Thankful for No Leaf Blowers
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Ours was very nice. We came up to Minneapolis, where my younger son and older brother both live, and had Thanksgiving at my brother’s house. There was a fine feast, including three kinds of homemade pie: apple, pumpkin, and pecan.
There’s snow on the ground in Minneapolis, which means no one is outside using their leaf blowers. For this I am grateful.
I have been thinking a lot about leaf blowers in recent weeks.
We have a neighbor on the other side of the alley, just a couple houses down. She’s a widow, a very nice woman. Every Sunday her son visits and takes care of various chores for her. This is all good except that starting some time in September, the son gets out his leaf blower and scrupulously eliminates every single leaf to be found in his mother’s backyard.
He does this EVERY SINGLE Sunday. Always right around the time when Judy and I like to sit on the back porch, drink coffee, and read the newspaper. And despite the small size of his mother’s yard, it seems to take him a very long time to finish. He is very zealous in his pursuit of leaves, like Inspector Javert in his pursuit of Jean Valjean. Not a single leaf can remain at large.
Perhaps he was traumatized by leaves as a child, I don’t know.
I hate leaf blowers. Actually, I only hate the gas-powered leaf blowers with two stroke engines. They are unbearably noisy – 90 to 102 decibels. The EPA says that 85 decibels is enough to damage someone’s hearing.
They are also incredibly inefficient and toxic to the environment. A gas-powered leaf blower generates in an hour as much emissions as a car driving for 100 miles. About one third of the fuel isn’t fully combusted and so it comes out in concentrated doses of nasty carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrous oxides. This isn’t good for anybody, least of all the people blowing around the leaves.
My own personal view is that for a small back yard, a rake should be adequate for gathering up the leaves. But even if you really do need or want a blower, there are now perfectly good electric blowers now on the market. These are much quieter and more efficient in their use of energy.
Really, gardeners should view leaves as a free resource. They can be added to the compost pile or used as mulch. It’s true that some leaves, like oak and maple, can make a heavy mat or are slow to break down. These are best shredded before use. The people who did my spring clean up this year had their own grinder and shredded almost every bit of my garden waste, leaves and all.
But back to our neighbor and her son. I haven’t said anything to either of them so far. The season is just about over, so I’m considering several strategies for next fall. Some possibilities are:
- Rake her backyard myself on Saturday, before the son visits;
- Hand the son an ad for an electric leaf blower and sing the praises of this marvelous new product (too subtle?);
- Buy an electric leaf blower myself and lend it to the son whenever he comes over.
- Launch an anti-leaf blower crusade culminating in their prohibition by our local government and a public Bonfire of the Leaf Blowers.
What would you do?