Join 3,424 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The Blowback on Blowers
May 12, 2010 3:34 PM   Subscribe

Leaf blowers emit 34 times the hydrocarbons of a typical automobile per hour of operation. Fumes are compounded by noise. Cities from New York to California are banning them. Seems a straight forward issue, but what about time and money?
posted by mikoroshi (136 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't think they need to banned. Just make it legal to kill anyone who fires one up.
posted by philip-random at 3:36 PM on May 12, 2010 [13 favorites]


That would be so fucking awesome if the goddamn things were banned.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:37 PM on May 12, 2010 [19 favorites]


Prohibition yields unintended consequences. Film at eleven.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 3:38 PM on May 12, 2010


As is so often the case, the Asylum Street Spankers sum it up pretty nicely.
posted by gurple at 3:38 PM on May 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


Life sucks for leaf blowers.
posted by mattdidthat at 3:39 PM on May 12, 2010


interesting how the articles range from 1985 to 2006... "Effective on February 13, 1998." I don't think they're banned in California... or are they?
posted by ACair at 3:39 PM on May 12, 2010


I hate leaf blowers with the passion of a thousand flaming suns. Plus, I mostly seem them used by mow & blow guys who are just fucking around anyway and blowing stuff around that could very well just be left exactly where it was in the first place.
posted by GuyZero at 3:41 PM on May 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


my bad, they're banned in a lot of places in California, also in all of Arizona, Hawaii and New Jersey. Nice! :)
posted by ACair at 3:41 PM on May 12, 2010


"I seem" == "I see". I have never been used by mow & blow guys, thankfully.
posted by GuyZero at 3:42 PM on May 12, 2010


O Frabjous Day! Calloo, callay!

I hate the damn things. For the last few years I've mainly worked as a sound engineer and these things just make me miserable, both professionally and personally (having excellent hearing is a mixed blessing). Professional gardeners, use a damn yard brush, charge $5 extra, and quit whining about your 'need' to operate a giant hairdryer. I can understand the efficiency argument where lawnmowers are concerned, but leafblowers are generally a solution in search of a problem.
posted by anigbrowl at 3:43 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Good job, geniusi. Now how will we be rid of the leaves! We won't! So don't come crying to me when you're all stuck at the bottom of a leafpile. "Oh, help me, the leaves have accumulated endlessly with no method of dispersion, now I will die at the bottom of a mound of wet leaves!" Stupid libtards. Something about the constitution.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 3:44 PM on May 12, 2010 [26 favorites]


But what am I supposed to crank up at 8 o'clock on a Sunday morning and use for three consecutive hours now?
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:44 PM on May 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


When blowers are outlawed, only suckers will be blowers.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:44 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think your title should have been RRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
(x1000)
posted by hangashore at 3:45 PM on May 12, 2010 [11 favorites]


As someone who works for an organization which takes care of hundreds of acres, on which there are thousands of deciduous trees, I of course am aware of how annoying they are, but at a loss to know what school and park districts are supposed to do, when simply hiring more people to rake is not a possibility.
posted by Danf at 3:45 PM on May 12, 2010


My god, after a few years the whole forest would be meters deep in leaves! No wonder forests are disappearing!
posted by GuyZero at 3:51 PM on May 12, 2010 [9 favorites]


Professional gardeners, use a damn yard brush, charge $5 extra, and quit whining about your 'need' to operate a giant hairdryer.

I hate the things too, but the way I understand it these guys have a lot of properties they need to take care of in a short amount of time in order to survive. Blowers make it possible to do the volume of work they need to get by.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 3:54 PM on May 12, 2010


my bad, they're banned in a lot of places in California, also in all of Arizona, Hawaii and New Jersey. Nice! :)

Do you have a source for the Arizona regulation? I see them used all the damn time here.
posted by nestor_makhno at 3:54 PM on May 12, 2010


Danf: "As someone who works for an organization which takes care of hundreds of acres, on which there are thousands of deciduous trees, I of course am aware of how annoying they are, but at a loss to know what school and park districts are supposed to do, when simply hiring more people to rake is not a possibility."

What? If you have hundreds of acres of trees, how is it that your organization isn't using, e.g. a tow-behind leaf sweeper? Why would you been keeping such an immense arboretum with leaf-blowers?
posted by boo_radley at 3:55 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


let's start a list to ban:

jets
motorcycles
cars with no mufflers
fucking cell phones most everywhere
bands at parties upstairs
lawn mowers
jet skis
snowmobiles
barking dogs
did I mention cell phones
crying babies
screaming mothers
snow blowers
shop vacs
cell phones
car alarms
any sound that comes out of a dentist's office
your favorite band
and, of course, cell phones
posted by HuronBob at 3:55 PM on May 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


I feel as if a ban on electric leaf blowers might be going a bit too far. Although you'll still have the issues from particles flying through the air and hurting people, it would cut down on the noise pollution from people whining by a great deal.
posted by Lemurrhea at 3:57 PM on May 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


A screaming baby gets more done in a day than a typical lawn maintenance guy with a leaf blower based on my extremely scientific measurements.
posted by GuyZero at 3:57 PM on May 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


I don't see mention of newer four-stroke engines, which are designed to run quieter and reduce emissions.

I'll tell you: if you're someone working in an area that doesn't outlaw blowers, and you're trying to be competitive, then you'd better by god be using a blower. It's not "5$ extra", for many tasks. It's hours compared to minutes. Now, I'm not saying it's the only option, or even a good one, but that's the stupid world we live in. Many people do have to make a living trying to do things as cheaply as possible. That's why it's most often immigrant labor being exploited to do this cheap cleanup, and why they're using blowers. People want a spotless lawn or parking lot or whatever, but they want it cheap.
posted by Red Loop at 3:58 PM on May 12, 2010


How about just letting the leaves sit there? It's bits of dead plant matter, for god's sake, not cat feces.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:59 PM on May 12, 2010 [19 favorites]


Leaves. Leaves. Leaves.

The Leaf Valley, France, where each year the peasants pick the leaves one by one, stalk by stem, as they have for hundreds of years.

Leaves. They are leaves.

November: the Leaf Valley Leaftide Leaf Festival. The Leaf Dance is done, and at its climax a hundred of the leaves are cast to the wind.

Leaves. They are some leaves.

And now you too can share in this ancient beauty, with your own stylishly, individually-wrapped leaves: Le Leaf Naturale d’Leaf. Toss them, throw them, gather them in your own garden or home to the envy and delight of your neighbours. Crumpled, whithered English leaves will never seem so attractive again. Le Leaf Naturale d’Leaf.

Leaves. Some leaves.

Twelve ninety-nine per leaf. Also available in large bags.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:59 PM on May 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


how is it that your organization isn't using, e.g. a tow-behind leaf sweeper?

For whatever reason, we don't. Most likely because half the time, the grass is too wet to drive on, leaves falling, as they do, in late fall.

It's a good question. I am not in the position to make changes but I can talk to people who can.
posted by Danf at 4:00 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't think they need to banned. Just make it legal to kill anyone who fires one up.

