Something nice happened in Los Angeles and 20 other communities in California during the ’90s – they quieted down. Stars like Peter Graves and Meredith Baxter lobbied politicians to prohibit those gawd-awful leaf blowers. This year Palo Alto joined the quiet movement with a ban that went into effect in June and the Washington Post recently described how it works there: two warnings are issued, then a ticket. The town’s enforcement officer told the Post: "I’ve had one gardener who’s been cited seven times and it’s $100 a ticket. He just won’t stop." But with the issuance of over 5,000 warning letters to residents and their landscapers, it’s now a quieter city.
But noise isn’t the only pollutant caused by leaf blowers. To quote the Post: "The fumes from the gas engines foul the air and the machines kick up particulates containing mold, pesticides, dried animal waste and plain old dust." And as noted by a spokesman for the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse, the machine is an "absurdly inefficient contraption as a replacement for leaf rake and patio broom."
And while I’m pleased as punch that Hollywood stars are living cleaner, quieter lives, what about the rest of us? Well, industry has invested heavily in needed improvements and claims their equipment is 75 percent cleaner than in the early ’90s, with "great strides in sound levels." The Post article doesn’t say, but I just hope the whole fleet of blowers is cleaner because apparently most people are still buying the loud ones, which they refer to as "standard units." I don’t suppose "Ear-Piercing, Smoke-Blowing, and Smelly" make such great ad copy.
So readers, are these things really necessary or are they absurdly inefficient? I’ve never used one myself, but I bet they’re good at clearing leaves among perennials and shrubs. Other than that, I just don’t get it. But I do know that for me, using a leaf blower would be right up there with spraying with pesticides as the least enjoyable of garden chores. Downright odious.