The red and gold tones of Portland’s deciduous trees have been exceptionally brilliant this year! But as we enjoy the sight of leaves peacefully drifting to the ground, our ears are often assaulted by the loud and annoying drone of gas-powered leaf blowers. Besides being a nuisance, gas leaf blowers are also pretty dangerous:
- Noise: Their high intensity, low-frequency noise travels further and penetrates windows and walls more than the noise from electric blowers. Operating a gas blower can cause permanent hearing damage in just two hours! These machines consistently violate Portland’s noise ordinance and negatively impact people and wildlife.
- Emissions: Most gas-powered leaf blowers use two-stroke engines that emit hundreds of times more fine particulates and other hazardous pollutants than automobiles. The pollution from just 1 hour of gas leaf blowing equals the pollution from driving 1,100 miles in a gas-powered car! Yikes!
- Health impacts: Some of the pollutants released include formaldehyde, benzene, fine particulate matter, and smog-forming chemicals which are associated with headaches, asthma attacks, heart and lung disease, cancer, and dementia. They also kick up clouds of unhealthy debris that can include pollen, feces, pesticides, lead and asbestos. (Electric blowers do the same, though usually to a lesser extent.)
- Wildlife: The noise is extremely disruptive for wildlife, especially species that rely on sound to communicate. Not only that, clearing leaves with a blower disrupts or destroys habitat for pollinators, amphibians, and small mammals.
There’s another way! Actually, a few other ways.
A healthy, beautiful yard doesn’t require the noise and toxic emissions from gas leaf blowers, mowers and other fossil fuel equipment. Here are some quieter, cleaner options:
- Leave the leaves. While it’s standard practice to tidy up your yard by removing all the fallen leaves, one of the most valuable things you can do to support pollinators and other wildlife (while also nurturing your soil) is to provide them with the winter cover they need. As the Xerces Society puts it, “You gave them flowers and a place to nest. You tended your garden and avoided pesticides. Don’t carry all of that hard work out to the curb. Simply put, when we treat leaves like trash—we’re tossing out the beautiful moths and butterflies that we’ll surely miss and work so very hard to attract.”
- Use a rake and broom. They’re more efficient than you think! Check out this grandma who proved that rakes and brooms are just as fast as a leaf blower.
- Ask your yard care contractor to switch to electric tools. If that doesn’t work, hire a yard care company that doesn’t use gas-powered equipment. There is a growing list of contractors who use manual and/or electric tools—support them!
- Switch to electric lawn tools. Battery-powered tools produce zero emissions, are rechargeable, more efficient, reliable and much quieter. Check out this list of electric lawn tools recommended by Consumer Reports.
Please support the current effort to ban gas leaf blowers city-wide.
Quiet Clean PDX is asking Portland’s Commissioners to enact a city-wide ban on gas leaf blowers that would take effect in 1-2 years, allowing time for the transition to electric and manual equipment. Help convince the Mayor and Commissioners to pass this ordinance by sending them an email. They need to hear from you now!