Not in My Backyard (Airspace)

leaf blowingLast week, I cleaned out the wet leaves in part of my backyard. Rake and bag in hand, I began to work. An earthworm struggled back into the dirt, the sun felt good on my shoulders, the muscles in my arms flexed with each motion, and the birds kept time—albeit off-beat. After about 20 minutes, the bag was full, so I sat down to enjoy the sounds of spring.

Next door, my neighbor started up a leaf blower to clean off his patio.

I don't think leaf blowers should die (as some bloggers do) , I just think leaf blower owners need to exercise some common courtesy. (Full disclosure: My backyard has five mature trees; I do not own a leaf blower, but I do have a gas-powered weed trimmer and my mower is electric.) Over the last 30 years or so, complaints and technology have improved the original gasoline-powered, two-stroke leaf blowers. But they still can be annoying. That's why several California cities reportedly have banned the noisemaker. Hawaii is currently considering similar legislation. So, I propose that leaf blower owners, in the spirit of neighborliness, adopt some of the same best practices that commercial operators have to comply with in Cambridge, Mass. , which has a penchant for civility. Chief among these are:

  • Do not blow debris onto adjacent property, the street, catch basins, gutters, vehicles, people or pets.
  • Use portable leaf blowers rated 65 decibels or lower, as specified by the manufacturer.
  • Check equipment regularly for proper operation (for example, muffler, filters, motor).
  • Use equipment that meets current EPA emissions standards for leaf blowers.

And for goodness' sake, owners should take care of themselves by wearing ear and eye protection and maybe a face mask.

While I may not appreciate an owner's need to use leaf blower technology, I recognize his or her right to choose it. Just as I choose to go inside and crank up the stereo …

Posted on Mar 31, 2010

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