|I'm going to argue a leaf blower defense|
Their piercing whine has escalated again this fall. It messes with my psychic equilibrium. It drives my husband out of bed at 7:00 on Saturday mornings. While almost all landscape contractors and many homeowners in my neighborhood use these infernal machines, the blowers don’t actually add value. What they do add is a lot of negative health effects, both physical and psychological.
My city is now following a trend toward restricting use of leaf blowers. Last fall the aldermen held hearings on the subject, with landscapers contending that they need the blowers to make a living, while many residents complained they were being tormented by noise generated for others’ profit. The city is considering an ordinance to restrict use of leaf blowers to the periods from March 15 to May 1 and October 15 to December 1.
This change is too modest for my liking. Why should so many of the best gardening weeks of the year be violated by the noise of leaf blowers? I’d like to know I can enjoy peace and quiet when I step out my back door. Many people testified to lost time for work, conversation, and sleep when the blowers are nearby.
Other than the obvious effects on quality of life, leaf blowers cause other serious problems. Landscape workers suffer some of the worst of them.
|Hearing protection for operators is often neglected|
Sustained exposure to noise at up to 100 decibels, such as that generated by the blowers, can cause permanent hearing loss, raise blood pressure, and lead to coronary artery disease.
Some people call the machines debris blowers, because they’re used to move anything lying on the ground, not just leaves. In the process they lift dust, animal feces, landscape chemicals, and whatever else is on the ground into the air, where vulnerable people—especially children and elders—breathe them in. The inefficient two-stroke engines of gas leaf blowers also contribute heavily to air pollution. To top it all off, there’s evidence that the high-velocity stream of air actually damages plants.
It’s not the case that a lush suburban landscape can’t be maintained without leaf blowers. In fact, Beverly Hills and Carmel, California were early adopters of leaf blower bans back in the 1970s. They’ve managed to struggle by.
|This Beverly Hills homeowner has managed to cope without leaf blowers|
We don’t have to let marketing and available technology determine our landscape practices. Who says a neat yard is one with no leaves or twigs on the ground?
|In my neighborhood, custom demands no leaves on the lawn|
Outdoors is not the same as indoors, thank goodness, and a lawn doesn’t have to look like a freshly vacuumed carpet.
We’ve been sold a bill of goods on this, and we’re paying for it every time we’re interrupted by the whine of the leaf blowers. If we could accept more natural conditions, where plant debris is allowed to decompose into the soil of garden beds
|Decomposing leaves build soil|
and—gasp!—even lawns, we’d save ourselves a lot of money and trouble, and we could dispense with obnoxious landscape machines.