Alternatives to Gas-Powered Blowers

| July 23, 2014 | 2 Comments
IT’S ILLEGAL to use a gas blower in Los Angeles.

IT’S ILLEGAL to use a gas blower in Los Angeles.

California Greenin’ by Renee Ridgeley

Here are some alternatives to using gas-powered blowers

Science quiz: which emits more hydrocarbons into the atmosphere? A half-hour of yard work with a two-stroke leaf blower or driving a Ford F-150 truck from Texas to Alaska?  If you thought this a trick question, you’re right, because it’s the blower.

The constant whir of gardeners’ gas blowers can be heard on almost any street, any time, any day. On a windless day, the smell of exhaust hovers longer than the noise.

Gas leaf blowers create pollution, which is why more and more gardeners have taken to wearing masks. Your impulse to close doors and windows on mow and blow day is a good one because the dust and emissions are noxious.

South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) estimates that in one year the average blower emits as much pollution as 80 new cars, each driven 12,500 miles. While the hybrid in your driveway is lowering your carbon footprint, that weekly blower is vrooming it up.

American Lung Association’s “Top Ten List of Things You Can Do to Protect Yourself from Unhealthy Air” includes #8: Use hand-powered or electrical lawn care equipment rather than gasoline-powered.  It’s just above #9: Don’t allow anyone to smoke indoors.  Hmmm, #9 is a cultural no-no while #8 is still a weekly event.

Blowers are bad for human health, bad for the environment and create noise pollution. So what can you do to help clean up your yard, your lungs and your air?

Rake and broom. Those long-handled gardening tools of days gone by are cheap, effective and eco-friendly. They won’t leave behind that fine layer of grit on outdoor furniture, fabrics and tables that comes with a blower.

Gardeners might have to spend more time by using hand-powered equipment. Ask your gardener to use a rake without offering a raise and they might tell you to blow it yourself.

If you can’t increase your monthly expense, suggest keeping the same work load by raking every other week or switch to an hourly rate to ensure crews aren’t asked to do more work for the same amount of money.

Electric and battery-powered blowers. You’ll still get the dust but you can eliminate emissions and mitigate the noise pollution by switching to an electric or battery-powered blower. It has an upfront cost but the health and environmental benefits are irrefutable.

That’s why every fall, the SCAQMD offers a leaf blower exchange program to help offset the costs of switching to greener tools. Commercial landscapers and gardeners can exchange working, gas leaf blowers for a new electric blower that has significantly reduced emission and noise levels. The eco-friendly blowers retail for $470 but, through the rebate, can be purchased for $200.

Fidel Ramirez maintains several Larchmont yards. He didn’t wait for the exchange to upgrade to something greener.

“Last year, I had two customers who wanted electric. This year, I added three more so I bought a battery blower. It’s what the customers want.”

Leave it be. Fallen leaves and grass clippings offer natural mulch to your yard. Leaving freshly mowed blades on the ground helps retain moisture and increases beneficial nutrients.
Move the debris to a pile and you can spin straw into gold— gardeners’ black gold, that is.

Decomposing nitrogen “greens” (grass and kitchen scraps) tossed with carbon “browns” (leaves and paper products) will create compost soil to use later as a natural fertilizer or garden soil.

If the positive incentives aren’t enough to entice you to greener lawn care, how about this one: it’s illegal to use a gas blower in Los Angeles.

Fines are $100, and both homeowner and gardener can be ticketed. The city Bureau of Street Services is assigned with enforcing this law. Don’t worry, they probably won’t start ticketing until they repair the sidewalks.

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Category: Real Estate

Comments (2)

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  1. M. Klein says:

    Thank you for the eye-opener regarding emissions from gasoline leaf-blowers.
    Recently, I also came across some info. about the health & environment risks of ANY leaf-blower use; gas, electric or battery. I’m including it here and hope you find a use for it in a future column or post.
    Facts compiled from sources to do with environmental health
    and the American Lung Association.
    “Leaf blowers literally scour the earth: stripping off topsoil, desiccating roots, and killing vital soil-dwelling organisms, while, at the same time, propelling into the air clouds of dirt, dust and dangerous contaminants: volatile compounds, mold and fungal spores, weed seeds, insect eggs, pollen, molecules of the myriads of toxic chemicals people spray and sprinkle on their gardens, trees, and lawns, not to mention bird and rodent feces, and more. These micro-toxins & infectious agents linger in the air for up to 5 hours before settling back to earth but not before anyone in the vicinity has inhaled them.

    Consider that wind blows from the nozzles of these machines at speeds in the range of 180 mph. Winds of that force do not occur naturally on Earth, except inside hurricanes and tornadoes. Worse, still, because the wind is carrying away large quantities of heat from the hyperactive engine, it is also very hot and exceedingly dry. Subjecting everything at ground level to blasts of hot, dry, hurricane-force winds would be ill-advised at any time, since it cannot fail to injure plants and open pathways for pests and disease, while at the same time aiding and abetting the pathogens by distributing them over the widest possible area. In the summer, though, when the air is hot and the ground is dry and the plants are dehydrated and badly stressed to begin with, subjecting them to tornado-pressure blasts of hot, dry air is, irrational.
    Leaf blowers pose the greatest threat to the health and hearing of the untold numbers of landscape workers who use them on a daily basis, in most cases without adequate protective equipment, for intervals that far exceed OSHA guidelines. Unfortunately, the workers themselves tend to exaggerate the benefits and deny the risks of blowing leaves with machines, which they strongly favor over rakes, for reasons that probably have more to do with symbolism than practicality.”
    {On the subject: recent news out of the N. San Diego area reported a confirmed 6th case of the lethal hantavirus in mice and a confirmed case of plague in a squirrel. While no current cases have been discovered in Los Angeles county, diseases in wild-life are not uncommon to any area and the particulate matter from their dried feces is nothing you want to breathe in when leaf-blowers send everything sky high.}

  2. Michelle Baron says:

    Thank you for writing this very important article. I cannot understand why all my neighbors are still letting their gardeners use gas leaf blowers. Who can stand breathing in that air? The Bureau of Street Services will do nothing about it. I’ve tried for years! Please, everyone, ask your gardener to at least use an electric blower. Chances are they already have one in their truck.

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