When we bought our house six years ago, I was so excited to be within walking distance of our local family-owned hardware store and a Home Depot. I wasn’t that lesbian though, the one who can fix anything. I needed to follow the instructions which came with the manual, and the only tools I ever used were shovels and a rake. YouTube quickly became my friend when I needed to fix something inside of our house. Like when my kid broke the handle on our bathtub. And when I needed to fix a window outside on our shed — the one my son broke practicing his pitch that one season of baseball he played — I called my neighbor to help me figure it out.
When it came to our landscaping needs, we tried two different college students whose side hustle included lawn mowing and collecting our mounds of leaves. I love looking at our newly cut grass, enjoying a little gardening without first raking up the leaves, so to have someone else do it for me was a godsend. And then, I had a great idea: to invest in a leaf blower. I drool every time I see how quickly my neighbor’s yard looks spotless and leafless, the one who owns a leaf blower and who has time to spare on his weekends. Meanwhile, two doors down, I am bribing my 14-year-old son with donuts and cash to rake our yard with our wobbly rake and brown leaf bags which easily tear.
I’ve come back down to reality, just as I did with my yearning to buy a Keurig machine; neither a leaf blower nor a Keurig machine is good for the environment, even though both would make my life slightly easier. Wearing a backpack leaf blower for one hour, not only makes your neighbors’ ears bleed, but it also emits more carbon monoxide into the air during that one hour than when a car runs for eight hours. We all know how scary carbon monoxide is, right? In a study conducted in 2015, over 11 million leaf blowers were being used in the United States. If the emission of carbon monoxide isn’t reason enough to stop using leaf blowers, perhaps sleeping in might be reason enough to pack it up.
I’ve heard them running on Saturday mornings, Sunday mornings, and every hour in between. The sound is annoying, yes, but it also can create hearing loss. It’s not only loud for the neighbor who wants to sleep in on Saturday or Sunday, but also for the person wearing the leaf blower. According to NoNoise.org, “Blower noise can impair gardeners’ hearing. A blower measuring 70-75 dB at 50 feet can reach 90-100 dB at the operator’s ear. OSHA requires hearing protection for noise over 85, and according to the World Health Organization, ‘there is an increasing predictable risk’ of hearing damage from noise above 75 dBA.”
For me, having a pristine, leaf-free yard isn’t worth pissing off my neighbors and increasing carbon emissions. Noise pollution can increase stress levels, which can increase one’s blood pressure, decrease productivity, create fatigue, and can disrupt sleep. I can tell you that when someone wakes up a napping baby with that incessant sound, it definitely increases the parents stress.
Some states and communities have banned leaf blowers because of their negative impact on the environment. Cities in California and Washington, D.C. are phasing out the use of leaf blowers because of how they drastically pollute and aid in noise pollution. In one California county, leaf blowers were banned during the pandemic. In an interview with ABC, Hannah Stafford, chair of the Natural Resources Commission, states, “The pandemic has forced people to stay at home and conduct much of their business outside, so the noise and air-quality impacts that leaf blowers generate are being felt more than ever. And with California’s catastrophic wildfire season generating record-breaking levels of smoke and ash, we need to do whatever we can to limit the extra stresses we put on our air.”
By January 2022, Washington D.C. will enact a law that bans the use of these leaf-blowing beasts. Raking will be the new normal in these communities and other states, like my own, should take notice. On the bright side, if you’re able, raking leaves is great for improving upper body strength, core strength, and can be part of your fall exercise plan. Kills two birds with one stone, right?
While snow currently covers my lawn, underneath is a shitload of brown leaves. The fact is, I am too exhausted to tackle this chore right now, and too exhausted to try to convince my teenage son to rake them, and too cheap to pay our college-aged landscaping guy this month so they remain. Gone is my desire to buy a leaf blower, out of respect for my neighbors and my effort to help the planet we live on. Even though my house looks kinda shabby, I think, with all of the scattered leaves, there’s always spring to do a little raking. And, just maybe, my muscles will thank me too. At the very least, my neighbors won’t hate me.