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

Visit the Butterfly House at Cox Arboretum MetroPark for butterfly gardening ideas.


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.

View parents’ guide to nature play

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

Stay Updated!

We Want Your Feedback!

  • Please add any comments you have for improving the website. We welcome suggestions on specific areas for improvements, features you would like to see added to the site, and examples of what you consider good websites.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.