I'm not sure about legality, but attacks on leaf blower operators are not unknown (search for "Miscellaneous occasional health effects on the operators"), including one incident where a Los Angeles maintenance contractor cleaning a sidewalk with a leaf blower was stabbed by a man trying to talk on a pay telephone nearby.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:03 PM on May 12, 2010 [3 favorites]



infinitywaltz: "How about just letting the leaves sit there? It's bits of dead plant matter, for god's sake, not cat feces."

if you've got a yard, and trees, then don't even have a lawn underneath them. Let the leaves fall and rot the way they're supposed to, and your trees will be happier. Too bad that doesn't work for trash and cigarette butts.
posted by Red Loop at 4:04 PM on May 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


How about just letting the leaves sit there? It's bits of dead plant matter, for god's sake, not cat feces.

I was just coming in to say this. Are we really insecure enough of our dominion over nature that we need to make every square foot of the earth look exactly the way we think looks nice in photos?
posted by shakespeherian at 4:04 PM on May 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm using a leaf blower while on a jetski right now! Wheeeeeeeeeee!
posted by Aquaman at 4:08 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you have hundreds of acres of trees, how is it that your organization isn't using, e.g. a tow-behind leaf sweeper?

Well, there is only one tree on each acre.
posted by The World Famous at 4:09 PM on May 12, 2010


Guys, when leaf blowers are banned, they will just switch to flamethrowers. And, as we all can guess, that plan will never go wrong.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:11 PM on May 12, 2010


What is preventing an electric leaf blower? Batteries?
posted by one_bean at 4:12 PM on May 12, 2010


You can take my leaf blower when you pry it out of my numb, cramped hands.
posted by Flashman at 4:15 PM on May 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Archeologists will puzzle over the fact that we had a large industry dedicated to moving piles of leaves from one place to another with powerful gasoline engines. Probably they'll consider it some sort of religious ritual.
posted by steambadger at 4:16 PM on May 12, 2010 [12 favorites]


Prohibition yields unintended consequences. Film at eleven.

Bootleg leaf-blowers jerry-rigged from lawn mower engines? Old jet engines hacked into JUMBO MEGABLOWERS?
posted by msalt at 4:16 PM on May 12, 2010


My problem with leaf blowers is that I've never seen anyone using one to get leaves off a lawn. You could claim that is a legit time saver for what they're paid to do. But it seems like every time I see a leaf blower in action it's a bunch of guys using jet engines to blow little bits of leaf debris around on the street and looking really tired. I guess the owners don't want the curb to look covered in compost but it still seems like a huge waste of time and money.
posted by amethysts at 4:17 PM on May 12, 2010


some sort of religious ritual

It does emit a whiff of secular Immaculate Yard religion in North America.
posted by everichon at 4:20 PM on May 12, 2010


I hate the two stroke engine with the gravity of a thousand white dwarfs. It's illegal to use those leaf blowers in Westchester between April 1 and September 30, but they do it year round.

But I'll be damned if I'm going to be the one to get the day laborer fired for doing it. The crew boss, well, I'm ambivalent about him; the owner, I'd give a huge wedgie, and the owner of the property who allows them to use these devices...I'm thinking wire cutters and a bow torch.
posted by digitalprimate at 4:22 PM on May 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


What is preventing an electric leaf blower? Batteries?

Nothing. My folks (who live in a far more leafy place than I) have had a fantastic electric leaf blower for at least 10 years.
posted by The World Famous at 4:23 PM on May 12, 2010


Am I the only one who actually enjoys seeing leaves on my lawn during the fall? I usually rake 'em up in late November, but I look forward to the time when my yard and street are covered with decaying leaves. It's like living in a Russell Mills painting for 6 weeks each year.
posted by davebush at 4:28 PM on May 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I hate leaf blowers and wouldn't buy one even they were clean. However, "amount of hydrocarbons per hour of use" is a terrible, terrible metric. The Earth isn't being polluted by hydrocarbons per hour, it's being polluted by hydrocarbons period. We need to work in absolute numbers.
posted by DU at 4:30 PM on May 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Too bad that doesn't work for trash and cigarette butts.
I find it does, if you're willing to adjust your timescale more towards the geological end.
posted by Abiezer at 4:31 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Their use is illegal in Berkeley. And yet I hear 'em every damned day I'm home.
posted by Zed at 4:31 PM on May 12, 2010


Electric leaf blowers are almost as loud.

My solution:

heavy pollution control requirements which would favor electric but not ban gas
put time restrictions on them, no use on Sunday, all other days 9:30 am to 3:30 pm. The same goes for power washers, lawn mowers, weed whackers and edgers.
posted by caddis at 4:32 PM on May 12, 2010


put time restrictions on them, no use on Sunday, all other days 9:30 am to 3:30 pm. The same goes for power washers, lawn mowers, weed whackers and edgers.

It's a nice idea, but does make it difficult for anyone working an 8-5 job to actually get anything done around their property, doesn't it?
posted by hippybear at 4:35 PM on May 12, 2010


But... but we can keep our weed trimmers, right?

They're not as noisy as leaf blowers since 90% of the time is spent fishing out line that has retreated under the spring-cap.
posted by hal9k at 4:36 PM on May 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


I guess I don't know how to use a leaf blower, but in my yard of of 15 mature oak trees, it takes less energy to rake the leaves to the side of the road. It's a relatively small yard (by US standards) but 15 oak trees produce a lot of leaves.
posted by lyam at 4:36 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one who actually enjoys seeing leaves on my lawn during the fall?

I don't mind them, but the cranky old lady next door sure hates to see them on my lawn. I once got a letter about my "lack of responsibility" from her. Of course, we're not all retired, and some of us have to work 12 hour shifts six days a week and don't really feel like fucking raking right away, but I guess we're irresponsible.
posted by TrialByMedia at 4:45 PM on May 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm conflicted. Two stroke engine mounted in a power tool: I really dislike. Two stroke engine mounted in a well kept Yamaha RD350 or RD400: I start dribbling.

And pace The Castle: If there's one thing I love more than serenity, it's a two stroke motor on full throttle
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:46 PM on May 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


I have done landscaping and yard work in my series of eclectic jobs and a leafblower is a unnecessary. It would be one thing if a leafblower was just a useless device (which it is). But, it's a gas-guzzling 100db useless device.

Leaves on grass? Mulching or bag mower. Leaves on sidwalk? Large push broom. It saves no time or labor at all. All it does is waste gas and make it impossible for me to sleep in on a Sunday (always at 7am on a Sunday).

When I lived in Escondido I pleaded with the landscapers around my apartment to please god stop using the leafblowers. I told them I would sweep all the leaves myself if they couldn't be arsed to just sweep them themselves. They did not care. Then I figured out that they were violating the county's noise ordinance. Before I could call anyone about it though we had the fires which kept me out of our apartment for a couple days. We moved not long after.
posted by runcibleshaw at 4:46 PM on May 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


I hate to suggest a government solution, but why not license them (ugh) such that gas powered blowers have significantly higher fees than electric blowers.
posted by mrhappy at 4:47 PM on May 12, 2010


put time restrictions on them, no use on Sunday, all other days 9:30 am to 3:30 pm.

