Instead of raking this fall, you should just make like a tree and, uh... leave your leaves on the ground. That's a joke, right?
As USA Today reports, the National Wildlife Federation is urging you to (gasp!) let go of your perfectly manicured lawn and allow fallen leaves to stay where gravity left them -- that is, if you care about saving innocent animals and the environment. Turns out that fallen leaves form a critically important habitat for animals like birds, turtles, and toads. Several mammals and invertebrates actually depend on the leaves for nesting material, food, and shelter through the winter, like caterpillars who emerge as butterflies in the spring, according to the organization.
Keeping a colorful blanket of leaves in your yard is also better for the environment, the NWF said, pointing to US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data suggesting that leave and other yard waste add up to 33 million tons every year, or 13% of the country's solid waste in landfills. The leaves can also act as a natural fertilizer for your garden, and they're damn nice to look at, too, no matter what your homeowners association says.