Green leaves

Auntie Ruth is green to the eco scene. Read up each week as she weeds through the dirt and unearths new gems of environmental knowledge.

Every fall, thousands of people rake up the leaves in their yards, stuff them into garbage bags and Dumpsters, and take them to the curb to be picked up as trash. Auntie Ruth knows better and turns her leaves into mulch! While some research indicates that mowing leaves into your lawn can actually improve it, a heavy layer of leaves will prevent the sun from reaching the lawn, eventually killing it. So Ruth uses leaves to mulch her flower beds, trees and shrubs, and protect these plants from drying out during the winter. Whether mulching or composting, use your lawn mower or mulcher to shred the leaves, which helps them decompose faster and allows more air and moisture to reach the soil. Ideally, don’t use leaves that have had insect problems like aphids or leaves from sick trees. Leaf mulching prevents weed growth and eventually breaks down to add organic nutrients to the soil.

The Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador are known to be teeming with biodiversity and an incredible number of species. A recent report from the Journal of Biogeography shows that the Antarctic—a polar region few imagine as bursting with life—has the Galapagos beat. A team from British Antarctic Survey and University of Hamburg conducted what’s considered the first comprehensive inventory of sea and land animals around a group of Antarctic islands. The report found more than 1,200 known marine and land species, including the black-browed albatross, sea urchins, mollusks and mites. Five were previously unknown to science.

Auntie Ruth’s favorite online environmental news site,, reported last week that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a new Web site of the “most wanted” environmental criminals. That’s pretty interesting, but what’s more interesting is that not a single person employed by the Bush administration appears on the list of 23 fugitives. Are they joking with us?! As Ruth ponders that question, check out the site ( The criminals include those known to have illegally disposed of hazardous waste, smuggled Freon or other ozone-depleting substances into the United States, illegally transported and disposed of mercury-contaminated soil, and other environmental crimes.