Why is Webster ‘Leaving the Leaves’ this fall?

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Webster Groves’ Green Space Commission is introducing an initiative to “Leave the Leaves” in yards and gardens around Webster this fall.

Green Space is a local organization dedicated to “promoting high standards of long-term planning, maintenance, and beautification of public green spaces,” according to the group’s mission statement. The organization advises Webster Groves’ city council on issues regarding the community’s green spaces. 

Graphic by Ethan Meece.

Green Space proposed the idea in order to help raise pollinator populations, increase native plant growth and naturally fertilize soils in Webster Groves. Residents of the area are encouraged to let the leaves that fall from the trees this autumn remain on the ground instead of raking them up. 

“We agreed last fall that a pro-pollinator initiative would be popular. The next big thing is to quit raking all your leaves, quit mulching all your leaves, quit having all your leaves removed because it’s going to give them habitat and food and protect them over the winter and improve the soil and so on,” Corin Pursell, Webster University professor and member of the Green Space Commission, said.

This isn’t the first environmental initiative Green Space has created, either. In April, the organization urged homeowners to participate in “No Mow April.” The campaign asked citizens to refrain from mowing their grass for the month of April to help pollinators have a safe habitat to populate and thrive in. 

“We started talking about what we can do to help,” Pursell said. “We’d already filled out the community by doing a speaker series last year in favor of native planting and pollinator gardens.”

With the success of season’s past project, the group chose to launch another. Though it was inevitably met with weariness, the natural benefit won over many residents. This year, Green Space hopes to see more homeowners participate.

“I know some people will disagree as they think it looks messy or will kill their grass,” Webster Groves homeowner Jennifer Getz said. “I am all about the pollinators. I also hate raking, and leaf mulch is great mulch. I only see benefits to the ecosystem and community.”

During “No Mow April,” some residents were hesitant not to mow their lawns. Even after confirming that the city council had waived the mowing legislation for the month, the commission still received backlash from Webster Groves citizens. Similarly, some homeowners believe that there is a law in place requiring them to pick up their leaves. However, this is not the case. 

“We’ve gotten a lot of pushback from this, and the first thing I say to people is you don’t have to do it. So when I have someone who’s really committed to that aesthetic look, I’d say, ‘You know, it’s okay, the rest of us are going to start doing the heavy lifting. We would like you to come along. If you can’t—if you are blocked by decades of accustomed practice, blocked by aesthetic preferences—we don’t all need to do it,”’ Pursell said.

Environmentally speaking, there are bigger issues at hand. Leaving the leaves can help replenish pollinator populations.

“The population of important pollinators has declined in the United States and internationally,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency. 

There could be a global collapse of insects, unless change is made. Webster Groves making an effort to protect and preserve pollinators can create a failsafe in the case of a small ecological crisis. 

“Any local efforts can create ecological reservoirs that can protect widespread pollinator populations,” Pursell said. “We can buffer the insect populations by hosting them here, even if they’re being killed elsewhere.”

Protecting pollinators is just one way humans can help stop the widespread ecological crisis. Individual acts can aid in improving the environment, even the smallest ones.

“I think, the world we live in today with climate change and habitat destruction, if you’re a lover of the earth and all things wild, you can get a little depressed about looking at the news, so this is something that I practice in my yard,” Green Space Commission Chair Carrie Coyne said. “I think it just helps you feel hopeful, and you’re actually making a difference.”

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Layla Halilbasic
Staff Writer | + posts
Gabrielle Lindemann
Staff Writer | + posts