According to this article in the online magazine Electrek, California regulators are planning to phase out gas-powered leaf blowers and lawn mowers by 2022. Huzzah, I say! Actually, I would be happy with a ban on just the leaf blowers. I hate them.

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The main reason I hate them is that they are so damn loud. Noise pollution is a serious thing – it’s been linked to stress, hypertension, and hearing loss. Not to mention damage to the quality of life.

I mean, the cops would show up and arrest me if I set up giant speakers in my front yard and blasted 90 decibels of, say, polka music into the neighborhood. Why should it be acceptable to generate that kind of noise with leaf blowers – hour after hour, as landscapers move from yard to yard?

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Gas-powered leaf blowers also release a great deal of air pollution. A single hour of leaf blower use spews as much air pollution as driving a Toyota Camry for 1,100 miles. And gas-powered leaf blowers emit unsafe amounts of the carcinogen benzene.

About 100 cities around the country have already banned gas-powered leaf blowers. Most are in California, others are scattered around the country. The District of Columbia has passed a ban that also goes into effect in 2022.

Most landscapers don’t like this idea. It will force them to lay out money for electric blowers and the batteries they require. But I have very limited sympathy. Landscapers want to make their costs lower by externalizing them onto the general population, making us endure higher noise and air pollution. How is that fair?

Also, the kind of backpack blowers used by landscapers today have only been around for about 30 years. Before that, landscapers operated without gas-powered blowers. They can do so again.

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And finally, gas-powered blowers create an intensively groomed look that has become, but wasn’t always, the standard expectation. But this is not an eternal standard of beauty. Not every scrap of organic matter needs to blown off the lawn.

I’m very confident that most people in my community would be far happier (and healthier) without the din and pollution of gas-powered blowers. What about you, though? Would you ban the blowers, or let them alone?

73 Comments on “Ban the Leaf Blowers!”

  1. I’m trying to remember life without leaf blowers. They not only blow the lawns around here, they blow off the streets, the sidewalks, the patios, and the parking lots. Oddly enough, I don’t remember our streets, sidewalks, parking lots and patios being a mess ‘back in the day.’ What did we do? I know we raked leaves, and raked up grass trimmings in the yard, but no one bothered with the sidewalks or streets, and they were fine.

    I guess I’m not in favor of leaf blowers being banned, but I surely do wish they’d disappear: gas-powered and electric both. Brooms and rakes still work, and they don’t even need batteries.

  2. Five years ago I would have 100% agreed with you. As I continue to ‘mature,’ raking for hours days on end is a little too much. I bought a battery operated leaf blower this past year with the hope of using is specifically to get the oak leaves out of the beds which I can then rake up and dispose. Do I hate the noise and pollution of gas leaf blowers? Yes. Do I think sidewalks and roads needs to be blown? No. We have a neighbor who has his yard cleared once in the fall and once in the spring. The landscape crew arrives and the blowers go for hours.

  3. I can appreciate all the complaints about noise. Years ago I remember reading an article about a person that moved here from the wilds of Africa. I can’t remember all the details but what stuck in my mind was that he had to give up his education because he couldn’t stand the noise here. Even the hum of a refrigerator nearly made him crazy, wore him to a frazzle.
    When I moved here with 25 years ago I moved from a country setting to a city setting. Not NY or Chicago city but it was enough city that at first I thought I might not be able to live here due to all the street noise. It took two years for me to settle in and 25 years later I still hate it. My husband is hard of hearing so it doesn’t bother him. I often complain that I can “feel” the noise. I have learned to live with it mostly.
    As to those big blowers I hate them. There is only one or two in our neighborhood and they are used only once per week or so. Never late at night. Ban them I say. Our neighbors hired a new lawn service last year. That was the first time I ever saw someone with a backpack blower blowing the lawn. Crazy. Good thing we all have small lawns.

  4. With great self-restraint, I’ll limit my comment to a thousand rabid words. I was raised a musician: I listen. Rarely does any sound become “white noise” to me. Shopping is torture. Waiting rooms ditto. Leaf blowers? Carpet cleaners? Power tools? Painful. People who inflict their “music” on me? Incomprehensible. I’ve concluded that most people have ears that don’t work. I have to say, though, that, if one has to blare music, it should be a polka. I have seen your blog photos of your street, and I can imagine all those beautiful trees swaying in rhythm and the butterflies grabbing partners and swirling in 1-2-3’s.

      • So funny you should say polka! I generally am okay with polka music, but one year we rented a summer house for a week on a lake in northern Wisconsin. Little did we realize it was pontoon regatta week! On Saturday, they blared the loudest polka music from down the lake, and everyone went out on their boat and drank beer. We fled! We wandered the area like nomads desperately looking for something to do away from the lake.

      • Many years ago I worked for an organization that did an annual polka fundraiser at the White Eagle. The star attraction was always Eddie Blazonczyk and the Versatones. Some of the seniors (those who needed new eyeglasses, maybe) thought I looked like Eddie and would ask me to announce their birthdays or play one of their favorites.

  5. I hate leaf blowers too. When our daughter was in college, her apartment was across the street from a university parking garage, and regularly there would be someone using a leaf blower in the garage in the middle of the night. She never figured out if he was blowing garbage or what, but it annoyed the heck out of her. And probably the huge owl that would hang out in the tree outside of her window too.