Thanks, but I happen to work at home. Your noise is not necessary and, as some brooding wise guy once said, that which is not necessary is evil.
posted by philip-random at 4:47 PM on May 12, 2010


Banning leaf blowers is poor use of regulatory powers.

Banning any power tool that emits more than a certain level of emissions (including noise) is a far better way to go about it, allowing innovation.
posted by wilful at 4:48 PM on May 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


I live just off a main road in a huge city. It is not a quiet place. We have planes coming into land at LCY overhead, trains nearby and underneath us, 24hr traffic, emergency vehicle sirens, car alarms going off at strange times, there's always construction work going on somewhere. There's an unidentifiable noise my wife and I hear regularly but can't place, and we call "the Cylon mating call". None of that bothers me. I've lived in cities all my life and this is just the sounds of the ocean to me, leaves rustling in the forest. It's my lullaby. I find it hard to sleep in the silent countryside.

But leafblowers are a f---ing menace. Despicable machines. Abominable. It's not just another noise.
posted by WPW at 4:49 PM on May 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


no use on Sunday, all other days 9:30 am to 3:30 pm. The same goes for power washers, lawn mowers, weed whackers and edgers.

That's great and all, unless your neighbors happen to work 3rd shift. Those are my sleeping hours this week, and having everyone do their yard work at this time would probably kill me.
posted by TrialByMedia at 4:51 PM on May 12, 2010


I just called the cops on someone using a leaf blower at 3 in the morning last week. Normally I just go walk out and ask people to be quiet, but that was so egregious I asked them to please give him a ticket.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:51 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's bits of dead plant matter, for god's sake, not cat feces

Damn straight, but when they come for my cat feces blower it's gonna get ugly
posted by Kirk Grim at 4:52 PM on May 12, 2010 [9 favorites]


Ruth Rosen, a Santa Monica artist who works at home, said the final straw came one day when she was working and yet another leaf blower disrupted her concentration

Another potential masterpiece lost to leaf blowers. I wonder if this is what set Hitler off.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:52 PM on May 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


However, "amount of hydrocarbons per hour of use" is a terrible, terrible metric. The Earth isn't being polluted by hydrocarbons per hour, it's being polluted by hydrocarbons period.

Huh? I don't follow what you're saying here. Please elaborate. It sure is being polluted by the hour, by the day, by the week, by the year. Reducing those inputs is important.
posted by zsazsa at 5:03 PM on May 12, 2010


If your yard is too big for you to rake yourself, then your yard is TOO BIG.
posted by 1adam12 at 5:05 PM on May 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


What is preventing an electric leaf blower?

Nothing at all. I have one, a combination leaf blower / vaccuum that plugs in via one of those long orange cords. Works great. It's still pretty loud though, but damn handy for when I need it (which, for the sake of my ears and my neighbors', is only 2 or 3 times a year).
posted by statolith at 5:05 PM on May 12, 2010


Which group is more anal? People who need to manicure every square inch of lawn, every blade of grass, and every stray hint of actual nature...or people who feel the need to outlaw anything that annoys them? I guess they both seem really anal to me.. The emissions complaint is a lot more reasonable.
posted by Edgewise at 5:10 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fuck leaf blowers. You want leaf-clear parking lots, either suck it up and rake, or suck it up and accept that leafs fall from trees.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:11 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Which group is more anal? People who need to manicure every square inch of lawn, every blade of grass, and every stray hint of actual nature...or people who feel the need to outlaw anything that annoys them?

Dating advice is usually posted on the green.
posted by hal9k at 5:22 PM on May 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


BILL: The leaf blowers, is there anything more futile?
ROLLINS: Car alarms.
BILL: Clap off.
ROLLINS: Clap on.
BILL: Spam.
ROLLINS: Size matters.
BILL: No, it doesn't!
ROLLINS: Yes, it does!
BILL: No, it doesn't.
ROLLINS: Yes, it does!
BILL: No, it doesn't!
ROLLINS: Yes, it does!
BILL: No, it doesn't! No, it doesn't!
ROLLINS: Yes, it does! Yes, it does!
posted by bwg at 5:28 PM on May 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


I did landscaping briefly, and enjoyed raking more then using a blower. I imagine its appeal is, it has alot to do with a boss that is constantly rushing these guys between too many places in too few of hours, like I was. It was so ridiculous, like we'd get to a place which needed about 3 hours worth of work (even with a team) and we're allowed only 20 minutes by the boss before we went to the next place. Every place, 20 minutes. The only thing you can get done in that time is mostly cosmetic, perhaps run a blower real quick and move the stuff to one side, and rake up what you can in a few minutes. Sometimes, we didn't have time to even take the piles. Some companies care, I"m sure, - I think the ones that don't, are supported by large corps or condos that don't really get or care about any feedback for their shoddy results.
posted by uni verse at 5:32 PM on May 12, 2010


Don't even get me started on ambulances.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:34 PM on May 12, 2010


God, I want leaf-blowers banned in my city. The duplex next door to our house has, in front of each half, about a 10' x 12' patch of lawn. Every damned week, usually on a Saturday at around 8 AM an entire lawn crew descends on the place with power mowers, weed whackers, and the damned leaf blowers. We get the REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE for an hour while they blow random bits of leaf and grass and dirt around on this really dinky lawn. It is insane.
posted by sarcasticah at 5:37 PM on May 12, 2010


Leaf blowers emit 34 times the hydrocarbons of a typical automobile per hour of operation.

They emit hydcocarbons? Let' hook them up to refineries and maybe we can get off foreign oil!

--

Okay, seriously, what we need to do is impose a carbon tax or cap 'n' trade so that CO2 emissions are priced into activities that emit them. Running a leaf blower would cost 34 times as much as driving a car for an hour, and people will stop doing it. Or they will buy more efficient blowers.

Banning specific technologies is just idiotic.
posted by delmoi at 5:48 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would buy, sight unseen, any first person shooter that allowed the following scenario:

(1) Encounter guy wearing backpack leaf blower making horrible noises and blowing leaves aimlessly in a circle
(2) Shoot at backpack leaf blower on guy
(3) Backpack leaf blower then begins to belch flame from spout as blower operator is spun helplessly around by force of malfunctioning leaf blower
(4) Further shots explode leaf blower; a small circular area is left free of leaves as pieces rain down.

Maybe that was a bit too specific.
posted by benzenedream at 5:50 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hate leaf blowers and wouldn't buy one even they were clean. However, "amount of hydrocarbons per hour of use" is a terrible, terrible metric. The Earth isn't being polluted by hydrocarbons per hour, it's being polluted by hydrocarbons period. We need to work in absolute numbers.

