Here's an idea: Skip raking the leaves this fall. If any neighbors complain, tell them you're just thinking of Mother Nature.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, the leaf layer is "its own mini eco-system." Many animals, including amphibians, rodents, and countless insect species live—or find sustenance—amid the fallen leaves. Butterflies and moths also spend the winter in the leaf layer as larvae or pupae. When you rake, bag, and toss the leaves into the garbage, you're ridding species of their natural habitat or food source.

Still not convinced you should shelve your rake? Leaves serve as a natural mulch, and they also fertilize your lawn's soil as they decompose.

Of course, your homeowner's association might not be happy about your decision to let fallen leaves lie. In that case, you should probably give in to their requests and clear your paths, grass, and driveway. The NWF recommends composting your leaves, or shredding fallen foliage with a weed whacker to turn it into mulch for your flower beds.

[h/t National Wildlife Federation]