Make a Difference

At Home

Bring conservation into your home and yard

Girl climbing tree

You can nurture and support nature in your backyard and gardens. When you plant with native species, create wildlife habitats or manage rainwater, you’re protecting nature and promoting sustainability. Check out the guides below to discover how your yard can support wildlife, conserve water and help our environment!

Create a nature-friendly yard

  • Native plantings support a large variety of beneficial wildlife. The habitat you create will attract wildlife such as songbirds and butterflies!
  • When you plant native species, the deep roots help hold the soil in place and require less maintenance.
  • Perennial flowering plants will increase the beauty and value of your property.
  • Lawn management practices that reduce the need for chemicals will improve the quality of our air, water and soil.
  • Nature-friendly yards help children develop and grow to be happier, healthier and smarter. Help your children obtain life-long benefits by giving them nearby access to nature.

Download our natural landscapes handbook

Download our backyard habitat FAQs

Download a list of the most invasive plants to keep out of your backyard

Download our tree planting guide

Butterfly gardening

Pollinators — butterflies, birds, bees, moths, beetles and bats — live in our yards and parks and are critical to the health of our ecosystem. These pollen-moving creatures are needed for the reproduction of 90 percent of flowering plants and one-third of human food crops.

The nearly 16,000 acres of land Five Rivers MetroParks protects serve as valuable habitat to pollinators. Yet residential lawns and gardens can provide critical food and shelter, too. Fall is a great time to plant, and here are some tips for making your outdoor space pollinator-friendly:

  • Select a sunny spot where the pollinators and plants will thrive. Pollinators are cold-blooded and use the sun to warm themselves for flight.
  • Plant a variety of blooming perennials and annuals, with a focus on native plants.
  • Plant in blocks (three to seven plants), rather than as individual plants.
  • Provide nesting and egg-laying habitats such as shrubs, tall grasses, low-growing plants or patches of fallen branches.
  • Avoid the use of chemicals on lawns and in gardens.


  • Purple coneflower
  • Stiff goldenrod
  • Joe-pye weed
  • Monarda
  • New England asters
  • Butterfly weed
  • Swamp milkweed
  • Blazing star (Liatris)
  • Royal catchfly
  • Penstemon
  • Blue false indigo
  • Ohio spiderwort


Organic wastes, such as food waste and yard waste, make 25 to 50 percent of what people throw away. While you may not be able to compost all of the organic waste you generate, composting can significantly cut down on your overall trash.

  • Applying compost to your soil makes for happy plants and a better time tending your garden.
  • Composting can help conserve all sorts of resources, including water, energy and even money.
  • Compositing also reduces the large amount of garbage that is sent to landfills, which pollute the air.
  • Composting can be used as a direct substitute for chemical fertilizers.

Download our guide to composting

Build a rain barrel

When we catch and keep the rainwater (stormwater) that falls on our roofs, we reduce flooding and the stress on sewer system infrastructure and keep pollutants out of our rivers and streams. One simple, efficient, low-cost method to reduce the amount of stormwater runoff from your property is to use rain barrels. Estimates indicate that one-quarter of an inch of rain falling on an average home yields more than 200 gallons of water. Rain barrels are simply large containers that capture stormwater from your roof that would otherwise be lost as runoff.

Download our guide to creating your own rain barrel

Download our rain barrel installation guide

Keep your leaves

The roots of most trees absorb minerals from deep in the soil, a good portion of which goes into the leaves. You can transform those leaves into the rich compost so valued by gardeners.

  • GATHER YOUR LEAVES. Maple, birch, ash, beech and fruit tree leaves are perfect for composting. Oak leaves can be too acidic; so be sure that they make up less than 20 percent of your pile.
  • SHRED ‘EM. A push mower or garden tractor makes a great leaf shredder. The smaller the pieces are, the better.
  • KEEP IT TOGETHER. Gather piles of shredded leaves to allow them to heat up and decompose. A piece of wire fence shaped into a circle is a perfect composting bin.
  • ADD NITROGEN. Speed up decomposition by adding nitrogen from such sources as manure or fresh-cut grass. Free manure is available on a first-come, first-served basis at the Carriage Hill MetroPark Riding Center. For every five units of shredded leaves, mix in one unit of nitrogen. You also can add normal compost pile trimmings, including coffee grounds, fruit peels and veggie scraps.
  • TURN IT. Use a shovel or pitchfork to turn your pile once a week.
  • ADD WATER. Keep the pile moist so it’s the consistency of a damp sponge.


