green living

Why Leaf Blowers are the ‘Devil’s Hairdryers’

It was David Dudley who first coined the phrase “The Devil’s Hair Dryer” on Citylab when referring to the ubiquitous leaf blower–and it’s an apt moniker too. Every year, home and business owners use leaf blowers to round up errant fall foliage in a whirlwind of noise and air pollution. Now cities like Santa Monica, Palo Alto and Newport Beach are issuing bans on leaf blowers in an effort to reduce noise and air pollution.

Air Pollution

In his arguments against leaf blowers, Dudley explains why pollution is such an issue: “The crude little two-stroke engines used by most commercial backpack-style blowers are pollution bombs. Simplest benchmark: running a leaf blower for 30 minutes creates more emissions than driving a F-150 pickup truck 3800 miles.”

He’s referring to an experiment conducted in 2011 by Edmunds, the car reviewer. He pitted a two-stroke-engine leaf blower against a Ford F-150 Raptor pickup truck. He found that running the leaf blower for 30 minutes produced the same amount of hydrocarbon emissions as a 3,887-mile drive in the truck.

Two-stroke engines don’t have their own lubrication systems. As a result, the fuel has to be mixed with oil. About 30 percent of the fuel fails to complete burn up and this means the engine spews out some pretty awful pollutants including carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides and hydrocarbons.

Noise Pollution

The leaf blower, in its pursuit of manicured suburban perfection, has the unfortunate side effect of disturbing the peace. In fact, a gas-powered leaf blower can exceed 100 decibels which puts the operator in danger of permanent hearing loss. A 2017 report  from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists leaf blowers as having the potential to cause hearing loss. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that hearing protection be worn whenever machinery exceeds 85 decibels.

Leave the Leaves!

Unless you have astringent-rich trees like black walnut or oak, there really isn’t any reason to rake up the leaves. Your yard leaves provide a haven for small animals and insects. Squirrels use them to make nests, chipmunks hide in them and butterfly pupae live in leaves. The National Wildlife Federation says: “The leaf layer is its own mini ecosystem!” By skipping your yardwork this fall, you can increase the number of beneficial insects in your yard.

Decomposing leaves create mulch which helps to improve the health of the soil. If you are concerned about the appearance of your lawn, mow with the bucket off to chop up leaves so you still get a good mulch, and maintain your curb appeal.

If you must remove the leaves, consider composting  rather than adding to the landfill. According to the 2013 Environmental Protection Agency’s Report, Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures, 28 percent of waste produced by households is food and garden waste. Using this valuable resource to create compost will improve the health of your garden and reduce your carbon footprint. If you are composting your leaves, be sure to add nitrogen-rich manure or grass clippings.

Let’s ditch those leaf blowers and invest in a rake. Raking is a wonderful exercise and the most earth-friendly way to do your fall yard work.

This article was originally published on Greenmoxie.com

About

Nikki is an author and writer specializing in green living ideas and tips, adventure travel, upcycling, and all things eco-friendly. She's traveled the globe, swum with sharks and been bitten by a lion (fact). She lives in a tiny town with a fat cat and a very bad dog.

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2 thoughts on “Why Leaf Blowers are the ‘Devil’s Hairdryers’

  1. Leslie N Inman

    The beautiful season of autumn: Destroyed.
    Thank you for this great article outlining the truth about the gas leaf blower menace.
    Unfortunately, many people think that fall is “dirty”. Some are even willing to cut down trees in order to keep their yard “perfect” from falling leaves. Autumn’s been around for millions of years but now, apparently, it’s unclean and all traces of it must be erased by any means necessary. The ‘golf-course-style-lawn’ is held up on a pedestal when really it’s a climate change mess. The EPA says that 2 billion gallons of fuel are used annually for the upkeep of useless grass. Our lungs and ears pay the price for that pristine turf with non-stop noise and non-stop fumes. When I see the “perfectly manicured yard” my first thought is I wouldn’t want to be their neighbor. Fall leaves are so valuable for building soil and composting and yet leaves they’re treated like trash. A more relaxed, tidy (not perfect) and beautiful yard with native plants can make a huge difference to human health, water quality and the lives of birds and pollinators. Bring out the rakes and the compost pile. Leaves are gardening gold.

    Reply
  2. Leslie N Inman

    The beautiful season of autumn: Destroyed.
    Thank you for this great article outlining the truth about the gas leaf blower menace.
    Unfortunately, many people think that fall is “dirty”. Some are even willing to cut down trees in order to keep their yard “perfect” from falling leaves. Autumn’s been around for millions of years but now, apparently, it’s unclean and all traces of it must be erased by any means necessary. The ‘golf-course-style-lawn’ is held up on a pedestal when really it’s a climate change mess. The EPA says that 2 billion gallons of fuel are used annually for the upkeep of useless grass. Our lungs and ears pay the price for that pristine turf with non-stop noise and non-stop fumes. When I see the “perfectly manicured yard” my first thought is I wouldn’t want to be their neighbor. Fall leaves are so valuable for building soil and composting and yet leaves treated like trash. A more relaxed, tidy (not perfect) and beautiful yard with native plants can make a huge difference to human health, water quality and the lives of birds and pollinators. Bring out the rakes and the compost pile. Leaves are gardening gold.

    Reply

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