The issue isn't really with "the earth" being polluted.... Hydrocarbon and soot emissions, like those generated by two-stroke and unfiltered diesel engines are a local pollution issue, contributing to low air quality and health problems (asthma, respiratory cancers, and cardiovascular disease, primarily). This is an issue separate from greenhouse gas emissions, which I don't believe two-stroke engines make a major contribution to.

Okay, seriously, what we need to do is impose a carbon tax or cap 'n' trade so that CO2 emissions are priced into activities that emit them. Running a leaf blower would cost 34 times as much as driving a car for an hour, and people will stop doing it.

Modern cars are actually pretty damn clean in terms of hydrocarbons, particulates, and reactive oxides like NOx's and sulfates. That's a regulatory success story. In my city, at least, most of this kind of air pollution comes from large diesel engines in boats, trains, and trucks. Two-stroke engines make a big contribution, though, particularly in terms of hydrocarbons. They burn dirty and they burn so rich that they spew out a bunch of fuel and oil into the air.

Of course, a leaf blower doesn't generate more CO2 per hour of usage than a car. The car has a much bigger engine and burns more fuel per unit time than the leaf blower, generating more combustion products like CO2. The problem with the leaf blower is that its antiquated, inefficient engine produces a bunch of dangerous chemicals, including unburned fuel, that pollute the air locally and lead to health problems.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:53 PM on May 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


Okay, seriously, what we need to do is impose a carbon tax or cap 'n' trade so that CO2 emissions are priced into activities that emit them. Running a leaf blower would cost 34 times as much as driving a car for an hour, and people will stop doing it. Or they will buy more efficient blowers.

Don't worry, the Senate will get right on that! Really, any day now, promise.
posted by mek at 6:04 PM on May 12, 2010


Ladies and gentlemen, your solution.

""Killer bees" (Africanized honey bees) are known to respond violently to loud noises, and in December 1998 Southern California newspapers reported a gardener stung over 75 times by these bees."

(from link posted by filthy light thief)
posted by uni verse at 6:08 PM on May 12, 2010


What?! They can't ban those before I've gotten to use one. :(
posted by biochemist at 6:12 PM on May 12, 2010


How about just letting the leaves sit there? It's bits of dead plant matter, for god's sake, not cat feces.

Hold that thought; my story has something to say about it. I lived for seven years in a townhouse condo complex that hired landscaping companies to maintain the grounds. Three or four different companies during my time there, but they all had one thing in common: gasoline powered tools. Mowers, leaf blowers, giant, truck-mounted vacuum cleaners to suck up the leaves in the Fall. When they mulched around the shrubs, they had a gas-powered thing to spread mulch.

The leaf blowers were the worst. One day, after they'd made their assault on the neighborhood, the newly-painted outside sill of my kitchen window was black with dirt. The paint was white, but you couldn't see it. Fortunately, I heard the blowers coming and got all the windows closed before they could transport a load of dirt into the house. One day I went out to my car, and besides the thin layer of recently-airborne soil on top of it, there was a clump of moss the size of a baseball.

Now, consider - it's not just leaves that land on the grass. Birds are notoriously careless about where they crap. We had squirrels in the trees, and I bet they were just as casual. Raccoons were around at night, and foxes. There were dogs and yes, cats. So, the lawn had all manner of animal feces lying in it - until the blowermen showed up. Then all that crap was suddenly airborne, getting blown everywhere - into your house, into the vent openings of your car to blast you in the face the next time you turned on the fan, on the furniture on your deck, just all over the place. Some of it is cat feces, and the blowers are making it an aerosol.

Outlaw the damned things. They're a menace.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:15 PM on May 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


Whenever people talk about moving to the suburbs for some peace and quiet, I assume that they have never lived in the suburbs. On any given weekday, starting at 8 am, there will be a chorus of riding lawn mowers, followed by weedwackers, followed by leaf blowers. The din will continue until 5 pm, and be repeated the next day. On the weekends, it's amateur time. The guy in the house next to mine will spend 1 hour mowing his 0.1 of an acre, then 45 minutes weedwacking, then 45 minutes cleaning up the mess he made with his leaf blower.

Don't fool yourself. Those leaf blowers are only being used to clear the grass clippings from the driveways and sidewalks, no leaves are actually being blown 95% of the time. I imagine that a large push broom could actually do the job more efficiently, but those seem to no longer be in the toolbox of the lawn maintenance professional.

Of all the wasted labor in America, labor that could go into manufacturing that could provide basic employment and contribute to the economy in a dynamic fashion, lawn maintenance is right up there with digging a hole just to fill it back in again. It shouldn't be leaf blowers that are outlawed, it should be lawns.
posted by 517 at 6:17 PM on May 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh, and here's an actual conversation I had with one of the blowermen:

Me: Hey, don't they give you any ear protection with that thing?
Him: What?
Me: SHOULDN'T YOU BE WEARING EARMUFFS?
Him: WHAT?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:19 PM on May 12, 2010


But what am I supposed to crank up at 8 o'clock on a Sunday morning and use for three consecutive hours now?

If a former neighbor of mine is any indication, a 2.5 year old, a 4-year old and a 1.5 year old Golden Retriever will suffice. I'm unsure of their total CO2 emissions, but the noise....the fucking noise...

posted by Ufez Jones at 6:22 PM on May 12, 2010


but at a loss to know what school and park districts are supposed to do, when simply hiring more people to rake is not a possibility.

They could, you know, leave them there to decompose. Kinda happens naturally.

The school near me spends days moving leaves that aren't bothering anyone.
Sure, it's good to clear the path so the kiddies don't slip on wet leaves, but you could use a rake/broom for that.
posted by madajb at 6:23 PM on May 12, 2010


Damn it! Goddamn it! Ban the fucking things! I'm so sick of all this sensitivity! There's a geyser of oil blowing into the Gulf of Mexico and people are worrying about leaves on their lawns, where they're SUPPOSED TO BE. The problem isn't the leaves, it's the goddamn lawns under them, and the people who put them there! Ban lawns! Lawns are stupid!
Give the Earth back to the elves and gnomes! God DAMN IT!!!!!!
Man, did that ever feel good. Fuck leaf blowers. Fuck lawns.
posted by crazylegs at 6:23 PM on May 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


Tag close fail. D'oh.
posted by Ufez Jones at 6:23 PM on May 12, 2010


people are worrying about leaves on their lawns, where they're SUPPOSED TO BE

I hate leaf blowers as much as the next person, but what the hell do you mean when you say that leaves are supposed to be on lawns?
posted by The World Famous at 6:27 PM on May 12, 2010


Several years ago, I was back home in Houston taking care of my Mom who was ill. Every Thursday, the yard crews would arrive bright and early heralded by the non-stop whurr of the leaf blowers and mowers. Every street had a crew and all day long I would hear the damn blowers and smell the burnt gas. Any house that did its own yard work was evident by the horrors of non-conformity; a yard not properly edged, a hedge not neatly carved into a box, a stray leaf, blade of grass or tree limb.

