Gardening on the Planet

Coming soon to your neighborhood – the super-polluting gas-powered leaf blower!

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In today’s Washington Post, “Gas-powered leaf blowers: Simply terrible for the air.”  (That’s the title in the print version.)  And then there’s the deafening noise.

Posted by on September 17, 2013 at 9:08 am, in the category Gardening on the Planet.
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17 Responses to “Coming soon to your neighborhood – the super-polluting gas-powered leaf blower!”

  1. Laura Bell says:

    Aside from the pollution from gas-powered engines, what about the dust & debris put into the air by these things? I just drove through a blower-generated dust storm – a crew of four guys driving a hurricane of dirt & leaves of the sidewalks & out into the street – and I’ll probably meet more through the day and week. The crews drive the leaves & dust off the sidewalk presumably to be picked up by the street sweeper. But the sweepers come along quite infrequently & rarely in conjunction with the varied mow-blow-go schedules, so the street traffic then pummels the debris into more dust and deposits it back up on the sidewalks … to be blown off again next week. It’s very dry here – no rain, generally, between mid-May & mid-October – so the dust gets kicked around for quite a while before there’s any rain to wash it away. As an allergy sufferer (not to mention a fan of peaceful mornings) I would love to see these crews just use a broom, for pity’s sake.

    • Nina says:

      I hate the damn things too. But the reason gardeners, ie, maids for your “yard” use blowers is a time/cost issue. Weekly gardeners are usually paid so little that they must do as many houses as possible in a day just to make ends meet. Blowers are much faster than rakes or brooms. They are also usually pretty damn ignorant about environmental issues. When homeowners start paying more & better attention to their outdoor spaces & how they are cared for, ban use of blowers on their property AND pay the gardener a bit more for the extra time it takes to deal with leaves/debris, we might all have a little more peace & quiet. We’d get to keep our topsoil & mulch too.

      • gemma says:

        I’ve heard about this time/cost issue and I take issue with it. Has anyone done an actual study?

        I used to live at a place where I helped around the yard on days the crew wasn’t there. I always used a rake or broom, never power tools. My impression was that I could do a decent job in less time than it took them with the blowers, but of course I didn’t pick up every last leaf and the surfaces didn’t look pristine. I thought that was a good tradeoff for not making a dust cloud and huge noise.

        It does take a bit more effort to use a rake or broom, so perhaps they get less tired out and are able to do more yards. But carrying that heavy equipment around would deplete my energy faster.

        The other issue is that blowers are routinely used on planted areas, which is detrimental to plants, soil, and soil biota.

      • Laura Bell says:

        FYI: These are city crews using the damn things. Making $20/hour. I’d be happy to pay more to have them keep the peace & use non-polluting methods. If you check my post, my bigger complaint is about the dust & allergens that get thrown into the air, though certainly noise & hydrocarbons are plenty offensive.

  2. greg draiss says:

    Get Over it Already. Go but some carbon credits and quit whining

    The Troll

    • Michelle says:

      You’d probably enjoy The Tortilla Curtain by TC Boyle. Reading these comments reminded me of it.

      I never saw a groundskeeper who needed more exercise and I won’t fault them for using one. Cars put out far more pollution, even electric cars still have to get the electricity from somewhere… like Coal power plants in other states.

      Forcing laborers to work even harder than they do and slower to boot is not the solution, it is not practical and just not right to force other human beings to work harder so we can feel better about ourselves as we drive to the garden store to get more plants that have been trucked in from somewhere.

      What could work is cleaning up the engines for the blowers. Cleaner motors can be produced, they just cost more. Force the industry to produce cleaner engines and they will bitch about it and insist it cant be done, but it can.

  3. Susan says:

    I also hate the stupid leaf blowers and I really can’t believe they are faster. Goodness knows it would be better for the workers to use rakes and brooms for the exercise. Just my humble opinion.

    • Nina says:

      “For the exercise”……. you try mowing 8-10 lawns in 1 day under the broiling sun plus taking trash bins out the street, picking up dog poop, a bit of trimming, watering pots, etc & whatever else homeowners ask you to do. Weekly gardeners get PLENTY of exercise. Many homeowners ( here in So. California) demand pristine & frequently expect that larger tasks, such hedge trimming, be done often w/o extra compensation. I know & work with many weekly gardeners so I’m aware of just how many houses they’ve got to do to eke out a living.