Create backyard nature play

If we want future generations to carry on the work of conservation, then we need to pay attention to what is happening to childhood. The single most common influence on adult conservation values comes from that unstructured, frequent childhood play in wild settings. The crucial first step toward embracing conservation is to fall in love with nature — which kids often do when they play in it, day after day.

Build a backyard environment that encourages kids to dig in, climb on and move around in nature. Play spaces in natural environments include plants, trees, edible gardens, sand, rocks, mud, water and other elements from nature. These spaces invite open-ended interactions, spontaneity, risk-taking, exploration, discovery and connection with nature.

Conduct citizen science

The backyard is a great place to get involved in urban nature data collection, while getting more intimate with our local ecosystems. Here are just a few Citizen Science projects that you can do at home:

Project Budburst: Measures plant phenology, helping to track effects of climate change. This project involves observing plants and documenting, either through the website or mobile app, when they enter different parts of their lifecycle. Learn more

Project Nestwatch: Measures bird phenology and monitors population fluctuations among breeding birds. This project involves following a nest, from building and egg-laying to fledging. Learn more

eBird: Monitors bird populations, range changes and much more through user-friendly, aggressive data collection. This project involves entering bird sightings at the end of a hike. Learn more

Globe at Night: Monitors fluctuation in light pollution using a light sensor and GPS to take readings. Learn more

Monarch Watch: Tracks monarch butterfly migration in the last two weeks of September. This project involves preordering tags, catching monarchs, collecting data, tagging and releasing the butterflies and then submitting your data sheet. Learn more

FrogWatch USA: Monitors amphibian population trends by noting observations and identification of vocalizations. Requires a training to ensure data consistency.  Learn more

Ohio Frog and Toad Calling Survey: Monitors frog movement and population trends throughout Ohio by observing and recording frog calls. Learn more

Ohio Spider Survey: Monitors spider movment and population trends by observing, photographing and collecting. Learn more

Pollinator Projects: Pollinators, such as bees, birds and butterflies, are crucial to the Miami Valley ecosystem, and they are in trouble. There are a variety of monitoring projects to support. Learn more

There are many more ways to get involved with Citizen Science, which offers projects everyone can get excited about.  Learn more

Reuse shopping bags

The benefits of reusable bags seem to be as numerous as the times you can use them.

  • Production of plastic bags requires petroleum and often natural gas, both of which are nonrenewable resources.
  • About 1 million plastic bags are used every minute. The United States alone consumes 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually.
  • Only 1 to 3 percent of plastic bags are recycled worldwide.
  • A single plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to degrade.
  • When plastics break down, their particles contaminate soil, waterways and animals upon digestion.

Start shopping with reusable bags. They are sturdier, fashionable and often get you discounts at stores (ask your cashier). Reusable bags are available from a number of vendors at the 2nd Street Market.


Drive Less, Live More

As Americans we love our cars. We think nothing of driving less than 1 mile to the bank or the store or even from one parking lot to another at a shopping center.

As our waistlines — and our dependence on foreign oil — increase, the quality of our life and air decreases. But it’s not as if we are trying to pollute our environment or be less active; it’s just become second nature to grab the keys and go.

But there is a better way. Residents of the Greater Dayton Region have a variety of travel options, including biking, walking, riding regional transit or carpooling.

Learn more about Drive less, Live More

Recycle Right

How to Recycle/Reduce/Reuse Almost Everything

This guide is curated by Five Rivers MetroParks’ Master Recycling volunteers and will be updated periodically as recycling guidelines change and/or new outlets and resources are discovered. Please check back and feel free to contact our Sustainability Coordinator with any questions (see contact info below).

A majority of all waste that gets sent to the landfill is either recyclable or compostable. This guide illustrates how to recycle, reuse or properly dispose of most household items with links to resources here in Montgomery County. It also has some tips and tricks for reducing reliance on common disposable items.

First, follow your local recycler’s guidelines for plastic containers, glass bottles, metal, cardboard and paper, then consult this guide for ideas about how to go above and beyond commingled recycling. In Montgomery County, all commingled recycling collection is ultimately delivered to Rumpke where it is dispersed to various markets. Regardless of who collects recycling in your area, please follow the guidelines from Rumpke in the link above for commingled collection.