Flash forward to my home in the New Mexico countryside. It isn't possible to maintain a large, lush lawn due to our dry climate but more and more folks who move here immediately rush out and buy that riding lawn mower to cut down all the native grass on their property and prune the junipers to "look better". And most of them are from suburbs like my Mom's neighborhood. They cannot abide the notion that nature is random and unruly. They just gotta clean it up.
posted by jabo at 6:30 PM on May 12, 2010


Any source for the NJ ban either? It certainly doesn't seem to be enforced!

That said, I could easily support NYC banning the things on residential property, given that nobody in New York has a yard big enough to justify a leaf blower that also can't afford to pay somebody to trim their lawn with a pair of nail-clippers.

They're loud, smelly, bother my allergies, and don't seem to provide much value to anything..
posted by schmod at 6:32 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Back in the 70's when I was a kid, kids mowed and raked lawns.

My how far we have come since then.

Of course the rich would want a better job than a kid could provide so maybe they should pay for the labor involved as opposed for the short cuts leaf blowers provide.

I understand rich people work harder then us reg'lar folks, and deserve every penny for their labors but are they willing to pay others a pittance of their loot for a clean lawn?

This country is so broken it's embarrassing.
posted by Max Power at 6:35 PM on May 12, 2010


Professional gardeners, use a damn yard brush, charge $5 extra, and quit whining about your 'need' to operate a giant hairdryer.

I hate the things too, but the way I understand it these guys have a lot of properties they need to take care of in a short amount of time in order to survive. Blowers make it possible to do the volume of work they need to get by.


I'm a professional gardener. Frankly, I'm all for putting random people with trucks and gas equipment out of business. They aren't gardeners, they don't know a damn thing about plants, soil, water, pruning, insects, proper use of fertilizer or pesticides, composting, conservative irrigation regimes, and all the other things that real gardeners know and deserve to be compensated for. Of course, the flipside is that people prefer to pay as little as possible for someone to take care of their yard. Very few people know (or care) that poor "gardening" practices contribute to pollution, soil degradation, flooding, algae blooms and eutrophication of water bodies, pesticide and herbicide resistance, exotic species invading and degrading fragile habitats, and increased noise, dust, and heat in urban areas. Not to mention damage that can occur to property from poorly pruned trees that get diseased and fall over or drop limbs, and the increase in costs of all sorts of resources (water, fertilizer) used unnecessarily. It's really kind of a shame plants are so resistant to idiots mucking about with them, because lots of people are paid for work that they don't know a thing about.

I worked for a company in San Francisco that did not use any gas equipment. If your maintenance is frequent enough, sweeping really doesn't take much more time than blowing properly (which most mow n blow crews don't do anyway). It's also far better for the health of lawns to rake them- it creates a stronger, deeper root system that is more resistant to stress. You also don't lose as much of the small bits of decomposed organic material that improves soil quality and water infiltration. And of course, trees provide their own nutrients by dropping leaves, so leaving them under trees to decompose is the best option.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:36 PM on May 12, 2010 [17 favorites]


They emit hydcocarbons? Let' hook them up to refineries and maybe we can get off foreign oil!

Yes, actually, they do. They're talking about unburned hydrocarbons in the exhaust, and they're a significant pollutant. These little 2-stroke engines tend to spew out a lot of them. Modern automobiles, on the other hand, don't, thanks to all the work put into emissions reduction.

If you have to get your car emissions tested periodically, there's usually a reading for "HC", which is unburned hydrocarbons. The regulatory limit for these is already pretty low, and most cars in good condition are better than required. My 7 year old car is required to emit no more than 58 parts-per-million HC under load and 150 ppm at idle. It tested at 3 ppm for both a couple of weeks ago.

It's not hard to believe a leaf-blower engine could be 34 times worse than that.
posted by FishBike at 6:40 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Leaf blowers? They should just use a water hose. That stuff's totally biodegradable.
posted by jabberjaw at 6:44 PM on May 12, 2010


I only clicked on the link to say exactly what philip-random said.

While I was at Camosun College in Victoria, I saw the groundskeepers vaccuuming up leaves with giant machines. The bloody things make it impossible to study, they're so loud. I thought, "it would be cheaper to pay a bunch of students to sweep the grounds. They could get the groundskeeper to 'supervise' and it would probably still be cheaper than running the monster sucker."
posted by klanawa at 6:46 PM on May 12, 2010


Sure, it's good to clear the path so the kiddies don't slip on wet leaves, but you could use a rake/broom for that.

See there's yer problem, right there. Seriously. Cities and schools deal with claims for things like people slipping on leaves, roots, dogshit etc. and getting hurt. Little Billy falls down and scrapes his knee, parents try to collect from the City or the School district because they were supposedly negligent in not picking up that leaf or doody. You wouldn't believe the types of things people sue for--I work in this field and have seen some pretty ridiculous allegations of "negligence".

Problem is, as people have noted above, leaf blowers are less labour intensive and quicker than raking and costs less. Schools where I come from always seem to be strapped for cash and can't splurge on things like this when they need money for programs and books. For some, "just leaving it there" isn't an option unless you want to hire a bunch of lawyers on taxpayer funds (which you may personally think is fine, but in elections people don't go for it)
posted by Kirk Grim at 6:48 PM on May 12, 2010


It's always a beautiful zen moment to watch a person trying to use a leaf-blower on a windy day.

Maybe it's their zen moment as well.
posted by wilful at 6:55 PM on May 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


I *hate* those things.
posted by mike3k at 6:58 PM on May 12, 2010


See there's yer problem, right there. Seriously. Cities and schools deal with claims for things like people slipping on leaves, roots, dogshit etc. and getting hurt. Little Billy falls down and scrapes his knee, parents try to collect from the City or the School district because they were supposedly negligent in not picking up that leaf or doody. You wouldn't believe the types of things people sue for--I work in this field and have seen some pretty ridiculous allegations of "negligence".

More "Shit my kid ruined".
posted by Ufez Jones at 7:18 PM on May 12, 2010


Yet another reason I'm happy to live in a shabby, run-down neighbourhood.
posted by davey_darling at 7:20 PM on May 12, 2010


It's always a beautiful zen moment to watch a person trying to use a leaf-blower on a windy day.

Maybe it's their zen moment as well.


I had another gardening job working for a boss who insisted that we always use the gas equipment because it gave clients "confidence in our professionalism". This was after I accidentally let slip that I would cut a client's small lawn with the push mower, because I actually enjoyed it, and because the lawn was through a house up three flights of stairs in a terraced San Francisco yard. Nevermind that I was also able to do more actually gardening because my assistant and I didn't have to wrestle a gas mower upstairs.
Anyway, in the interest of inspiring confidence, I was methodically blowing the sidewalk after loading the truck to go back. Right as I headed toward a street tree with a metal grate over the hole it was in, my client pulled into her driveway. I turned to wave, and just as I did so, I pointed the blower down into the grate. An enormous cloud of Francisco street detritus blew out, just as an even more enormous gust of wind came barreling down the street toward me, coating me from head to toe in months (years?) of disgusting, wet, smelly products of decomposition, right in front of my horrified/ secretly highly amused client.

