose. Without it they release methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
Instead of packaging them up and sending them off to the landfill, here’s what you can do.
1) Leave the leaves! There’s a lot of social pressure around a beautiful lawn, but the best thing you can do—for your lawn’s health and the environment—is to leave the leaves on the ground! In the winter, “leaf litter” offers wildlife a safe habitat and food. (If you hate yard work, here’s your excuse!) You can simply leave the leaves whole, but if you shred them, they’ll break down more quickly and won’t ‘smother’ the grass. Most mowers have a ‘mulch’ setting which makes it easy. Shredded leaves are organic matter which provide nitrogen and other nutrients to your lawn’s soil as well as protect root systems and preserve soil moisture.
2) Rake/Blow Off the Lawn. Our method of choice, we blow leaves from the lawn into our yard’s two wooded corners, which become ‘brown matter’ for my compost pile. Come spring we will use these leaves to mulch our garden beds. For a finer mulch, consider this handy electric leaf vacuum/mulcher.
3) Compost Your Leaves. Combine your leaves with grass clippings and other yard debris. You’ll have nutrient-rich compost to add to your garden next spring. Don’t compost at home? Most towns have organic yard waste collection sites and will often give you free mulch in return.
4) Build a Brush Shelter. If you can’t store all your leaves, consider building a brush shelter that can protect native wildlife through harsh winters.