The world's soils are rapidly deteriorating due to soil erosion, nutrient depletion, loss of soil organic carbon, soil sealing and other threats, but this trend can be reversed provided countries take the lead in promoting sustainable management practices and the use of appropriate technologies . . .. From a United Nations Report issued in December of 2015
Soil is truly the ground for life. No better time to call our community’s attention to it than the month of November with our Leaf Awareness month. There are so many problems worldwide that it’s mind-boggling and discouragingly impossible to consider them all. But we can all begin right where we are and do what we can for ourselves and our community. For me, that’s Garland, Texas.
Here in Garland, the leaves we bag and put curbside are carried away to our Hinton landfill. This is not good for two main reasons. 1) We are removing what would eventually become soil and nutrients to grow plants in our yard and 2) We are using valuable and finite space in our landfill. This is such a simple problem to solve. I have the faith that simply informing the people will change their behavior. Frankly I think a lot of citizens mistakenly believe the bags of leaves they put curbside are recycled. We need to make sure they know where the leaves go so they can make an informed decision.
1. Do nothing. Leave them where they fall. Leaves are really intended to stay where they fall. That is the balance and cycle of nature. They lie there and eventually decompose into soil that in turn makes it possible for plants and trees to make new leaves and grow.
2. Mulch the leaves in your yard. This will reduce the need for chemical fertilizers. Undoubtedly, the easiest way to get rid of leaves is to mow them into your lawn. You can do this with a regular mower, especially if the leaves are dry, but a mulcher-mower works better.
3. Compost the leaves yourself. You can simply rake them into a pile in a corner of your back yard and let them be. After about two years they will be decomposed into soil. (You’ll need two piles—one for the first year and once for the second year. Then at the end of the second year you can shovel the soil from the first pile back into your garden or flower beds and put the leaves from the third year in that spot.) There are all kinds of home composting bins born every day; however the easiest are the tumbler barrels that you can easily turn often and thus speed up the decomposition process.
1. You will be reducing the size of your City's ecological footprint by recycling the leaves from the trees you own right where they fall.
The global effort for sustainability will be won, or lost, in the world’s cities, where 80 percent of the world’s population is expected to live by 2050. High-Footprint cities can reduce this demand on nature greatly with simple strategies enacted at the level of the individual. Many of the simple strategies such as recycling the leaves at their source cut costs and make cities more livable. We need to consider carefully whether our decisions at the local government level are building opportunities for resource-efficient and healthy lifestyles.
2. You will be increasing the availability of natural capital (soil).
Providing for current and future human well-being depends on protecting natural capital from systematic overuse; otherwise, nature will no longer be able to secure society with her basic services. The solution of recycling the leaves where they fall is the most ecologically sound solution of all. It is a solution that is within reach of the vast majority of citizens with trees in their yards. If, for example we create a center for recycling leaves such as the one at Texas Pure Products in Plano, we would likely be making our ecological footprint as a city larger, not smaller. Consider the operation of the heavy equipment to lift and turn the compost, the large trucks used to haul the finished products away, people coming and going in their cars to pick up the finished compost, etc. Some of our environmental solutions should make us smile.
Consider the humor: People have a resource (leaves) in their yards which they pay to have hauled off and then they buy back the product (soil) that was made from the resource they gave away. This is what I call "wacked-out thinking."
If we want to clean up our planet, we are going to need to learn how to think differently. This does not necessarily require huge expenditures. It's possible that many solutions may require no large budgets and expenditures.
At the heart of turning the tide at a local level is assessment of what a city has in terms of resources--natural and otherwise. Part of this assessment effort would include measuring nature's capacity to meet the demands of human consumption in a given area. Human activities consume resources and produce waste. We need to improve our abilities to think creatively (or in some cases to even begin to think) regarding these resources (both renewable and nonrenewable) AND how/if we can recycle the waste we produce.
ADDED NOTE AT 6:45 PM BY AUTHOR:
Since the 1970's humanity has been in ecological overshoot with annual demand on resources exceeding what the earth can regenerate in a year. It now takes the Earth one year and six months to regenerate what we use in one year. We maintain this overshoot by liquidating the Earth's resources. By measuring the footprint of a population (individual, city, business, nation) we can assess our pressure on the planet which helps us manage our ecological assets more wisely. I believe that even the slightest adjustment of our thinking can effect great positive change. For example, just our mere consideration of the true value of leaves.
Learn more about the global footprint network and what they do.