  6. I have an electric leaf “blower” which also vacuums. When the time comes, late spring, I vacuum the leaves from beds and those odd places where they accumulate. The vacuum/blower shreds the dry leaves and blows them into a bag. I have shredded leaves to add to my beds or my compost heap. It does make noise but I only use it a few times a year.

  7. Yes! However, I live in Texas and our idiot gov and legislature is more likely to pass a state ordinance requiring every homeowner/business to purchase the loudest, most inefficient models available. 🙂 Great article Jason–love the take-off of The Scream!

  8. We do very rarely use one, but our neighbours are far enough away and I had a quiet mini electric one for out the front of our old house. There is something soothing about raking or sweeping leaves by hand, and it means you get to chat with passers-by too! 😉 There is lots of talk about banning them here too and I think some towns have already.

  9. Where I work I do buildings and grounds maintenance and I can remove more leaves in less time than 4 people with rakes can. I’ll say this; if you have people doing your yard work for you, you can expect your bill to rise dramatically if they can’t use leaf blowers because the same work will take much longer with rakes.

    • Please give my neighbors’ landscapers lessons. I raked my yard (same size, same tree/leaves) faster than two of them using leaf blowers. I seriously think they don’t know how to properly use them. I’ve had the idea of setting up a camera to film us both to compare since last year.

      • A good landscape service will typically do far more than just blow or rake leaves. Rain gutters and window wells need to be blown out. After the initial leaf blow leaves need to be hand picked out of roses, lilacs, forsythia, and other shrubs. They also have to be hand picked out of any fence / hedge rows and then once the hand picking is finished the yard is blown for the final time. In fact I’d be very surprised if they finished before you did. When I had my business you wouldn’t find a single leaf in your yard when I was finished., and that takes time Luckily where I work now it’s a straight, quick blow with none of the fussiness required.

      • Most lawn care people charge per hour, not by the type of work. It really doesn’t matter to them if you want your yard raked for an entire day or blown for a couple of hours. They’ll do it either way.
        I haven’t tried electric only because the powers that be where I work haven’t bought one. I’d have nothing against them as long as they hold a charge for more than an hour.

  10. Loathe the damn things, and sadly I am complicit since I am the power equipment buyer at the company I work for and have supplied our customers with untold blowers and trimmers over the years. I also buy shovels and potting soil so that is my redeeming quality. We carry the battery equipment now but it is slow to catch on with the mow-blow dudes, though it has slowly started to move this year. I would gladly donate a leaf rake and a broom to all the faux gardeners who have managed to train their customers in my neighborhood that every leaf and blade of grass has to go. I applaud every effort to ban this equipment .

  11. I have only electric blowers that I only use to blow the grass off my mower deck. I am sure there are many reasons to ban gas-powered blowers, but landscapers will get used to battery-powered or electric blowers just the same. Like you said, they got along without them for many years. thanks for sharing!

  12. Once more, it’s such a pleasure to read your post, Jason, as well as the comments.
    The leaf blowers are very noisy, emit pollutants, blow sand and dust (pesticides, mold, animal fecal matter and other lovely substances) in the air… and “clean” even too well. Yes, even though I live in a rural area far from neighbours, I would ban them.
    Hello to Chicago and surroundings! My son is now in Chicago for some days because of his work. A thrilling experience! 🙂

  13. Jason, I never understood why leaves are blown by humans in the first place! A vacuum would be better and then the contents deposited on the compost heap. When we lived for two years in California in the 1980s, I was always annoyed when our Saturday afternoons were interrupted by the crew (hired by the townhouses where we rented) revved up their leaf blowers and for a seemingly endless half hour blew fallen leaves. Thirty five years later, and leaf blowers seem as popular as ever.

  14. We have a very large garden, and we usually clear leaves with rakes. But my husband does pull out the gas blower on occasion. It is very loud, and I don’t like it. He has tried a couple of electric ones, but they were frustrating and just could not get the job done. I think that someone very smart could come up with a good blower with reduced noise and air pollution and still have the power and durability to service large areas.

  15. Around where I live the weekends are filled with the sound of petrol-driven gardening tools. Hedge trimmers, chain saws, leaf blowers, lawn mowers, shredders, strimmers. That’s before you add on all the construction noise from people having extensions, additions and outbuildings put up. Our previous house backed on to a cemetery, I didn’t find it creepy for very long and to give them credit, they were very quiet as they didn’t have need of such tools.

  16. I’m all for banning them!

    One of my next door neighbors uses theirs every single day from spring to fall. The driveway must not have a single leaf on it. Ever. They will use it in the dark in the summer, just when the fireflies are active and the night sounds overtake the day.

    Every fall, three neighbors use them for hours on end to “rake” their leaves. It’s maddening.

    Ban them all!

  17. Sign me up to agitate for the leaf-blower ban! I only have two neighbors at the end of my dirt road in the Maine woods, and both of them use leaf blowers to clean up their yards in the fall. I don’t see the point; we live in the woods! They blow the leaves out of their yards and into the nearby woods, where the next windy storm picks them up and blows them back into the open spaces. I do pick up leaves that pile up in doorways or on walkways, but I’ll stick with my good old-fashioned human-powered rake.

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