• Trees & Natural Resources Committee

6 ways your Montclair yard can help the environment, mitigate climate change, reduce storm run-off

Updated: Sep 30

Read about the campaign.

NEXT STEPS: Review the categories/actions below, then complete this short survey and share your good work, plans or ideas. (don't forget with 250 responses, $500 is donated to Toni's Kitchen!)


Do you do one or more of the following?

  • Use 100% non-fossil fuel powered yard machinery - rakes, electric mowers & leaf blowers.

  • Protect and maintain your mature yard trees (especially natives & shade trees) for longevity thru dead wood and structural pruning every few years

  • Are committed to replacing downed trees with new native/eco-beneficial trees (especially shade trees)

  • Other? Let us know in the survey

Why this is important? According to the EPA, carbon emissions from landscape equipment are often greater than those from a car, per hour of operation. Small gasoline powered two-cycle engines are the most polluting and can produce toxic volatile organic compounds, benzene, formaldehyde, ground level ozone and fine particulate matter. Department of Transportation data shows that in 2018, Americans used nearly 3 billion gallons of gasoline running lawn and garden equipment (That’s the equivalent of 6 million passenger cars running for a year). Trees naturally absorb and filter carbon emissions and other air pollutants. A mature tree absorbs carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 pounds per year.

Resources to learn more: Quiet Montclair, EPA study


Do you do one or more of the following?

  • Use a portion of your yard to grow your own organic fruits and/or vegetables

  • Have an egg-producing chicken coup

  • Donate home-grown food to local food banks and kitchens

  • Other? Let us know in the survey

Why this is important. It is estimated that U.S. meals travel about 1,500 miles to get from farm to plate, using large quantities of fossil fuel and generating great quantities of carbon dioxide emissions. Growing organically at home or buying from a local producer ensures you are not adding toxic chemicals to the earth. The EPA considers 60 percent of all herbicides, 90 percent of all fungicides, and 30 percent of all insecticides carcinogenic. Agricultural use accounted for 80 percent of pesticide use in the U.S.

Resources to learn more: Food systems & GHG emissions; Northeast Earth Coalition & Montclair Community Farms offer local learning opportunities.


Do you do one or more of the following?

  • Are committed to replacing downed trees with new native/eco-beneficial trees (especially shade trees)

  • Protect and maintain your mature yard trees (especially natives & shade trees) for longevity thru dead wood and structural pruning every few years

  • Plant native bushes & plants whenever possible & replace with natives when needed

  • Remove invasive plants from your yard so they don’t take over the eco-system

  • Eradicate invasive insects; stay aware of trends. Most recent: the Spotted Lantern Fly has hit Montclair! Learn how you can remove the fly and scrape eggs from trees before they cause damage to trees.

  • Other? Let us know in the survey

Why this is important? Native tree species support natural ecosystems by providing habitat and food for birds, mammals, and insects. They mitigate storm runoff and erosion, and help reduce global warming by removing carbon dioxide from the air. An acre of mature trees absorbs/sequesters the amount of CO2 produced by a car driven 26,000 miles. Carefully positioned trees can reduce a house’s energy consumption for heating & cooling by up to 25%. Native plants also support the local ecosystem & require little maintenance.

Resources to learn more: Native Plant Society of Essex County, Northeast Earth Coalition, Van Vleck have local learning opportunities & plant sales. MEC Blog Post on trees. Arbor Day Foundation; Deer visiting your yard? Plant deer resistant native plants. Montclair/Rutgers list of native trees/plants; Montclair Township Ordinance requiring replacement of trees; DEP list of invasive species; Native Plant online nursery with ideas


Do you do one or more of the following?

  • Refrain from using toxic lawn pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and synthetic fertilizers which wash off into our watershed

  • Capture polluted storm-water runoff from downspouts into a rain barrel or cistern

  • Plant/maintain native, deep rooted trees in strategic locations to soak up water where it flows fast

  • Permeable driveway & paths to capture water where it flows fast

  • Rain garden to capture water where it flows fast

  • Install gravel trenches along driveways or patios to collect storm-water and filter it into the soil.

