Leave your leaves this autumn – the planet will thank you

Yellow colors. Crunchy pathways. Crisp mornings. These are signs of the fall season. This year, fight the urge to add ‘rake leaves into piles’ to your seasonal to-do list. Here are three reasons why you should leave the leaves this season:

1.Provide habitat for wildlife

As the trees shed their leaves, this new organic layer starts to form its own ecosystem. It provides shelter for wildlife from worms and caterpillars to shrews and chipmunks. Butterflies and moths rely on these leaves for protection throughout the winter months.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, many bird species forage for their next meal in this leaf litter, which is home to many insects and other invertebrates. These species include towhees, robins, and sparrows as well as larger birds, like wild turkeys. This is their primary food source during nesting season when many little beaks are dependent on them.

If you rake up and get rid of these leaves, a whole ecosystem that provides habitat, food and shelter for local wildlife has gone to waste.

2.Recycle nutrients back into Earth

Leaves are full of beneficial nutrients, such as carbon, nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. As the leaf litter starts to decompose, the soil absorbs these supplements back into their natural cycles. Carbon is the highest available nutrient with a 47 percent average concentration among leaf litter.

Over time, usually by the beginning of summer, this leaf mulch and its nutrients will be reabsorbed back into your garden bed. Ultimately, the continuous removal of fall leaves interrupts the natural decomposition cycle.

Use this free organic amendment to improve soil health and fertility instead of an addition to the local landfill.

3.Reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas released below the surface of landfills as organic materials decompose over time. Instead of being used to improve soil health, this energy is wasted. Speaking of energy, the commonly used leaf blower used in fall releases additional pollutants into the atmosphere.

Yard trimmings, including leaves, made up 12% of solid waste generated by humans, based on an EPA study in 2018. During the fall season, this percentage is quadrupled as people bag their leaves.

Help fight climate change by creating a compost pile in your backyard to reduce the amount of leaves wasting away in landfills. You can also take them to a local leaf litter drop, to reduce your impact on the environment.

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