In this column, staff at the Center for EcoTechnology offer advice on easy ways for people — and businesses — to introduce green changes in their daily lives. For the past 40 years, CET has helped people and businesses in Massachusetts save energy and reduce waste.
Q: Well, leaves are falling again. I always bag them up and bring them to the transfer station, but that's a lot of work and I have to pay to get rid of them. Is there an easier way to handle fallen leaves? Maybe even a method that's better for the environment?
A: Absolutely! Nature has had plenty of time to figure out how to deal with fallen leaves, and has become pretty adept at it by now. It's entirely possible to not pay to dispose of your leaves and instead save money by turning them into fertilizer, compost and decorations. Here are our five favorite ways to do that:
• Add your fallen leaves to your compost pile. The carbon in leaves is essential to a healthy compost pile. You can pile them up next to your compost and add them in gradually all year. Don't have a compost pile? Get started here at www.cetonline.org or check a local farm to see if you can donate your leaves to its compost pile.
• Use them in your potted plants. Put dried leaves directly into the bottom of your planting containers instead of buying potting soil — this will save you money and give your potted plants a healthy start
• Feed your lawn by just mowing over leaves. Instead of raking up the leaves, just go over your whole yard with your lawn mower; this will chop up the leaves, spread them out and allow them to decompose throughout the winter, helping your lawn grow better in the spring.
• Press your fallen leaves for art projects. Pick the most beautiful fall leaves to preserve and use for seasonal decorations. To press leaves, place them between two sheets of paper under a stack of books for a couple days until they are pressed and dried. If you would like to preserve them further, place dried leaves between two sheets of wax paper and press with a hot iron for 10 seconds for an at-home lamination. Cut out the leaves and use as you please.
• Use leaves as a winter mulch. Keeping perennial plants safe through the winter can be tough. Piling leaves from your lawn around the base of your perennial plants can help to keep their roots warm during the colder months.
• Finally, if you have excess leaves after your reuse projects, make sure to divert your yard waste from the landfill and send it to an appropriate yard waste facility. Call your local city/town government office for more information about how to responsibly dispose of your yard waste.
Look out for this column every two weeks. Send Go Green questions to GoGreen@cetonline.org.