The Joy of Raking Leaves

Autumn is upon us and the fall colors have already peaked in most of the northern states and Canada. The splendor is quickly moving southward, a few hundred miles each week. Every day, our lush green neighborhood trees are turning bright shades of yellow, red and orange. If you want to know the peak forecast, the Weather Channel has a nifty fall foliage map.Leaf Against Red Barn

This is one of my favorite times of year. But the combination of “goodbye summertime” and “hello leaf raking” is bittersweet.  Especially since raking leaves is one of those man-made, aesthetically inclined chores. I mean, honestly, there is no reason for it except to make your lawn and home fit society’s definition of acceptable. You can reduce your carbon footprint by raking leaves, its that simple!

Leaves are biodegradable – very biodegradable. Like banana-peel- gone-in-a-week biodegradable. So if we just left them as nature intended, they would not only degrade on their own, but would also make for healthier grass and gardens next year as a result of their fertilizing and water retention qualities.

But honestly, who are we kidding? Nobody wants to be the sore-thumb on the block who doesn’t rake the lawn and gets dirty looks from every neighbor within a five-mile radius. So if you are trying to keep this suburban ritual as eco-friendly as possible, consider some earth-friendly ideas. Instead of putting your leaves in plastic bags or in piles for curbside pick-up, try tilling, composting or mulching them. Absorbing your own leaves reduces the “leaf miles” of your castoffs. As distance food sources are measured in “food miles,” think of the miles your leaves will be traveling in toxic-spewing, non-EPA-regulated heavy trucks to processing facilities, and then returned to garden stores in 20-pound bags of Leafgro.

Composting: offers a great way to convert your unwanted leaves into fertilizer. Not only will you have the cleanest lawn on the street, but next spring you’ll also have homegrown soil enricher to spread across your lawn for the greenest grass around. Composting bins are inexpensive, simple to use and take up very little space –  all you need is a 4×4 area.

Mulching: involves chopping leaves into little pieces to make them decompose faster. This accelerates decomposition and ensures a fine topsoil mixture next spring.

Rake, Don’t Blow: do it the old-fashioned way and use a rake. I know leaf blowers are convenient, but they are also incredibly bad for the planet because the exhaust isn’t regulated.  Ever notice the taste in your mouth after walking by someone operating a leaf blower or while using one yourself? That can’t be good for you. Blowers are the most polluting device that you probably own. You may as well take a frivolous airplane trip for the same amount of carbon footprint negative impact. So skip a day at the gym, roll up your sleeves and do some manual labor. Don’t neglect the nostalgic jump in the pile at the end, which we all know is way more rewarding when it follows an hour of serious, person-powered raking.

Curbside Pickup: is offered by many towns because there’s just too many leaves to compost individually. Just be careful not to block street water drains with your leaf piles. The combination of fall rains and leaf-blocked sewers can not only cause flooding in your neighborhood, but also cause nutrient influxes in nearby lakes and rivers that lead to eutrophication (algae blooms and fish kill).

green writer samantha frapartCheck out the Green Blizzard Store for reading recommendations.  Here are some other Green Blizzard articles that may be of interest:Plant a Few Trees, Is Tree Planting Difficult?, Carbon Footprint of Food Waste, Carbon Footprint of eBooksHouseplants Purify Your AirEco-Friendly Toys

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About the author

Samantha Frapart

Samantha was the first staff writer at Green Blizzard, way back during the start-up phase, and has written a series of fresh and spirited articles from the millennial's perspective. Samantha's portfolio of green living tips ranges from green apartment living, urban transportation options, green underwear choices, re-usable coffee cups, bathroom habits, and even…. drinking straws.