Practice Refuse, Reduce and ReuseA few tips to get started or improve your waste management game:

  • Shopping bags – bring your own reusable totes (refuse plastic and paper bags at the checkout)
  • Beverage containers – stainless steel canteens and coffee/tea travelers are a much better option. Collapsible silicon cups are great to replace plastic and styrofoam cups.
  • Disposable service ware – use real dishware and wash dishes to save money and easily avoid. disposable ware or purchase compostable ware and make sure it gets composted.
  • Styrofoam and other takeout containers – refuse these. Keep a reusable container in your car for carryout.
  • Single serving food containers – avoid these when possible. Instead buy in bulk and portion into reusable containers.
  • Handouts, fliers, give-away knick knacks, stuff you don’t really need – refuse these things and say that you’re working on reducing waste.
  • Condiment packets – ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, relish, hot sauce, etc – refuse these take out packets, or take just what you need.
  • Lunch bag – invest in a reusable bag or lunch box.

Avoid or reduce buying these things when possible:

  • Tissues – use a reusable cloth hanky (unless you have a cold).
  • Paper towels – use cloth towels, or excess paper napkins they give you at fast food restaurants.
  • Paper napkins – use cloth napkins, or the excess paper napkins they give you at fast food restaurants.
  • Anything with excessive packaging.
  • Anything new that you can borrow, or buy used.
  • Anything made from Styrofoam.
  • Disposable razors, disposable dinnerware, disposable anything.

Do you have questions? Comments? Additional ideas for reducing waste? Contact our Sustainability Coordinator at 937-279-6979 or

Download this guide as a PDF

Download Recycling Guidelines from Rumpke

Paper and Cardboard

All paper types can be recycled in commingled collection including cardboard as long as it doesn’t have grease or other residue saturating the material. Soiled areas of pizza boxes or other cardboard can be cut out so the rest of the container can be recycled. Cartons, even those with a wax, metal or plastic lining, are recyclable in commingled collection as well.


Nearly all single use glass containers can be recycled, no matter what color they are. Tempered glass, windows, drinking glasses, etc. cannot be recycled. Consider donating those materials to a second hand store or reclamation yard if they are in usable condition.


Commingled collection plastics are limited to bottles and jugs, regardless of the number. Lids are okay as is some minor residue. Please rinse and crush containers if possible. Please do not put plastic bags or other plastic film in commingled recycling as it can jam or damage sorting machinery.

There are some additional outlets for other plastics for those willing to give the additional effort:

#1 Plastics – Polyethylene Terphthalate (PETE) – these are the most recyclable of all plastics and what many bottles and jugs are made from…..every recycler takes these items

#2 Plastics – High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) – If a bottle or jug, place in the recycling bin. If #2 plastic bags, usually milky, not clear, and sometimes are colored black, gray, or white and that they do not stretch. Examples include bags inside cereal boxes and cracker boxes. Return them to Kroger, Meijer, Walmart in the collection barrel usually inside the front entrance.

#3 Plastics – Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) – avoid buying anything with this in it when possible. Most post-consumer PVC is not readily recyclable.

#4 Plastics – Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) – many plastic bags are made from this material. Plastic bags get tangled in the conveyor at your recycler’s plant, but most chain grocery stores will take these back.  – Note that they are usually transparent and will stretch  –  Return them to Kroger, Meijer, Walmart, barrel usually inside the front entrance. These include grocery bags, zip lock bags (remove the pull zipper), paper towel and toilet paper packaging, sandwich bags, most bread and bun bags, produce bags, dry cleaning bags, sealed air pouches from mailings, newspaper sleeves (see a complete list of what they take)

#5 Plastics – Polypropylene (PP) – Yogurt cups, cottage cheese containers, deli containers, kitchen storage containers. These plastics are currently not recycled in our area. Avoid buying items in these containers when possible and consider creative reuse options – potting plants, storage containers, etc.

#6 Plastics – Polystyrene (PS) – currently there is not a market for PS foam, recyclers don’t take it. Avoid buying or using this material

#7 Plastics (mixed materials that cannot be separated) – Avoid buying or using these materials as well. Most recyclers will not accept mixed plastics.



Generally speaking, Rumpke accepts most metal containers including aluminum and steel, but not pots, pans, pipes, scrap metal, or metal containing machines and appliances.

