Anti-Leaf-Blowers get Blowback



Continuing our seasonal leaf theme here on GardenRant, it’s time for some anti-leaf-blower ranting! Actually we’ve done that, so how about some rants against anti-leaf-blowers, coz those ranters know how to have fun.

leaf fallows-001

jamesBut we start with the anti-leaf-blower, in this case a famous one – James Fallows, journalist and speechwriter for President Carter. He’s been blogging about it for Atlantic magazine using headlines like “History’s Greatest Monster” and “What the Devil Does in His Spare Time.”

Fallows isn’t just blogging about it, either. He’s leading the charge and testifying before local government in his Washington, D.C. neighborhood, winning an 8-1 vote to call on the city to do something about the hated machines. The case against leaf-blowers is made clear on this community website, so I’ll just send you there for this important information.  


Now for some blowback from commenters – to this story on DCist. The first one quotes a blower-opponent seeking the quiet for “exploration of the silence within” and illustrates that point with a choice graphic.


Another was inspired to suggest that people like Fallows “Go blow yourself,” illustrated with this beloved scene from “Arrested Development.”

One commenter compared the issue to worrying about kangaroo farts, which apparently are an actual issue.

But what pissed off the most commenters was this detail from the story: that “the lack of enforcement leads to lifestyle changes” and writer Deb Fallows (wife of James) saying “I used to do a lot of work at home and I don’t do that anymore.”

leaf blower

Which is all it takes to set off a class war. A commenter using the name “Nancy Pelosi” wrote: 

This demographic of resident who complain of leaf blower noise are the folks who, for no explainable reason, don’t work or “work from home.” These people are a bunch of trust fund babies living off the hard work of a dead relative who’ve never had to work a day in their life.If you don’t want to hear leaf blowers, get a job…or a hobby.

Of course noise and pollution don’t just affect the rich, and one commenter makes a great point: “Anyway, if the legal limit is being exceeded then the leaf blowers need to go. Doesn’t really make a difference if it’s a rich neighborhood or poor neighborhood.”

I’m signing off now from my decidedly middle class suburb, where gardeners are regularly driven indoors from the garden by the high-pitched whine and gas fumes of leaf-blowers. I guess that means the machines affect our lifestyle, whatever that pejorative term might mean in this case.


  1. Interestingly, I’ve hardly heard them this year. We’ll see what happens this weekend.

    This is what I think is going on:

    1. I’ve never seen the number of yard mowing/landscaping trucks in the neighborhood like I have this year. As I posted last week here, 40% of Americans are obese, not overweight, obese. We Americans have others do the yard work and since time is money, they have powerful equipment that can get the job done quickly. And, they’re doing it while I’m heading to work.

    2. Rakes are bigger. I bought a huge rake at ACE hardware and it’s faster than using a leaf blower.

    3. The lithium battery leaf blowers people are buying are more powerful, get the job done far faster, and don’t have the high pitched squeal.

    4. People are mowing, mulching the leaves, or just doing nothing.

    Whatever it is, at least as of November 20, with most leaves down now, I’m holding out hope the lack of squeal is for real.

    • I’m just laughing because I have a rake giveaway on my site right now ~ 30 inch span. I LOVE rakes. It’s an awesome workout for both your abs and arms, but you don’t feel as though you are working out! Leaf blowers are loud and annoying and people are always blowing leaves during your nap!

  2. I, too, wrote a nice comment which was deleted. I was given a message that the Captcha I typed was incorrect. I didn’t have time to re-write the comment.

  3. There are “some” uses for them, sure. We have to look to the home, or property, owner demands. They are the ones that typically demand the need for a leaf blower. Cost, efficiency, etc….
    Now the contractors – or mostly lawn and landscape services, have to take much responsibility here.
    Remember, in the end it is mostly about the $$$$. PERIOD. By convincing people that leaves are “messy and bad”…. contractors can get more $ for “cleanups” in the fall. Also, we in the US of A are soooo accustomed to a sterilized, sanitized, fertilized, synthesized, hybridized and homogenized landscape that a fall “cleanup” seems to be the perfect storm.
    There is a near equal responsibility of the industry and the property owner to make some changes and adjust their expectations. Mostly, it is the industry. STOP trying to make an extra $350 for some useless fall cleanup and focus your efforts on soil amendments, plant health (if you know plants) testing, managing, etc….
    I understand that if someone has an investment in a large expanse of Kentucky Bluegrass lawn, etc… that they need to remove most of the Maple and Sycamore…. leaves; sure. But we go to far and we completely sanitize and sterilize these properties to where they are infertile and will perpetuate health issues.
    Change takes re-education = risk = $$/investing…. Meaning; most will not do it. There is far too much $$$ in the mow, blow, plow… as usual. There are many professionals out there that understand doing it the right way and why. There are far more that do not care and give the rest a bad rep.

    Most leaves, unless Oak, have a C:N ratio of about 15:1. This is IDEAL, once shredded with the mower. It is FREE organic amendments and fertilizer. Then again, it would cut in to the sale of synthetic products no doubt. Such a terrible vicious, unsustainable and ineffective circle.

  4. So late to comment it doesn’t matter, but FWIW: “World’s most pointless invention”? Sure, if you’re a super-privileged white guy who’s never had to clean yards in order to put food on your family’s table. “What the Devil Does in His Spare Time”? Way to trivialize — and hey, demonize! — the workers who depend on leaf-blowers to make a living. This just in: it’s a lot faster than raking. When you’re paid peanuts to begin with, every minute counts.

    And here’s the thing. Leaf-blowers, and the workers who use them, aren’t the problem. YOUR NEIGHBORS ARE THE PROBLEM. If the noise bothers you, grow a backbone and knock on your neighbor’s door and tell him he needs to lose weight. lose the lawn, plant veggies or a xeriscape, fire the noisy yard guys, grab a rake, and learn to love gardening. Tell him if he doesn’t make the noise stop, you’ll picket. Or sue. Put the blame where it belongs: not on the machine, not on the worker, but on the homeowners who hire, pay, and direct the landscape crews. Anything else is dishonest, and cowardly.

    In the meantime, try to understand that the men (women, too) with leaf-blowers are human beings. They work hard to support their loved ones. If they could make as much money with rakes, they’d give their leaf-blowers a rest. Landscape workers follow the news. Some of them, and their families, even enjoy reading gardening blogs. Like this one! Thanks for letting me rant :~)

  5. When I had a lawn, I was was anti-leaf-blower. I still am for lawn & planted areas. But now that I’ve replaced my lawn with perennials, succulents, river cobble, & decomposed granite, I cannot use a rake. If I do, half of the decomposed granite comes out with the leaves. A blower, however, allows me to clear the rocks but still leave leaves around the plants as mulch. I also have a leaf-vacuum-mulcher, but have to be careful how high I set the suction – too high and again, I’m removing DG as well as leaves.

  6. My favorite leaf blower blunder is when you see someone blowing all of their debris (leafs, twigs, etc.) out onto public roads from their property. I suppose they think they’re really accomplishing something, but after a few cars go by, the debris is right back on their property. GENIUS.

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