Five Eco-Friendly Uses For Fallen Leaves

I’ve been in quite the transition over the past month or so as I moved from Worcester, Mass., to Denver. As you can imagine, there’s a lot to take in (I really just moved across the country to Colorado? Those are mountains I see on the horizon?!) and adjust to (I can walk to the grocery store? Living in a two-bedroom house with three other people for a month will be really funny later, right?) and I haven’t been writing much lately, but I have been coming up with things to share with you! For example, today I’d like to tell you about the massive Aspen tree in front of my sister’s house where I’m staying. Or rather, the Aspen tree that didn’t seem massive until its leaves created an inches-deep blanket covering the front lawn and driveway, fell through my sunroof daily and got tracked through the house for the past month.

Ground & tree both looked full a month ago!
Ground & tree both looked full a month ago!

Remember how I said before that I like Earth Day cleanups and the like because I get to do something and actually see a change? That’s how I feel about raking leaves. Aside from childhood, I haven’t lived anywhere leaves on the lawn were an issue until this year and I was dying to get them cleaned up. Fortunately, my sister agreed so we went and bought a rake last week. But she wanted to just put the leaves in plastic garbage bags. That’s what inspired this post. I know there are people like her who want to do the same and others who might not use the plastic, but will put leaves in the trash. I know this because I saw a huge pile of leaves in the dumpster here last week.

Dead leaves & the dirty ground
Dead leaves (& the dirty ground)

So here’s the thing: You don’t want to put leaves in the garbage because they will needlessly take up space in landfills and can be put to much better use. According to the EPA, food and yard waste make up 20 to 30 percent of our garbage. And you want to do something with them so they don’t smother your lawn or clog sewers.

My sister and I had A LOT of leaves covering the yard, so we opted to fill paper and biodegradable yard waste bags and drop them off at city-designated drop sites. The leaves will be composted and sold back to residents in the spring, just in time for new gardens to get underway. Check with your city to see what leaf programs they’re offering. Denver has a deal with Ace Hardware that gets residents a free pack of leaf bags.

Raking action
Bags two of 20 filled.

In addition to what we dropped off, we also saved a few bags’ worth for our own backyard compost pile. I know it’s pretty late in the leaf-dropping season, but if your neighborhood is still coated with leaves like ours, then there’s still time for you to benefit from this post!

So here are other good, *useful* and green options for what to do with those dry, dead leaves:

  • Compost. Composting your leaves can save you quite a bit of money when it comes time to fertilize your plants in the coming years. If you choose this option, no bags are needed. Just pile your leaves up and mix them with green lawn clippings. It’s best if you turn the mixture, and you’ll get the best results if you shred the leaves first. Here are great composting tips from the EPA.
  • Lawn mulch. Whole leaves will suffocate your lawn, hence the urge to do something with them every fall. But shredded leaves serve as a great mulch. According to the garden editor at WTOP, shredded leaves “prevent weed growth, retain soil moisture and attract earthworms to aerate the soil and feed your plants for free.”
  • Garden food. Leaves that fall on your garden can be left there. Or you could, I suppose, toss some there. Turn them in the spring, and they’ll decompose quickly, feeding the soil.
  • Have fun! If you’re into crafting along with being eco-friendly, here are 32 fall craft ideas from Better Homes and Gardens that use leaves. :)Enjoy!

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