I live on a block in Seattle that is decidedly more concrete jungle than lush canopy. Which is why it’s weird that, on many days, my alarm is not some medley of Apple chimes but the cacophonous drone of leaf blowers outside.
I have rubbed my eyes and stared at sidewalks. I have craned my neck to see if there’s some tree I’m missing. I waited patiently for an explanation as I stared at the landscaper with earplugs. Without a leaf in sight.
I have yet to find a compelling justification for the bane of my morning existence, and I’m not the only one who’s fed up. “I hate leaf blowers,”Kathleen Baker, cofounder of advocacy group Quiet Clean SeattleDuring a recent meeting of Seattle City Council’s sustainability committee.“I hate the noise throughout the day. I don’t like the environmental damage. And I’m concerned about the health of the landscape workers [who] use them.” Mike Ruby, another commenter, said gas-powered leaf blowers were a common complaint when he worked on the city’s noise ordinance back in the 1970s, around the time the machines rose to prominence. “That has not changed.”
Baker and Ruby were speaking in support of a resolution to phase out city departments’ use of gas-powered leaf blowers by 2025 (the private sector would have until 2027). Sponsored by council member Alex Pedersen, the legislation unanimously passed last week, making us the latest place to move toward outlawing a scourge as endemic to autumn as the PSL. “While Seattle prides itself on being a leader on many issues,” Pedersen said, “we are too far behind on addressing the harms of leaf blowers.”
Passed in 2018, Washington, DC’s ban This was earlier in this year. Oregon’s Multnomah County began a All electric blowers are now readily availableLast year. California regulators also voted Eliminate the need to sell new gas-powered lawn mowers—mowers too—as early as 2024. By December 2021, leaf blowers had been banned in 40 countries. According to the city.
These decisions are supported with health and environmental studies. Less than 1% of the total are made up by gas blowers. transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions in King CountyTheir two-stroke engines can contaminate the air. One of these blowers can produce as much pollution per hour than a whole house. “smog-forming pollution”As a 2017 Camry driver, approximately 1,100 miles California Air Resources Board.“They put out an exhaust that is toxic,”During the sustainability committee meeting, Nicole Grant (executive director of 350 Seattle climate nonprofit) spoke. Exposure to too many chemicals can lead to everything, including headaches and cancer.
Gas blowers are also noisier than their electric counterparts. Before DC adopted its policy Study showed that the machines’ low-frequency sounds penetrated windows and glass doors easier than battery-powered din. Over time, this whir isn’t just a nuisance; it can hasten hearing loss.
The blight of leaf blowers isn’t a novel concern. Seattle started looking at ways to reduce noise and emissions from leaf blowers in 2014. But since that request for recommendations by the council, the city’s use of gas-powered leaf blowers has actually skyrocketed, from 211 machines then to 418 today (its use of electric blowers has also risen during that time, from 21 to 70).
The National Association of Landscape Professionals, (NALP), has historically opposed outright bans of gas-powered leaf blowersFor obvious reasons: “Leaf blowers save enormous amounts of time.” Electric blowers aren’t as powerful, the organization has argued, and deploying rakes and brooms might take up to five times as long to clear an area as wielding a gas blower.
However, our region doesn’t have enough cash or lefty ecologists to pay for the extra landscaping hours. Local opposition to the resolution has been minimal. “This sounds really non-controversial,” council member Sara Nelson said before the resolution’s passage, noting she hadn’t received any emails about it.
As a “collective opinion”The resolution of the council can only be described as aspirational. It does not have the force or effect of an ordinance. The 2025 and 2027 dates—“or later if necessary,” the resolution ominously appends—are merely goals.
So there’s a chance this could all prove to be nothing more than political hot air. However, in this instance, some noise around leaf blowers could be better than none.