On behalf of Montclair Climate Action, I would like to encourage homeowners to leave their leaves on the ground this fall. There are many benefits to this simple practice: You’ll enrich your soil, improve your lawn, save on yard work and help preserve the natural habitat of local animals, plants and insects. 

Butterflies, salamanders, toads, turtles, earthworms and chipmunks are just a few of the many creatures that appreciate a bed of fallen leaves. For birds, leaf litter is a feeding ground and an important nesting material. 

Fallen leaves also help to absorb water during heavy rainfall — a frequent issue in our area — and reduce flooding. Finally, letting leaves lie can help to decrease carbon emissions and waste, as leaf-blowing and collecting involve the use of gas-powered tools and vehicles.

Around the world, extinction levels are distressingly high. A 2019 study in the journal Science showed that 3 billion North American birds have disappeared in the past five decades, including common hardy species that we take for granted, such as sparrows, finches and blackbirds.

Insects are also in grave danger, with 40% of insect species in rapid decline. Though we may think of insects as pests, they help to pollinate our food, break down our waste, and are the base of the food chain that we rely upon to survive.

Many butterfly species, among them the iconic monarch, are in danger of extinction, with their populations declining by 70-80%. Their demise is directly related to habitat loss. Here in the suburbs, we can improve living conditions for animals and plants simply by doing less yardwork.

Hannah Gersen