After stopping to buy a restorative cup of coffee on the way home, my pole pruners and the blower were stolen off my truck. Somehow that made me feel better.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:21 PM on May 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Leaf blowers - ban them.

At the very least, users should have the written permission of everyone within earshot before firing one up.
posted by Artful Codger at 7:24 PM on May 12, 2010


A Curse Upon Leaf Blowers and The Men Who Love Them

In all their zeal for smoke and rattle,
the Futurists never envisioned your leaf blowers
pounding the geometry of row houses.
Yesterday, I cast a spell to charm
the throatwhistlers' roar
to silence if not wonder,
but once more this morning I hear
their tintinnabulation.

If not a charm, a curse then:
To all who handle leaf blowers,
may dust enter your eyes
in ounces not in motes.
May you blast away wanted objects,
family photos, bills of medium denomination,
W-9 forms, eyeglass prescriptions,
cards addressed to grandmothers and elderly aunts.

May the allied evil of lawn trimmers
flay your calves like the self-scourges
of an ascetic monk. May humus turn to ashes,
your golf shorts to sackcloth. May the starter
cord wrap around your neck in dreams.
May your dinner reek of gasoline.
May you some day learn
the meaning of rake.

-Bill Kupinse
posted by Maude_the_destroyer at 7:28 PM on May 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


Then all that crap was suddenly airborne, getting blown everywhere - into your house, into the vent openings of your car to blast you in the face the next time you turned on the fan, on the furniture on your deck, just all over the place. Some of it is cat feces, and the blowers are making it an aerosol.

Poison ivy. We used to live in this apartment complex on the river that had these gigantic live oaks, all with enormous systems of poison ivy, writhing up the trunks on their aerial roots. And the landscapers would come every week and diligently trim all the new growth on the poison ivy, and then blow the trimmings all around with the blowers, so that poison ivy clippings got pasted on every car door, handrail and doorknob. Every week.

My dermatologist was so happy that year. I had poison ivy from like April to November.
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:31 PM on May 12, 2010


As a compromise — banning them outright just isn't going to fly in a lot of places — how about mandating best-available-technology in terms of emissions and noise reduction.

No more two-stroke engines, everything has to be four-stroke. That right there is going to increase the weight and eliminate some of the advantage of gas over electric. Then you could come up with reasonable requirements for mufflers based on noise levels a certain number of feet away.

There's no reason why a 4 HP blower ought to be noisier and produce more emissions than a 115 HP car engine, it's just that the blower doesn't have any requirements for noise or emissions. This was the same situation personal watercraft and snowmobiles were in, at times in the past, and states have gradually realized that it's not acceptable as those devices have become more popular. (Two-stroke engines, at least in personal watercraft and some types of lawnmowers, are already prohibited in a lot of places. Some National Parks have already banned two-stroke snowmobiles. There's lots of precedent.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:40 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]



people are worrying about leaves on their lawns, where they're SUPPOSED TO BE

I hate leaf blowers as much as the next person, but what the hell do you mean when you say that leaves are supposed to be on lawns?
posted by The World Famous at 10:27 AM on May 13 [+] [!]


Yeah, just what the hell do you mean, boy? This time you've gone too far! TOO FAR!

I think he's referring to the fact that "lawn" is a water-sucking labor-intensive tradition that started in England, which is a really freakin' wet place, and that there are many sound environmental reasons for not planting lawn grasses in the first place.
posted by saysthis at 7:41 PM on May 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think he's referring to the fact that "lawn" is a water-sucking labor-intensive tradition that started in England, which is a really freakin' wet place, and that there are many sound environmental reasons for not planting lawn grasses in the first place.

Exactly. Leaves don't belong on a lawn. And lawns don't really belong anywhere. But they really are nice, you know, notwithstanding the many sound environmental reasons for not planting and maintaining them.
posted by The World Famous at 7:45 PM on May 12, 2010


This doesn't work in all instances, but what about lawnmowers? When I was a kid I hated raking the leaves in the yard, so one time when it was my turn to do it, I turned to my dad and said "Why don't I just run the lawnmower over the leaves? That way it'll create mulch which is good for the lawn and we don't have to burn/throw away anything". I never had to rake another leaf after that.

Of course, lawnmowers put out plenty of CO2 and noise, but I'm thinking not as much as leaf blowers.
posted by zardoz at 7:58 PM on May 12, 2010


Yet another reason I'm happy to live in a shabby, run-down neighbourhood.

Yep. Our neighborhood lawns are small, and mostly consist of regularly-mown clover, monkey grass, dandelions, and whatever else creeps or blows onto them. Have yet to see anyone with a leafblower. Leaves get mulched where they fall and left to disentegrate. A few people maintain showy flowerbeds, but that's pretty much it. They're all working families, lots of kids running around, and they just don't have the time.

Lawns in our neighborhood are also green most of the year with very little watering, because weeds and clover are tough sonsabitches. The houses are all slowly disintegrating and ugly 70s ranch-boxes, but the trees are big and give lots of shade. There's sidewalks and the kids like to build skateboard ramps in their driveways.

We're an anomoly in our overdeveloped suburb town, a little island of poor whites, blacks, and hispanics between two rich white enclaves. Someday a developer will start buying up these lots, and yank all that shit out and start putting up McMansions with high-maintenence lawns and no more sidewalks (because who wants just a anyone walking through their yard, amirite?) and then, by God, you will hear some fucking leafblowers, all right.
posted by emjaybee at 8:17 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you don't like the noise, why not just mandate a certain noise level for garden equipment?
posted by delmoi at 8:19 PM on May 12, 2010


I'm in favor of there being one hour (maybe two) PER WEEK wherein it is permissible for all noisy lawn and garden tools (weed eaters, leaf blowers, lawn mowers etc) to be utilized with NO RESTRICTION ON VOLUME. At the same time, it should also be legal to play any amplified musical instrument out-of-doors with NO RESTRICTION ON VOLUME. Call in NOISE HOUR. Call it ART. Record it. Make a documentary. Give it its own TV show.

Otherwise, outdoor use of any of these devices should be a capital offense.
posted by philip-random at 8:28 PM on May 12, 2010


I have 200 feet of driveway that produces about 25 mph on a longboard. I run my blower 2-3 x a week so me and the kids don't seize a wheel on an acorn fragment and break our mandibles in three places. Yeah, they're loud as shit, but there's nothing in the world that does the job they do better. Suck it haters.
posted by docpops at 9:06 PM on May 12, 2010


Ah, the leaf blower. Oh, the mow 'n' blow.

I grew up with the promise of flying cars, giant nuclear carrots and teleportation. Dropped out of high school and went straight into working my ass off for cash. Had a lot of different jobs over the years, including a stint doing "lawn maintenance". Can I tell you a story about that?

The maintenance crew was usually two or three people. There were three main tools - aside from the truck & trailer - the lawn mower, the trimmer and the leaf blower.

