Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Despair of the Leaf Blowers

How will we stop burning coal and "natural" gas, driving personal cars for most trips, and all of the other things we have to stop doing if we intend to keep climate change within a civilization-sustaining range when we can't even stop people from using gas-powered leaf blowers?

A half-hour running one of these two-stroke engines, aside from being a major noise polluter putting out up to 115 decibels*, is the hydrocarbon-equivalent of driving a Ford F-150 3,887 miles. That's the distance from Dallas to Anchorage. (Source)

Today in mid-afternoon the sound of three leaf blowers, simultaneously, started up next door to me. Hired "lawn service" guys. They blew every leaf from the back of the back yard to the front of the front yard and into the street, where a truck with a big tube sucked them all up for hauling away.

There's no reason for any of this: The leaves could stay in the yard. Very little of it is grass, so the leaves would just break down to feed the plants and provide nesting habitat for creatures. The parts of the yard that are grass would also probably be fine, but could be raked to the other areas if that was wanted.

Then an hour or so later, I walked a few blocks away and saw this:

Clearly, this property owner had paid someone to blow all of their leaves off the grass, and the lawn service in this case didn't suck them up into a truck but instead piled them in the street. Which is illegal here. 

Leaves in the street wash into the storm drains, increasing nutrient levels in the water and causing eutrophication, which in our case is in the Mississippi River. This is why we are encouraged to Adopt a Drain. This leaf pile might as well be labeled Overwhelm a Drain.

I have no idea what the plan is for these leaves. Maybe someone is coming to get them tomorrow?

If they don't, I'm going to call the city to have the property owners fined for the cleanup. I've already left them a message letting them know, so they are warned.


*I got my decibel citation from a Quora page. Most of the links I found about leaf blower noise downplayed it, since they were pointing searchers to quieter models, which is good. But I was looking for the sound made by gas-powered backpack models like the ones used by the workers I saw (and listened to) today. Theirs were not quiet models: they were loud, loud enough to hurt my 60-something-year-old ears when I went outside.


Michael Leddy said...

When we were out walking today, we heard a mechanical hum. It was a leaf blower, at least two blocks away, its noise amplified by the multi-story student housing around it. As we got closer, the guy wielding the blower walked more or less in tandem with us, maybe five yards away. I had my fingers in my ears. He had his head up his ass.

Daughter Number Three said...

I volunteer at a public garden, and several times per season across the street (at least 60 feet away) there are workers using gas-powered leaf blowers. Even from that distance they're teeth-gratingly annoying.

I think I must get in touch with my city councilmember about getting these things banned in the city. Corded electric or battery-powered versions can be used, and are much quieter.

In contrast with your recent experience, I was out for a walk the other day and when my walking friend and I passed a house where a man (I think he was the homeowner) was using a corded leaf blower, he turned it off before we reached him and didn't turn it back on until we had gotten a bit past his yard. And it wasn't even very loud, compared to gas-powered ones.

It's almost as if there's a correlation between someone who thought to use an electric leaf blower and someone who is sensitive to other people. Amazing.

Jean said...

I hate leaf blowers so so much. A lot of people in my neighborhood have lawn services, and they must be contracted to blow leaves for a certain amount of time whether there are any or not. I've seen people leaf-blowing roofs with no leaves on them, lawns on days when everything is so wet nothing will move, and empty yards. It's like that line from Galaxy Quest: "I've only got one job. It's STUPID, but I'm going to do it!"

Here in California, they've just announced that all gas-powered leaf blowers and lawnmowers, etc. will be outlawed in a couple of years. Electric only. I can't say I'm sorry.

(I enjoy raking. But around here, the deal is that you DO pile them up in the street, and a truck comes around every few weeks and takes them to the Compost Heap of Doom out by the airport.)

Daughter Number Three said...

Yes, I'm glad California has lined up a ban on gas-powered blowers and other two-stroke engines. We need to follow suit here.

I know that whether to put leaves in the street varies by place. In the Twin Cities, the street sweepers come once each fall, and that already happened. And even then, the cities don't want people to add more leaves to the street right before the street sweepers come because (I imagine) the timing of their routes is premised on some quantity of leaves that fall over the street, not including the ones from yards.

In Saint Paul, we have the option of having our yard waste hauled away with our trash (for an extra fee) or we can haul it ourselves for free to county sites that are not far away. Or, as I said in the post, we can let the leaves remain in the beds within our yards where they will transform into organic matter that's good for the soil and will protect creatures and over-wintering plants, too. That's the way gardeners in the know are heading.

I expect the lawn-care industry will catch up in a decade or two, maybe around the time they stop poisoning the soil with chemicals.