What Can I Do RIGHT NOW?!
The idea of just completely tearing out your yard and spending so much time, effort, and money on planting is overwhelming, even if you plan on doing so over a long period of time. Or maybe it's not even that. Maybe you don't have the funds, or your yard is tiny, or non existent. Or maybe it just seems like too much to handle right now. But you still want to do something. Ahh. Life is stressful when you care about the environment. It's ok. I get it.
BUT! Have no fear! There are so many things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint, minimize your disturbance of your back yard's ecosystem, and help out mother Earth.
Things You Can Do Right Now
Plant One Plant
Literally, just go somewhere that sells plants, find a native plant, and plant it in your yard. That one plant will make a difference so big, that you will be shocked. It is instant gratification for you and requires a minimal amount of effort and money. And, it will brighten your yard. If you have a little more money to spend, buy two or three. If you live in an apartment, plant in a planter box. It doesn't matter how small your garden is, it still makes a difference.
Below are some suggested plants that are probably available somewhere close to you that are tolerant of a variety of conditions.
Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Coreopsis (Coreopsis verticilata)
Beebalm (Monarda didyma)
Stop Raking and Leaf Blowing
With the fall comes the deafening sound of leaf blowers and the arduous chore of raking. Avoid both of these by not doing anything! Seriously, instead of shoving all those leaves into garbage bags, just leaf them be (haha) and mow over them with the mower. It saves time and the composting leaves provide nutrients for the soil.
Don't use Herbicides and Fertilizers
If you are using chemicals on your lawn, please stop. For the sake of the birds and the insects and the water, please stop. If you get bare patches of lawn, turn them in to little planting areas. If you start seeing clover and violets grow in between the blades of grass, then celebrate! These flowers support pollinators.
In the Winter, Leave it Alone
After all the plants are done for the year, your first instinct may be to trim everything to the ground to make your garden look all tidy. However, these dead flower stems and grass clumps are used by hibernating insects and birds looking for nesting material. It's generally safe to clear out dead plant material once daytime temperatures are above fifty degrees (F). By just leaving things as they are, you are providing a winter service to your fellow lifeforms. How amazing is that!?