Better options for fall leaves

In NB where I live, most leaves have fallen and people are well into their fall routines of raking, bagging and placing at the curb. 

But maybe there’s a better way. Consider:

• Leaves are actually a pretty integral part of our natural environment, cycling nutrients from one plant to another, and creating food and habitat for many other life forms

• Bagging takes time and effort, pulling you away from other things you’d probably rather be doing

• There’s a considerable carbon footprint to disposing of leaves: notably the paper bags (and presumably the drive to go pick them up), and especially the energy used to haul them away.  

It’s ironic that leaves, which are actually captured carbon, would have such a carbon footprint for their collection and disposal. It’s even more ironic that we cut down trees to manufacture those leaf bags.

So what can you do?

• Very best: this is one of those very rare instances where doing nothing is probably the very best option: leave leaves where they are, to rot and recycle naturally. Of course, that’s not feasible for many of us so…

• Next best: rake your leaves under hedges, into perennial flower beds, into veggie gardens or into nearby woods, so they can decompose and recycle their nutrients there.

• Next best: create a compost heap. Leaves and lawn clippings are a dream team for creating ‘rocket fuel’ for next year’s garden. More on composting here.

• Next best: if you don’t have a good spot for leaves to decompose or compost, find a neighbour who does and would like to have your leaves. Bonus: try to avoid using bags altogether, or using and reusing just a few.

• Next best: use your mower (preferably electric or battery powered) to shred those leaves into mulch that stays on your lawn. It’ll help improve moisture retention and reduce the need for fertilizer.

• Worst: please avoid using leaf blowers; try a broom instead. If you absolutely have to use a leaf blower, please make sure it’s electric or battery powered.

• Very worst: please don’t bag leaves up as garbage; if buried into landfills, they’ll gradually decompose into methane, which is a far worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Find more ideas and information here and here, and happy non-raking!

Thanks to subscriber Don Ross for inspiring this Green Idea.

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