An American organization is hoping to replenish North America's ecosystem by encouraging the public to learn of alternative measures for annual fall cleaning traditions.
Leave Leaves Alone (LLA) started 13 years ago in the state of New York to bring awareness to the harm that fall cleaning brings to the ecosystem. It is supporting the proposal for the ban of gas leaf blowers in New York. However, it is sharing its earth-friendly solutions online for everyone to see.
Co-founder of Leave Leaves Alone and Healthy Yards, Fiona Mitchell says that all it took was a visit from her brother to realize there are easier and more environmentally sound ways to take care of leaves in the fall.
"We're really trying to discourage people from cleaning up their landscapes, their backyards and considering them more as a habitat for biodiversity. In the last 50 years in North America, We've lost 60 per cent of our insects, 30 per cent of our birds and 70 per cent of our butterflies, and Leave Leaves Alone is part of a movement to educate people on how we can have our backyards help reverse that trend a little bit. We're not saying, you know, make your backyard completely wild but understand the values of leaves."
Mitchell says that leaves act like a protective blanket for the ground and any creatures living in the soil. The leaves provide insulation from the cold winter temperatures. She also notes that insects like butterflies and moths use leaves as a winter habitat. This is why birds can be seen sifting through leaves because they are searching for insects and bugs to feed their young.
As leaves decompose during the winter, they provide nourishment for the soil. Mitchell says that it is "like the circle of life." If the leaves are cleaned up, it is removing natural resources for the creatures in that ecosystem and potential nourishment for the ground.
LLA encourages people to rethink using leaf blowers and to keep them in storage.
"They're a huge nuisance in neighbourhoods, they're horribly noisy and they sort of destroy the whole ambience of a nice walk in the fall leaves. But aside from that, environmentally they're really destructive. You can imagine those little butterflies, pupas, trying to hibernate in the leaves and then comes a leaf blower with hurricane-force winds blowing it to smithereens so that basically kills that insect."
Mitchell also says that leaf blowers remove the topsoil every time it is used, causing it to become sterile and exposing tree roots. If leaf blowers are needed, Mitchell opts for electric leaf blowers rather than gas-powered ones, which cause a large sum of emissions. Rakes and brooms are also an environmentally-safe way of moving leaves.
Mulching is another alternative way of effectively using leaves. Running a lawnmower over the leaves with special mulching blades allows the leaves to become nutrients for the ground and take up less space than full leaves.
For more information about Leave Leaves Alone, visit leaveleavesalone.org.
For more information on healthy yard practices, visit healthyyards.org.