“Food scraps and yard waste together currently make up more than 28 percent of what we throw away,” according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But there is a greener, more cost-effective alternative to traditional yard waste disposal methods.© Flying Colours Ltd/Getty Images
Instead of tossing your post-pruning piles, take the greenscaping approach and recycle yard waste at home. These three simple steps will give you the lush, healthy yard of your dreams in a sustainable, chemical-free way.
Grasscycle for Faster Mowing and a Greener Lawn
Grasscycling means leaving clippings on your lawn after mowing. This is one of the simplest ways to recycle yard waste because it eliminates an unnecessary step — bagging and removing the clippings. You may need to mow more often to maintain the desired length, but without the bagging, it will take less time — 38 percent less, according to the EPA.
When trimmed to the correct size, the clippings fall beneath the grass and decompose quickly to add nutrients back into your soil. The EPA, says those extra nutrients can reduce the need for store-bought nitrogen fertilizer by “25 to 50 percent,” saving you time and money. The University of Minnesota recommends the clippings be no longer than an inch because longer pieces may smother the grass.
Recycle Yard Waste with DIY Mulch
Grass, leaves and wood scraps can be used as organic, free mulch around your flower beds and gardens. Weeds struggle to pop up through mulch, and the organic materials help regulate temperature and moisture while enriching your soil.
You’ll find ample natural mulch in the fall season. Shred autumn leaves with your lawn mower before bagging them with your grass clippings, then spread a thin layer at the base of your plants.
If you have lots of wood scraps from trimming or removing a tree, make your own wood chips. Instead of purchasing and hauling mulch bags from a home improvement store, rent a wood chipper or shredder. Wood mulch lasts longer than grass and leaves, and it provides a more traditional appearance to your landscaping.
Recycle Yard Waste and Food Scraps with Composting
Composting is a common part of the zero-waste lifestyle, but it can sound intimidating. Don’t worry; it’s much easier than you think. You can even start a small, indoor compost bin just for kitchen scraps. If you want to recycle kitchen and yard waste items, building a large backyard compost bin or barrel tumbler is the way to go. You can also find ready-made composting containers and accessories online.
The EPA’s biggest and most basic backyard composting tip is to get your ratio right. Your three ingredients are greens, browns, and water. Grass clippings, flowers, leaves, coffee grounds, and fruit and vegetable scraps are all examples of greens. Twigs, dead leaves, cardboard, and sawdust are all examples of browns. Although there is some routine maintenance, including watering and turning the pile, composting is an easy way to recycle yard waste and bolster the health of your yard.
Save Your Plastic Containers
If you don’t have any soda bottles handy to create your own mini greenhouse, you can also use plastic to-go containers from restaurants. Plastic clamshell containers are the perfect place to get your seeds started.
Wash your container thoroughly after you finish your food and fill the bottom with soil. Then place your seeds inside with enough space between them for each seed to grow. Close the container and set it near the window where it can soak in the sun. The plastic container keeps moisture locked inside while still allowing sun and warmth to reach your plant. Your seeds will sprout in no time!