  • Clean up polluting residue from car leaks or dog droppings

  • Clean my street’s storm drain, regularly, to allow drainage during rain-storms

  • Other? Let us know in the survey

Why this is important? With the increase in storms, capturing storm-water to prevent polluted runoff and flooding is critical. Storm-water running off your landscape and roof can harm local waterways as it picks up pollutants on its path, and put pressure on systems. In Montclair we have several streams that lead to the Passaic River and then to the Atlantic ocean. The EPA says maintaining our lawns in the U.S. uses 59 million pounds of pesticides, which can seep into our land and waterways. Tree’s complex root network reduces runoff and erosion and then recharges ground water supply. In urban and suburban settings, a single deciduous tree can intercept from 500 to 760 gallons of rainwater per year.

Resources to learn more: Great resource on managing stormwater: NJ DEP watershed restoration. MEC blog post; Pesticide facts; Rutgers on Rain Gardens;



Do you do one or more of the following?

  • Use drip irrigation and micro-sprays for your garden, when necessary, instead of sprinklers to conserve water.

  • Capture storm-water roof runoff into a rain barrel or cistern to re-use for irrigation.

  • Replace turf grass with drought-resistant native plants and/or meadow flowers that require less water (Expert Doug Tallamy recommends cutting turfgrass by 50%*)

  • Only water non-edibles plants during a declared drought

  • Other. Let us know.

Why this is important? EPA says that residential outdoor water use across the U.S. accounts for nearly 8 billion gallons of water each day, mainly for landscape irrigation. The average U.S. household uses more water outdoors than for showering and washing clothes combined. US EPA estimates water-related CO2 emissions account for about 5% of U.S. CO2 emissions annually. This is the equivalent of the annual greenhouse gas emissions of 53 million passenger vehicles or the annual electricity use of over 40 million homes.

Resources to learn more: Water Pollution Remains Top Environmental Concern; Xeriscaping; *Smithsonian Magazine


Do you refrain from using toxic, synthetic pesticides, herbicides, insecticides AND do one or more of the following?

  • Refrain from mowing in early spring to support the blooming of clover and dandelions flowers which are beneficial to pollinators

  • In general allow 2 or more weeks between mows so these lawn flowers can bloom.

  • A portion of your yard is dedicated to food and water for wildlife:

- Plant untreated (no pesticides) flowering nectar, berry and/or seed plants known to support native bees, birds, butterflies, moths, beneficial insects

- Plant untreated Host food plants for native butterfly caterpillars including monarchs

- Provide a clean water source

- Protect, maintain and/or plant native trees for birds, beneficial insects and for carbon sequestration.

  • Portion of our yard is dedicated to breeding and shelter for wildlife

- Let leaf piles and dead plant stalks remain on the ground during fall to protect overwintering beneficial insects

- Allow for ground cover, nesting boxes, open dirt as shelter

  • Am certified! With Montclair Certified Wildlife Habitat, NE Pollinator Pathway, Monarch Waystation, and/or Xerces

  • Protect birds and insects from injury:

- Minimize outdoor artificial night lights or choose yellow bulbs over blue (Artificial light has negative effects on nighttime insects)

- To prevent bird/window collisions, keep bird feeders 10 feet from house & include bird-safe window protections

  • Other. Let us know.

Why this is important? Most lawns are biodiversity deserts. And worse, many apply toxic chemicals and pesticides to their lawns causing health risks for wildlife, not to mention humans and pets. Wildlife thrives in greater numbers where gardens are planted with native plants that provide floral diversity, rich nectar, pollen sources and three-season bloom. The foraging range for wild bees is small, so what we plant makes a huge difference to local pollinators. Since 1970, one third of North American Bird populations have declined. Backyard birds rely on thousands of caterpillars supplied by native plants. Wildlife needs safe places to breed and over winter to survive. The small things we do, like adjusting lighting / protecting windows / feeding with plants vs. feeders can make a difference.

Resources to learn more: MEC Blog Post; Plummeting insect numbers; Garden for wildlife; Local learning opportunities through the NE Earth Coalition and NJ Native Plant Society Essex Chapter and Van Vleck. Native Plant Finder; Turn your lawn into a wildflower meadow. American Bird Conservancy suggestions for protecting birds. The wrong outdoor lighting, leads to beneficial insect declines.


Did you read about the other ways you can take climate change action in Montclair?