Peak fall color has passed for most of the state and leaves are slowly falling. Wherever they fall, they decompose and
restock the soil with nutrients and organic matter.
when there is no soil to land on--such as on a street or sidewalk--the
leaves, and all the decomposing bits, wash down the street and into the
storm drain. They go directly into lakes and
rivers where the nutrients will feed unwanted algae growth next
summer. In addition to a major "ick" factor, this algae is a problem
when it dies and decomposes at the bottom of the lake it uses up oxygen
fish and native plants need.
In the Mississippi River-Twin Cities watershed 87 of the 180 lakes studied didn't meet water quality standards because of excess nutrients--that's about half the lakes! And leaves are a major source of the problem. Depending on the lake, leaves might account for 60% of the excess nutrients in these lakes.
"leaf" it up to someone else to solve this problem! Here's what to do
with your autumn leaves so that they nourish the soil and not unwanted
Rake the leaves that have accumulated along your curb, sidewalk, and alley
Several times during the fall, rake up the leaves that have accumulated along your curb and sidewalk. Street
sweeping in late fall helps keep a lot of leaves from entering the
water. If your city doesn't already do this, encourage them to start! By
the time the street sweepers drive by, however, lots of decomposition
several rain storms may have
occurred. You can help by raking 1-2 additional times. If you work with
youth or community groups, consider
organizing a community clean up for water quality to do this for others. Never rake leaves into the street, even when you know the street sweeper is coming.
Never trash or burn your leaves
Don't add leaves to the regular trash (it's illegal!) and don't
burn them. Burning leaves releases large
amounts of air pollution. These pollutants can cause breathing problems
for sensitive groups and lead to long-term health effects for all of us.
Put leaves in your backyard compost pile
One of the best ways to use leaves (from the street or the yard) is to compost them in your backyard. Read how to compost on the MPCA website.
My backyard bin isn't big enough to accommodate all our leaves, so I
usually put early and late season leaves in the bin and then on my main
raking weekend I bring the rest to a compost or yard waste drop-site
(see below). If you have room, also bag up and store some dry leaves to
use a carbon source ("browns") in your compost pile during the coming
year. If you don't plan to use your finished compost in the spring,
consider connecting with people who would like to use it on the Yards to Gardens website.
Use leaves to mulch your garden and lawn
or shredded leaves can be used as mulch. Mulch benefits the soil and
reduces weeds. On the lawn, use a mower to break apart the leaves so
that they fall between the blades of grass (consider using an electric mower,
since two-cycle gas lawn mowers, especially older models, produce large
amounts of air pollution). Don't let the leaf layer get too thick! In
garden beds, leaves provide a protective layer of insulation for
perennial gardens and shrubbery, either bagged or loose. Read these additional tips for mulching from Minnesota Extension.
Drop leaves off at a compost site
Another option is to drop off your leaves and sticks
at a compost site near you. Depending on where you live, these may be called “yard waste” or "brush” drop sites. Contact your city
or county for drop-off site locations, items accepted and
any fees involved.
Consider curbside pick-up if you want a convenient option
Your garbage hauler may separately collect yard
waste--sometimes for an additional fee--and then bring it to a
commercial compost site. Contact your garbage hauler to learn about your
Be aware that residents in the Twin Cities area
who bag their yard and organic waste are required to put their waste out for
pickup in compostable
bags--either paper bags or compostable plastic bags. This law applies to
residents in Anoka, Carver, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott, and Washington counties.
Learn more about the compostable bag requirements on the Rethink Recycling website.
Play in your leaf pile
Before bagging or moving the leaves, jump in them! Inhale deeply. Share
your pile by leaving it on the lawn near the sidewalk for a few days with chalk note that
says, "jump!" There are tons of benefits to playing outside including
boosting vitality; improving vision; reducing risks of heart disease, obesity,
bone problems, depression, and stress; reducing the symptoms of attention
deficit hyperactivity disorder; and more.
Celebrate America Recycles Day on November 15 by posting this
icon on Facebook. You probably already know you can recycle cans, bottles, paper and some
other things. But how about... mattresses? Holiday lights? Carpet?
Toilet paper tubes? On Recyclemoreminnesota.org you can learn how even unusual materials can avoid the
landfill and benefit Minnesota's economy and environment through
Join us, and 70 other vendors, at the 8th Annual Green Gifts Fair. The MPCA and Junket: Tossed and Found are teaming up to demonstrate ideas for re-gifting, including a fun make-and-take memory book activity, Saturday, November 23, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Midtown Global Market (Minneapolis).
The average household in St. Paul wastes almost $100 worth of food every month. The holidays can be even more wasteful. To help you reduce food waste, we've pulled together a list of tips and resources. Check it out!
Thank you for reading Living
Green 365. This newsletter is a publication of the Minnesota Pollution Control
Agency. Please send questions or comments about living green to the address
Britt Gangeness and the Living