The lawn mower was the worst. Mowing lawns sucks. Back & forth; again and again. Gah! It's like having to paint the same room the same colour once a week. But this ain't your average lawn mower. This is a beast of a thing to push. It's an industrial 100 lb fucker. If you're the new chap on the crew, you're pushing the mower. Up, down, round and round you go. It's constantly clogging with wet grass, it's making a mess everywhere it goes, uses far more gas than the other tools combined, and you hate it. It's loud, smelly, and it hates you.

The trimmer is a bit lighter, requires a bit more skill, comes with a strap and it hates you even more. In fact, it's main purpose is to harm you. In order to operate the trimmer effectively you need to: 1) remove the strap in order to have freedom of movement; 2) remove the guard so you can see what you're doing. So now, you have in your hands an unbalanced tool that is picking up every little stone, stick or piece of dried cat feces it can find and flinging it at you at 50 mph while it goes WAAAAAAAANGGGG. Ugh! What doesn't hit you or embed in your shin is recklessly tossed upon the sidewalk/patio/driveway. It's a nasty, messy piece of business.

Now, if you've been on the crew for a while and have played your cards right, you aren't pushing the mower or wrangling with the trimmer anymore. Oh no, you're working the leaf blower. It has a nice balanced shoulder harness. Requires less skill than the trimmer, or even the mower. The thing kinda purrs on your back. And you're making everything look beautiful. You clean up after the mower and the trimmer.

Hey, remember those Popular Mechanics fantasies? You're just one step away from the jetpack!

So, if you're on the maintenance crew, aim for the leaf blower - don't let go of the dream.

(Before you hate on me - I currently don't own or operate any gas powered devices. And don't get me started on who gets to drive the truck.)
posted by shoesfullofdust at 9:13 PM on May 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


You wouldn't believe the types of things people sue for--I work in this field and have seen some pretty ridiculous allegations of "negligence".

Then the schools could counter sue because little Billy ignored the "Keep off the Grass" sign. Illegal trespass or something, right?
Then they both settle out of court and everyone's happy!
posted by madajb at 9:30 PM on May 12, 2010


Then the schools could counter sue because little Billy ignored the "Keep off the Grass" sign. Illegal trespass or something, right?
Then they both settle out of court and everyone's happy!


Not really. Aside from the lack of merit to the proposed counterclaim, "settle out of court" generally means "the school pays." Not everybody is happy.
posted by The World Famous at 9:36 PM on May 12, 2010


Maybe instead of banning them outright, we can place sensible regulations on noise outputs and emissions.

Make it fair enough so that the blower manufacturers can actually build them, but tight enough so they will cut down on the noise and pollution.

Electric leaf blowers are relatively quiet so I'd expect with a four-cycle muffled engine one could create a quiet portable backpack model as well with some engineering. It's probably already been done - I'm just not versed in leaf blower models out there :)

I don't think it's practical to expect everyone to just pick up a leaf rake - it's not like you can rake a rock garden, for example.
posted by autobahn at 9:42 PM on May 12, 2010


Are all leaf blowers being banned? In Califnornia, in Palo Alto and Los Altos, only gas blowers are banned (and only in residential areas). Electric blowers are allowed as long as they don't emit more than a certain amount of noise.

I've heard leaf blowers in these towns. They are quiet. Of course they are still blowing dust all over the place.
posted by eye of newt at 10:35 PM on May 12, 2010


Yeah, they're loud as shit, but there's nothing in the world that does the job they do better.

A push broom really truly does the job better. Get one with nice tight bristles. Apply enough force. You will be amazed.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:36 PM on May 12, 2010


I'm not sure if it's a plus or a minus, but if all these people have to quit their jobs blowin' leaves, they'll likely soon find themselves with telephone bills up their sleeves. Before long, they'll be choking like one-man dustbowls, and from there it's pretty much inevitable that they'll give in to any request at all to just shake their boots and let it all get loose.

In the best-case scenario, hiphop-inflected indie pop will kick ass for a few years, but in the worst it'll could lead to a big ole Scientology outbreak.

Just a, you know, vector to consider as you go formulating policy.
posted by gompa at 10:48 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


saysthis wrote: "I think he's referring to the fact that "lawn" is a water-sucking labor-intensive tradition that started in England"

The problem isn't the lawn so much as the owner. Up to any reasonable size, a lawn can be easily trimmed with a push mower, as long as you trim it frequently. In much of the country, lawns don't actually require watering to survive, aside from the morons that plant some grass not suited to their climate.

Yes, the problem is those people whose lawn must always be lush and green, even when it is 100 degrees outside and it hasn't rained in a month.
posted by wierdo at 11:12 PM on May 12, 2010


Why don't people just GMO up some grass that only grows 4 inches high and then stop?
posted by delmoi at 11:57 PM on May 12, 2010


Why don't people just GMO up some grass that only grows 4 inches high and then stop?
posted by eye of newt at 12:14 AM on May 13, 2010


The appearance, without the inconvenience, of action. Masterful.
posted by falcon at 12:19 AM on May 13, 2010


If you don't like the noise, why not just mandate a certain noise level for garden equipment?

Because no one is going to monitor the noise levels, so no one is going to enforce yet another noise law. look at all the stuff that violates existing noise laws: boomcars, open-pipe Harleys, my ex-neighbor with his stereo turned up to 11, the giant A/C unit at the new elderly housing complex, etc. Getting an authority to do anything at all about those violations is like pulling teeth even when you can get a response. A new noise law would be instantly and consistently ignored.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:08 AM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


TrialByMedia: Of course, we're not all retired, and some of us have to work 12 hour shifts six days a week and don't really feel like fucking raking right away, but I guess we're irresponsible.

Mind your attitude, young man
posted by eeeeeez at 4:52 AM on May 13, 2010


How about just letting the leaves sit there? It's bits of dead plant matter, for god's sake, not cat feces.

Well, for one thing, I'd like my son not to have to run around ankle deep in compost in what tiny patch of yard we have. For another, when one of the neighbor's dogs wanders into my back yard and craps there, I can see it and pick it up. If my yard is ankle deep in years of maple leaves, that's a bit more difficult.

We don't have a "lawn" (immaculate, watered, weedless) but there is a patch of open space back there that its nice to be able to keep usable for kickball and what not.

I've never understood leaf blowers. Now, a nice big leaf vacuum, that just sucks them into the bag, that's another thing all together. My grandfather always bagged up his leaves and piled them around the foundation as extra insulation. Why would you want to use a machine that just makes you chase the leaves around the yard?
posted by anastasiav at 6:01 AM on May 13, 2010


This thread reminded me of how we used to deal with leaves at the house where I grew up, at a time when pretty much nobody had a leaf blower. We had a fairly large suburban lot, with several really huge maple trees. If these weren't removed in the fall, they just compressed into a solid blanket of slowly decaying leaves that would choke out everything underneath.

So, how to move several hundred pounds of maple leaves from all over the back yard, out to the drainage ditch beside the road (because the city would pick them up from there)? Raking them all the way there was certainly a lot of work and took a very long time.

