Wondering What to Do With Fall Leaves? Try Nothing

Oct 30, 2023

If your yard is shaded by the canopies of deciduous trees, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself asked to rake leaves this fall. Yet you may have a way to avoid the achy back and crops of hand-blisters that often result from the chore: Explain that, for the environment, all that falling foliage is best left where it lies.

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has tagged October as “National Leave the Leaves Month.” The event spotlights the perks of not raking.

David Mizejewski is a naturalist with the NWF. “The fallen leaf layer is actually really important wildlife habitat,” he told The Washington Post. “All sorts of creatures rely on that for their survival as a place where they can find food and cover, and in many cases even complete their life cycle.”

What’s more, bagging up leaves and sending them to landfills can inflate methane levels in the atmosphere. This is a major cause of climate change. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that in 2018, landfills received 10.5 million tons of yard waste. That included leaves. All those bagged-up leaves act like a methane factory.

What happens when leaves get buried in landfills? "They break down in anaerobic conditions with no oxygen,” Mizejewski explains. “That produces methane, which of course, is a potent greenhouse gas.”

If you’re worried about all those leaves harming your lawn, you can still rake, experts say. Just move the piles to some other spot in your yard and let them sit all winter. By spring, you’ll have a compost pile rich with nutrients to use in your garden.

Photo from Unsplash courtesy of Kelly Sikkema.

Reflect: How do our everyday actions, like leaf-raking, impact the environment, and what small changes could you and your family make to help protect the planet?

Which of the following ideas is highlighted by the author throughout the story? (Common Core RI.5.3; RI.6.3)
a. the importance of professional lawn care services
b. the benefits of preserving fallen leaves in your yard
c. the significance of starting composting early in the fall
d. the best methods for bagging and disposing of yard waste
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