      “The other issue is that blowers are routinely used on planted areas, which is detrimental to plants, soil, and soil biota.”
      Sure, regular readers of the rant know this, but again, peasants from Mexico & Central America usually don’t. They come here & buy a mower, weed whacker, blower & electric hedge & trimmer & they are in business as “gardeners” getting $60-$80/month for weekly visits. Yeah, their ignorance bugs me, but most work damn hard. Ignorant homeowners are just as much an issue as ignorant “gardeners”

  4. Anne Wareham says:

    I don’t think you get this thing in the uk, which is interesting. Leaves on grass can be mowed up, surely, and elsewhere winter winds blow leaves on to beds where they provide excellent mulch.
    But I do know someone in USA said they wouldn’t buy The Bad Tempered Gardener because I mention using one – for hedge clipping maybe, I can’t remember! It’s our hedge cutters that really make the noise here, I’m sorry to say, and I’m hoping for a cordless electric system for that when we can afford it one day.
    It is fascinating discovering how different gardens are in the USA.

    • John by the river says:

      Try looking for the Black & Decker lithium battery one. I found it on Amazon and it was around $125. Buy an extra battery as they take 8 hours to charge. Works great and not much noise – except for the whirring blades.

  5. Sandra Knauf says:

    Leaf mulch for beds that would also compost? What a concept! Sorry to say it’s pure ignorance and being tied to a ridiculous “standard” here. (Not to mention a hard-on for loud, polluting, gas-guzzling machinery.) Maybe with these kinds of articles people will learn something. Eventually.

  6. emily says:

    I use electric leaf vacuum/mulchers as much as possible and use the shredded leaves as mulch in the garden beds. I tried the lithium battery version but returned it the next day as, sadly, it wasn’t up to the task. The other problem is that I destroy at least one leaf vacuum/mulcher a year….they can handle leaves, but not too many of the sticks and occasional pebbles that they try to ingest.
    If I could only create with a robust, easy-to-use, reasonably priced version, I think I could make a fortune….unless someone can tell me where I already can buy one.

  7. Alice says:

    Another thing that really bothers me about the use of these noisy machines is that 9 out of 10 of the “landscapers” using them in my neighborhood do not use ear protection. Their employers could apparently care less that these folks are damaging their hearing.

  8. Geoff Lewis says:

    Commercial landscapes involve paved surfaces and stakeholders expect weekly upkeep: organic matter, dust, grit and refuse removed. Most apartment, townhouse and commercial properties won’t or can’t afford the much higher landscape maintenance bill required to keep paved surfaces clean with brooms. I’m all for mowing leaves up off grass – outdoor vacuums that lawnmowers are – and just leaving leaves on garden and landscape beds. Nobody yet wants leaves, spent flowers, seed pods etc. left on paving. Low-noise backpack blowers don’t burn very much gas in a year compared to say, a car. And if they are being run a lot, it means they’re taking care of a bunch of properties. And four-stroke backpack blowers are available.

  9. An easy fix – compensate the grounds crews a fair wage to use less time efficient modes of grounds clean-up.
    Frankly we don’t care if we use brooms, rakes or blowers as long as we can get the job done and are not penalized for being less productive with our time.
    This goes against the grain of capitolism and is the crux. But if you can pitch the idea that in the long run it is better for the community at large to use a less effective time mananagement strategy then you might make some headway. Otherwise use an electric blower and make everybody happy.

  10. Of Gardens says:

    The noise pollution is a big issue with the gas powered leaf blowers. There are alternatives on the market, electric leaf blowers, which are much quieter, but also more expensive. The cost of upgrading to electric is sited as being too expensive for the average lawn maintenance company to switch. I would like to see some change in the ubiquitous use of the noisy gas powered leaf blowers. Noise pollution is another pollution whose detriment is underestimates.

  11. Gail says:

    I refuse to buy one for my business as I use a rake or broom only. My customers don’t seem to mind and I take the leaves home for use in my vegetable garden. At home we use our commercial mower and chop them up for use in garden beds.

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