The technique we eventually started using was to get a couple of old worn-out bed sheets. Spread them out on the ground in the back yard, and rake leaves onto them in an enormous pile. Pick up the sheet by the corners and make a sort of bag out of it, then carry the whole pile of leaves out front. Dump into the ditch. Repeat this about 10 times, and the whole back yard is clear. Appropriate leaf pile size for each trip varies with the person doing the carrying.

This is not only faster than raking, it's faster than using a leaf blower (which a few people in that neighborhood now have), if you have a couple of people doing the work. Last year we even helped some of the neighbors finish their leaf-removal operations once we were done with ours.

The city picks up the leaves from the ditches using a giant vacuum shredder sort of truck. They have been doing it this way for decades in the few old neighborhoods with lots of mature trees. One year, some politician decided it was unfair that some residents got this special convenient leaf pickup service, while everyone else had to bag their leaves in paper bags for leaf pickup day.

So it was declared, no more vacuum shredder trucks, everyone must bag their leaves. On our street, the first house alone put out 60 bags on leaf pickup day. I think they managed to take away the leaves from about ten houses before their truck was full. It was quickly apparent just whose convenience the vacuum trucks were really for. Since then, the vacuum trucks have returned every fall.
posted by FishBike at 6:29 AM on May 13, 2010


Because no one is going to monitor the noise levels

I'm not suggesting that you try to enforce it at the use end; I'm suggesting at the manufacturing/sale end. That is, you mandate that all leaf blowers sold after a certain date must produce no more than x dB(A) at 15', or whatever your standard is going to be. That's easy to test and relatively straightforward, from an engineering perspective, to design compliance with. (You need a muffler and probably some sort of sound insulation around the engine itself, no sheet-metal heat shields that amplify the sound, etc.)

If a big state like California did it, or a group of smaller states, it would probably drive the marketplace to standardize on the improved technology, in a similar way to how California's ban on two-cycle engines means that just about anyone can now buy a four-cycle lawnmower.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:10 AM on May 13, 2010


So it was declared, no more vacuum shredder trucks, everyone must bag their leaves.

In a lot of places this is still the case. I'm pretty certain we'd get fined if we just raked our leaves into the road.
posted by anastasiav at 7:50 AM on May 13, 2010


Landscapers only use rakes to break up the little circle of dirt around your small trees or bushes. Raking anything else takes too much time. They have too many lawns to do to sit there and rake the cut grass or the leaves in the fall.
posted by L'OM at 8:17 AM on May 13, 2010


Because no one is going to monitor the noise levels, so no one is going to enforce yet another noise law. look at all the stuff that violates existing noise laws: boomcars, open-pipe Harleys, my ex-neighbor with his stereo turned up to 11, the giant A/C unit at the new elderly housing complex, etc. Getting an authority to do anything at all about those violations is like pulling teeth even when you can get a response. A new noise law would be instantly and consistently ignored.
--Kirth Gerson

It depends on the culture of the place. In the upscale cities I mentioned above, all of the examples you mentioned would result in a visit by the police. And, no, believe it or not, the police in these towns usually don't have anything better to do.
posted by eye of newt at 8:17 AM on May 13, 2010


Huge loophole in these ordinances. Every single California ordinance in the original post bans machines that "blow" or "generate a current of air" in order to move debris. If I were a commercial gardener, I'd get me a bunch of these.
posted by webhund at 8:41 AM on May 13, 2010


My neighbor uses one of these noisemakers. I've actually seen him doing what looked like a sort of crane dance as he chased leaves out of his yard, across the street and into the neighbor's gutter. But with him, it's gas-powered everything. I've never seen him pick up a rake or a broom or anything that requires manual effort. And of course, he blows shit into my yard.
posted by schmedeman at 8:46 AM on May 13, 2010


I'm pretty certain we'd get fined if we just raked our leaves into the road.

Oh, for sure, as would I if I did this where I live now. The results were just amusing when the city tried to take away this "premium service" that only certain property owners got. They learned fast that it was a lot easier for the city to vacuum up enormous amounts of leaves raked into a linear pile, rather than hand loading thousands upon thousands of paper bags into a truck.

The neighborhoods where they do this all have drainage ditches beside the road rather than curbs. So once you get all the leaves in there, they're actually not on the road and don't tend to blow onto it.

I sort of suspect the main reason they started doing the whole vacuum truck leaf pickup thing was that if they didn't, the ditches collected leaves that blew into them anyway, and then they had to come out and deal with floods instead.
posted by FishBike at 8:54 AM on May 13, 2010


I'm pretty certain we'd get fined if we just raked our leaves into the road.

We dump our leaves into the road where we live now (Amherst NY), for the reasons FishBike notes. Obviously neighborhoods vary, but on our street there's usually a 2 or 3 foot high wall of leaves on each side of the road before the vacuum trucks come through.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:40 AM on May 13, 2010


This reminds me of a Good Song.
posted by orme at 10:10 AM on May 13, 2010


Now that leaf blowers exist, people have to have perfectly pristine yards. edged, clipped, weed-free. My yard is leafy, weedy, sprawly. I hope the ground cover makes good inroads. I need just enough to put up a volleyball/badminton net for parties, and maybe a spillover parking space. I hope my neighbors don't want to kill me too bad.

Even my electric lawnmower is noisier than I'd like.
posted by theora55 at 3:03 PM on May 13, 2010


I just pray that one day string trimmers will be banned nation-wide, because then I would be spared the trial of having to use one.
posted by ErikaB at 5:10 PM on May 13, 2010


Y’all are a bunch of softies if you’re complaining about wimpy backpack leafblowers starting at 8:00 AM. I’m treated to a full symphony of industrial-grade gargantuan lawnmowers firing up at the crack of dawn in the summer, and monstrous leaf-blower machines in the fall, running for hours on end. I was hoping for maybe another half hour of sleep, but that will not happen. Can’t even enjoy my yard until they finish.

Thanks, county golf course, for stripping one hillside of the valley of trees to run a golf course up it, that makes a neat auditory reflector straight to my house. Yeah, wouldn’t want to disturb the peace & quiet of the moneyed leisure-class golfers, heaven forbid. It’s a woodsy area, but that doesn’t help any. Thanks to the town for not having jurisdiction somehow, and to the county for not giving a crap. And thanks to the private golf course on the other side of the valley, for starting up theirs shortly after the county’s finally stops. It’s like they’ve perfected this psycho-/physio-logical torture ping-pong thing.

Grrrrr.
posted by mcgurkster at 6:04 PM on May 13, 2010


I'm now ashamed to admit how much I love the sound of leafblowers. But I will ask the landscapers about switching to electric.
posted by mozhet at 7:51 PM on May 13, 2010


Hate these things, hate lawns. Don't even understand the desire for a lawn. It's like people claim to like nature but than try to throttle it to death at every turn.
posted by agregoli at 7:13 PM on May 15, 2010


« Older The strongest visual birth control on the market t...  |  If politicians were mathematic... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments