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The Attack of the Leaf Blowers

The Attack of the Leaf Blowers

My wife Lorraine does physical training and yoga four times each week to handle effects from her back surgery, with all her exercise sessions in a second floor suite within a Dallas apartment complex. I went to this morning’s session, and starting about 7:30 am two men operated a loud gasoline motor leaf blower in the common areas outside. It was warm enough, on this January 24th morning, that some of the suite’s windows were open. Both my wife and the instructor were disgusted by the smell of the exhaust from the leaf blower, as well as its loud noise which persisted until we left 30 minutes later. As we were leaving, I noticed that the workmen didn’t wear masks to protect their lungs from fumes and particulates, pollution they generated as they used the blower’s artificial wind to move leaves back and forth in the complex’s parking lot.

When we got back home our own gardener was working putting last year’s cattail cuttings into my backyard compost heap and then planting the Buffalo grass seeds I just purchased. Buffalo grass needs much less water than the St. Augustine grass that covered our yard when we bought the house years ago. The St. Augustine partly died in last summer’s heat – we declined to water more than once a week during a severe Texas drought. I had asked our gardener years ago not to use leaf blowers on our yard. He initially resisted because it made his yard work look “unfinished” and inconsistent with his pride of workmanship. He has accepted my environmental sensitivities, even the Buffalo grass rather than the more luxurious St. Augustine.

Small gasoline engines are very inefficient, except as heavy emitters of gasoline fumes and of CO2. Some communities have prohibited using small gasoline motors for yard work during periods of heavy air pollution, and have put more general bans on leaf blower noise pollution. These are really small steps that are not going to stop climate change, but they’re helpful at the margins.


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