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Time to say goodbye to gas-powered leaf blowers

Last Call

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Gas-powered leaf blowers are everywhere in our communities. Most of us seem to insist on leaf-free driveways and manicured grass areas in our gardens.

I never quite understood the logic behind this handheld obnoxiously loud monster that pollutes the fresh air in our neighborhoods. After all, there is a reason why they are labeled “leaf blowers” and not “leaf pick-up devices.”

We all have witnessed the scene when a landscaping crew blew leaves into the neighboring lot until the neighbor’s crew blew them right back. Or we’ve seen the homeowner “cleaning” his driveway by blowing the leaves into the street until the community cleans the streets and blows them right back into his property with a vengeance.

But there are more important reasons why it is time to say goodbye to these gas-powered inefficient devices. 

First and foremost: They are bad for the environment. 

According to a 2011 study by Edmunds, “hydrocarbon emissions from a half-hour of yard work with the two-stroke leaf blower are about the same as a 3,900-mile drive from Texas to Alaska” in a Ford F-150 Raptor.

A study by the California Air Resource Board estimates that an hour’s use of a gas-powered leaf blower equals as much pollution as a 1,100-mile car ride. 

Regardless of what the actual number is, it makes no sense to tolerate the use of outdated two-stroke garden equipment that mixes oil and gas and emits the pollution unfiltered directly into our lungs. 

This brings us to reason number two: They are bad for our health. You don’t need to be a scientist to realize that the emission of carbon monoxide, smog-forming nitrous oxides and carcinogenic hydrocarbons can’t be good for your lungs — and your sense of smell confirms your suspicion.

Reason number three: Leaves are not trash, instead think of them as free mulch that helps the biodiversity. To learn more, visit sustainability.wustl.edu/rethinking-lawn-equipment-2/.

Number four: There are electric alternatives that will not eliminate the noise factor but at least get rid of the health and environmental consequences. And yes, they work fine and yes, it would require professional crews to keep extra batteries at hand.

Reason number five: We like to portray the Lowcountry as a region (including our towns and communities) that is aligned with the environment, which is exactly what the modern founding fathers had in mind. 

So, it then would make sense to follow the more than 100 cities that already have passed some regulations of restricting or banning gas-powered leaf blowers. California is “enabling” the transition to electric-powered alternatives of a wider range than gas-powered machinery.

Since our town councils are often slow in making room on their agendas for new regulations, a more efficient alternative would be for private communities to adopt this environmental practice, which would be quite easy to do. 

It might, however, have to start with a general manager taking the initiative to seek board approval. I believe most residents would consent to this.


MARC FREY : media entrepreneur | mfrey@freymedia.com | [PHOTO OF MARC BY MIKE RITTERBECK]