  • Aluminum foil – large sheets without food – roll into a ball of at least 3” in diameter and put into recycling bin. Loose foil will not get recycled.
  • Small bits of aluminum (like yogurt covers) – fold and drop into an aluminum soda can.
  • Bits of steel – staples, steel lids, paper clips, screws, nails, tie wraps – put into a steel can then crush it
  • Propane tanks, gas cans, and fire extinguishers – are not recyclable and considered hazardous waste! Drop off for free at Montgomery County Solid Waste District Household (MCSWD) Hazardous Waste Program – Encrete Lane on Tues, and Sat. from 8 am till 2 pm. See below for more information.
  • Large pieces of steel, aluminum, brass, copper – take to First St. Recycling, Franklin Iron and Metal, Cohen or other metal recyclers for some cash (approx. values are steel – 5 cents /lb., aluminum – 20 to 40 cents, brass – $1.00, and copper $2.00).

Drop off computers, TV’s, DVD players, cell phones and anything with a cord at MCSWD Household Electronics Recycling Program.

Household Hazardous and Universal Waste

These are items that are either regulated for disposal by the EPA or should not be placed in trash or recycling for other safety reasons. MCSWD has a program for residents on Tuesdays and Saturdays where household hazardous waste can be dropped off free of charge.

  • Batteries – free drop off at MCSWD or anytime at the 2nd Market (then consider converting to Rechargeable Batteries that can be used over again for up to 200 times).
  • Liquid Chemicals – herbicides, pesticides, oil-based paint, motor oil, transmission fluid, antifreeze, aerosol paint, varnish, stain, thinners, strippers, pool chemicals, household cleaners, gasoline, kerosene, fertilizers.
  • Water-Based Paint/Latex Paint – if a nearly full can, take it to the Restore (Habitat for Humanity) on Riverview Dr. If a nearly empty can, pop the lid and allow it to evaporate outside, then scrape the dried paint into the trash and recycle the can.
  • Light Bulbs – (fluorescent, incandescent, or CFL).
  • Tires – drop off at MCSWD at their Tire Buyback event or contact staff for free disposal of up to 10 tires within a year with a voucher.
  • Functioning large appliances: contact DP&L about the large appliance recycling program with free pickup and a cash incentive
  • Functioning small appliances: sell on Craigslist or Marketplace or donate to a thrift store such as Goodwill
  • Non-functioning appliances: contact a local scrap metal operation to have picked up for free, or deliver to a scrap operation to receive a cash incentive or check out free appliance recycling dates at MCSWD, some small appliances such as microwaves can also be dropped off at the electronics recycling program.
Home Improvement and Construction Materials

(Lumber, boards, molding, railing, cabinets, sinks, faucet fixtures, light fixtures, etc.)

  • Consider selling materials on Craiglist, Marketplace or other classified listings.
  • Donate to the Habitat for Humanity Restore on Riverview Dr. (if you have a lot of building materials they will come and pick it up).
  • Donate to Dayton Reclamation LLC.
Organic Waste (Compost)
  • Composting at home
    • MetoParks and MCSWD partner to offer a free program to the public called Compost Kitchen 3-4 times per year. Visit our events calendar to search for upcoming classes. It’s a 3-session series and all participants receive a free composter upon completion. It offers a lot of information on how to set up and improve upon composting as well as use compost for gardening and landscaping. However, getting started with composting is easy and you can visit the link below for a quick guide.

A short (but long) list of compostable materials:

Raw uncooked fruit and vegetable pieces, shredded paper, hair (yours and your pet’s), cotton cloth – shredded or torn, cotton balls, cotton string, wool cloth – shredded and torn, q-tips with cardboard stems, vacuum sweepings, dust, drier lint, napkins soiled with food on them, chip bedding from small animals, expired spices, Used paper and wood matchsticks, Bamboo chopsticks (break them up), coffee grounds, tea bags, nail clippings, toothpicks, sawdust, eggshells, soil from potted plants, floor sweepings, plant pruning and clippings, dead grass, leaves (run the mower over them speed composting),

  • Compost is free fertilizer! Learn all about composting and using compost for gardening and landscaping at the Compost Kitchen series. Participants receive a free composter!
  • Learn more about composting at home.
  • Yard Waste – branches, leaves, grass clippings, brush. Drop off at MCSWD – Encrete Lane for a for free, Mon – Fri 6 to 8 PM and Sat 8 AM to 3 PM. Some municipalities also have yard waste disposal areas for composting.
  • Goodwill accepts textiles, even if they are in poor condition. Spent clothing and other fabrics can be sold to fiber mills. Drop off clothing, old towels, sheets, etc.

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