The National Wildlife Federation is encouraging homeowners to stop raking and simply “leave the leaves” on their lawn. The conservation organization, which strives “to inspire Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future,” said raking leaves does more harm than good — as it is bad for the environment.
Each year, millions of Americans remove fallen leaves from their lawns with rakes, leaf blowers, and vacuum devices. Although some communities allow residents to burn piles of unwanted leaves, a majority of the yard waste is deposited at the curb, where it is collected and taken to a landfill.
Homeowners have various reasons for removing leaves from their yard. However, in many cases, they are simply trying to preserve their health of their lawn.
— Shambhala Sun (@LionsRoar) October 31, 2015
As reported by About Home, “cool-season” grasses, which are prominent throughout the Northern and Midwestern United States, are more active during the autumn months when the weather is moderately cool.
During the active period, cool-season grasses need ample nutrients, sunlight, and water to facilitate necessary revitalization. Unfortunately, layers of dead leaves can hamper the process as they form a barrier that prevents sunlight and water from reaching the lawn.
In addition to preserving the health of their lawn, many homeowners remove leaves for aesthetic reasons. Although the colorful foliage is beautiful while still on the tree, some people simply do not want it piled up in their yard.
Homeowners have numerous reasons for removing leaves from their lawn. However, the National Wildlife Federation said the often daunting task is unnecessary. More importantly, the organization suggests it is actually bad for the environment.
As reported by NWF.org, an estimated 33 million tons of yard waste are added to landfills each year. Essentially, the debris, which includes autumn leaves, accounts for “13 percent of the nation’s solid waste.” Organic matter, including yard waste, is also responsible for greenhouse gas methane that is produced by the nation’s landfills at an alarming rate.
It’s that time of year when jumping in a pile of leaves is worth all the raking. Benny got to skip the raking part.. pic.twitter.com/po4J7UYA7X
— InvisibleFence®Brand (@invisiblefence) October 27, 2015
Leaf removal is also detrimental to wildlife, which rely on the leaves as a source of food, nesting material, and shelter. According to the NWF, autumn leaves are essential for the survival of several species of amphibians, birds, invertebrates, and reptiles, which are prominent in the Northern and Midwestern United States.
The National Wildlife Federation offers several alternatives to leaf removal, which are far better for the environment.
Homeowners who are concerned about the health of their lawn can simply break the leaves down with a mulching mower. Although the leaves will remain on the lawn, the smaller particles will allow nutrients, sunlight, and water to reach the grass.
According to the NWF, the particles will also benefit the lawn as the “natural mulch… helps suppress weeds and fertilizes the soil.”
If they are broken down into smaller pieces, the leaves are also less likely to contribute to snow mold, which can destroy an otherwise healthy lawn.
Homeowners who insist on removing the leaves completely are encouraged to recycle them instead of disposing of them at the curb.
Broken down leaves can be used as mulch in gardens and potted plants. They can also be added to fresh lawn clippings to build a rich compost.
Piles of lawn waste, including autumn leaves, can also be used to form brush shelters, which protect wildlife from predators and provide shelter from the elements.
If nothing else, the National Wildlife Federation’s suggestion will save homeowners a lot of time, as leaf removal is often a daunting task that needs to be repeated several times each autumn.
[Image via Shutterstock/Jari Hindstroem]