It was David Dudley who first coined the phrase "The Devil's Hair Dryer" on Citylab when referring to the ubiquitous leaf blower — and it's an apt moniker, too. Every year, home and business owners use leaf blowers to round up errant fall foliage in a whirlwind of noise and air pollution. Now cities like Santa Monica, Palo Alto and Newport Beach are issuing bans on leaf blowers in an effort to reduce noise and air pollution.
The crude little two-stroke engines used by most commercial backpack-style blowers are pollution bombs.David Dudley
In his arguments against leaf blowers, Dudley explains why pollution is such an issue: "The crude little two-stroke engines used by most commercial backpack-style blowers are pollution bombs. Simplest benchmark: running a leaf blower for 30 minutes creates more emissions than driving a F-150 pickup truck 3,800 miles."
He's referring to an experiment conducted in 2011 by Edmunds, the car reviewer. He pitted a two-stroke-engine leaf blower against a Ford F-150 Raptor pickup truck. He found that running the leaf blower for 30 minutes produced the same amount of hydrocarbon emissions as a 3,887-mile drive in the truck.
Two-stroke engines don't have their own lubrication systems. As a result, the fuel has to be mixed with oil. About 30 per cent of the fuel fails to complete burn up and this means the engine spews out some pretty awful pollutants including carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides and hydrocarbons.
The leaf blower, in its pursuit of manicured suburban perfection, has the unfortunate side effect of disturbing the peace. In fact, a gas-powered leaf blower can exceed 100 decibels which puts the operator in danger of permanent hearing loss. A 2017 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists leaf blowers as having the potential to cause hearing loss. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that hearing protection be worn whenever machinery exceeds 85 decibels.
Leave the leaves!
Unless you have astringent-rich trees like black walnut or oak, there really isn't any reason to rake up the leaves. Your yard leaves provide a haven for small animals and insects. Squirrels use them to make nests, chipmunks hide in them and butterfly pupae live in leaves. The National Wildlife Federation says: "The leaf layer is its own mini ecosystem!" By skipping your yardwork this fall, you can increase the number of beneficial insects in your yard.
Decomposing leaves create mulch which helps to improve the health of the soil. If you are concerned about the appearance of your lawn, mow with the bucket off to chop up leaves so you still get a good mulch, and maintain your curb appeal.
If you must remove the leaves, consider composting rather than adding to the landfill. According to the 2013 Environmental Protection Agency's Report, Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures, 28 per cent of waste produced by households is food and garden waste. Using this valuable resource to create compost will improve the health of your garden and reduce your carbon footprint. If you are composting your leaves, be sure to add nitrogen-rich manure or grass clippings.
Let's ditch those leaf blowers and invest in a rake. Raking is a wonderful exercise and the most earth-friendly way to do your fall yard work.
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