It’s that time of the year that can feel like a constant battle of raking leaves only for them to seemingly reappear in your yard the next day.

But some experts say you might not need to be raking those leaves at all. A movement to “leave the leaves” encourages people to skip raking and bagging leaves altogether in order to help the environment.

“Rather than the tedious task of raking and bagging leaves and taking them to the landfill, the best way to reduce greenhouse gases and benefit your garden is to leave the leaves!” the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommended.

Benefits of ‘leaving the leaves’

Around 30 million tons of yard waste, including leaves, are sent to landfills every year, according to the National Wildlife Federation. The leaves are then buried in the landfills, where they break down without oxygen, producing the greenhouse gas methane, which contributes to climate change. 

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Leaving the leaves is good for the soil as well. By letting leaves decompose naturally over the winter, organic materials will return back to the soil.

“A forest has the richest soil there is, and that happens because leaves are falling off the trees and decomposing right there and organic materials are going back into the soil,” Susan Barton, extension specialist of ornamental horticulture at the University of Delaware, told The New York Times. “We should be doing that in all of our landscapes, but we’re not.”  

Fallen leaves are also a “free fertilizer” that can be used in your yard and your garden, according to Jessica Damiano, a gardening columnist for The Associated Press.

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“Fallen leaves are nature’s mulch, meant to protect (and build) soil, insulate plant roots and shelter wildlife, as they do on the forest floor,” Damiano writes. “Why waste that precious resource?”

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