Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Ban Leaf Blowers

Lawns aren’t completely frivolous, and sometimes a lawn can be useful – they are great for kids to play on, for example. But the bigger a lawn, the more purely ostentatious it is, particularly in the towns around here, where a big lawn is a symbol of wealth or gracious living or something – maybe even the weird desire to think of yourself as part of the English gentry.

Still, if you want to have a big lawn, I guess that’s your business. But in an era when global warming and climate change are nightmares that are about to come true, what seems to me to be no longer just your business is how you take care of your lawn. And if you use a leaf blower regularly or hire a crew that uses leaf blowers, you’re being irresponsible in a way that transcends some of the other more obvious irresponsibilities, like driving an SUV (although people who drive Hummers deserve a special contempt).

If a lawn is a frivolity, using fossil fuels in this era to clear a lawn of leaves and grass is something worse – maybe not a crime against nature but a violation at least.

Westchester County just passed a law that will require cleaner-burning leaf blowers to be used in the county in two years. That’s fine, I guess, but it doesn’t really go far enough.

They’re noisy, they pollute, they’re used for an inessential activity, and they contribute in their own small way to global warming. So while what Westchester County did is better than nothing, my own solution is simpler: Ban leaf blowers.

1:20 p.m. update, department of coincidences: And then there's this vote to ban leaf blowers in the summer in Yonkers.



Blogger Lori said...

I think leaf blowers should be completely banned. I don't know what kind of noise regulations exist in Westchester County, but I can tell you that the leaf blowers that are used at my apartment building in Westchester Co. once a week are extremely loud. And it's literally driving me quite insane. I don't understand why these leaf blowers are legal. I don't even understand why they are used at all, or why my building or any other business would pay to have them used. There are not even any leaves on the ground! What the heck are they blowing? The landscaping in the courtyard of the building where I live has deteriorated, and I blame the leaf blowers and also the riding mower that is used for this. There is no way any seeds could grow when they are rolling over everything with an electric mower and blowing away anything else with these gasoline burning, noise polluting, heinous machines. What is the point? Someone please help me understand.

8:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How much pollution does a gas leaf blower produce? Hardly anything! I'm sure if you speed on the highway, you're contributing a lot more to global warming by not using your vehicle efficiently... Leaf blowers are not a problem, it's people who MAKE it a problem... And mowing lawns / cleaning leaves is an essential activity... People don't enjoy living in a dump. Perhaps people should stop being lazy and actually rake the leaves themselves or go out and purchase a small gas blower to use themselves once or twice per year rather than having the landscapers (often illegal immigrants) using a blower on their property every week.

4:18 PM  
Blogger Tom Andersen said...

Thanks, Anonymous. I let you slip in under my anti-anonymous commenter policy.

Arguing that cars emit more greenhouse gases than leaf blowers is true but irrelevant. The use of both should be reduced drastically.

Also mowing lawns and cleaning leaves (whatever that means) are hardly essential activities. Putting food on the table, providing heat for the house -- those are essential activities. Tending a lawn is a function of a perverse aesthetic.

But yes, I do agree that people ought to rake more often.

We, by the way, have a lawn crew come once a year, at the end of fall, to blow our leaves into a pile that I turned into a compost. It's hardly a burden to have the leaves lying around until then.

2:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear anonymous #1 (I will be anonymous #2), you are incorrect about leaf blowers not contributing much pollution. I suppose if you are comparing it to the total pollution load produced by using cars regularly then it is less. However, such a small, convenience driven appliance actually creates the same amt. of pollution in one hour as driving your car 800 miles! I read this either from the Sierra Club or the New York Times magazine. It makes sense, since these blowers use gas that is not filtered in any way, as opposed to a car which has a catalytic converter. Haven't you ever seen the blue unfiltered pollution pouring out of these things? It doesn't take much debate to see that they aren't good for the environment. In fact it is quite important to make any "small" changes we can, because the smaller picture becomes the bigger picture. It all adds up. In fact, it is much healthier for a lawn and the environment to let the leaves stay and break down. It feeds the soil and helps prevent water runoff. Sure, if leaves are burying flower beds, some removal by hand should be in order, but such large scale removal isn't necessary. I really believe that one of the biggest parts of the change that needs to happen is how we psychologically relate to the world around us. You seemed to express annoyance and defensiveness that this is even an issue to be discussed. Sounds to me like you are having difficulty changing your established worldview to a more environmental one. Perhaps it is changing your mind to see that everything we do has impact.

3:06 PM  
Anonymous TRM said...

Ban leaf blowers.

1:58 PM  
Blogger Shelly Borrell said...

I concur and wrote about it on my blog too. I linked back to yours.

1:03 AM  
Anonymous Nancy Brown said...

I've just gotten off the phone with my local police department to report a lawn crew with blowers at 7:30 in the am (town of Bedford NY). I can't remember what a peaceful summer morning was like!
I too believe that these obnoxious machines need to be banned completely. But in reality, it's probably not going to happen until gas becomes too expensive to support their use.
But they're ARE bans in effect in parts of Westchester. I did some online research and the village of Mamaroneck and the city of Rye have two of the most restrictive that I've found thus far. I'm planning to get active in my own town of Bedford. I suggest you all do the same. The machines are a terrible waste of gas, cause noise that experts have linked to high blood pressure, hearing damage, and other physical problems, and they serve to spread dust and allergens everywhere. Start fighting.

8:38 AM  
Anonymous leaf blowers fan said...

I do agree with you up to a point, but if you'd have a lawn in front of your house like i do and see how difficult it is to keep it in a decent shape each fall, you'd give leaf blowers a chance :P

back when i was younger my parents made me clean the lawn the old way, with a rake and a fork. It wasn't the most appealing thing to do.

That's why when i got older i was glad to buy such a leaf blower. It's true, i have a gas powered one because this one provides mobility, but if you really mind the noise and the pollution levels, you can always use an electric one.

In the end, you'd still have to use such automated tools to tender your garden. It would be ridiculous to ask coming back to the old ways, the rake i told you above. Just ridiculous. It's like saying you should give out public transportation and travel by foot cause it's more environment friendly...

Am i wrong?

12:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's fight all together!

11:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live next to a nut with a landscaping service...he uses it 7 days a week sometimes twice a day. I am serious...quality of life is more of an cannot relax on the patio or even like this sunday morning relax with the paper. Forget pollution for now, those ordances are hard to pass. Creating a public nuisance one is easier. Use of gas blowers and chain saws (unless an emergency) should be banned in all of fairfield county.

11:20 AM  

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