Leaf Blowers: The Great Debate

By Jordan Laio, Hometalk

When the clocks switch back that means fall is here. For those who live in areas populated by deciduous trees, that means it will soon be leaf-wrangling season. Organically-oriented farmers and gardeners across the country will be hoarding this supply of free detritus and adding it to their compost piles. Others will be gathering this bounty of biological material and sending it to the dump.

Either way, the question comes up: How to wrangle those leaves?

Many people have answered that question with leaf blowers.

Now, there is an assumption in the “green” community that leaf blowers are evil incarnate, environmentally speaking.

Traditionally that may have been true. According to Wikipedia, leaf blowers were first introduced as “agricultural chemical spraying machines” and were later adapted to simply blow leaves. Their legacy was further besmirched because for many years leaf blower manufacturers employed noisy two-stroke, smoky, gas-powered engines.

This type is still sold today. For instance, the Husqvarna Gas Powered can be bought online for $180. The reason people still like them is their portability and ability to really get the job done. This is an especial boon for elderly homeowners who feel the need to do their own yard work and would be strained by using a rake, or by homeowners who need the range provided by a gas-powered blower.

However, because of the noise and pollution, leaf blowers have been banned outright in some cities and fall under noise regulations in many others (although apparently not everywhere – I can hear a leaf blower outside my residence as I type this, which is quite annoying). According to NoNoise.org, various regulatory bodies from the World Health Organization to city municipalities recommend an average daytime outdoor noise level of 55-60 dB. Traditional leaf blowers weigh in at 70-75 dB from 50 feet away.

If that were the end of the discussion, we could conclude that leaf blowers do more harm than good in most cases. However, because of the problems with gas-powered blowers, manufacturers have introduced newer electric versions which produce less noise and no noxious fumes. Not to mention they run on electricity instead of fossil fuels (unless your electricity is provided by fossil fuels).

So that’s great, right? Get thee to the leaf blower emporium and buy an electric model!

Not so fast. First of all, there are two types of electric blowers: corded and cordless. The cordless blowers run on battery packs that will eventually wear out and end up in a dump or river somewhere, an important consideration for the green-minded individual. Compare that to a rake, which provides exercise during its use and when it’s done (assuming it’s a wood-and-metal rake) will break down and return its material to good old mother earth, no harm done.

Another consideration is that cordless versions like the Black & Decker Cordless Electric Broom ($70) blow for about 15 minutes and then take a couple hours to fully recharge.

Your best bet (if your bets are only placed on leaf blowers and not rakes) in terms of environmental impact, functionality, and noise pollution is a corded electric blower. For instance, the Toro Electric Blower ($70) is one of the highest rated by users on Amazon.com. It’s as powerful or more so than a gas-powered blower. It runs on electricity and spews no fumes. And it’s rumored to be “quiet,” for a leaf blower.

Their main (perhaps only) drawback is that they’re restricted by their cord.

What do you think? Can you still call yourself green and use a leaf blower? How will you be gathering your leaves this fall?

Related:
What To Do With Dead Leaves
Dealing With Fall Leaves the Eco-Friendly Way
8 Ways to Compost
Image: Big Mind Zen Center/Flickr

91 comments

Chelsea M.
Chelsea M.4 years ago

In my household we used both a rake and a corded leaf blower but only about once a year for maybe 20 minutes so I THINK THAT WE DO PRETTY WELL in terms of our situation with a large yard with many trees and obstacles. Go RAKES!

K s Goh
KS Goh4 years ago

Thanks for the article.

pete M.
peter m.4 years ago

We rake and bag my neighbors just blow them down the street.
Don't you just hate that.

Dana A.
Dana A.4 years ago

One of the best parts of fall is raking the leaves into a huge pile and then jumping in!!!

Emily Drew
Emily Drew4 years ago

How about get up, grab a rake, and get some excersize. Were in an obesity epidemic here people!! And then you can compost the leaves. Or if u don't want to rake them then just leave them. They will fertilize the land. But don't blow them and send them to the dump!!!

Carol P.
Carol P.4 years ago

I'd vote to ban gas-powered blowers any day of the week.

But perhaps people should also consider how much they actually need to have a perfectly smooth green lawn. A couple of leaves won't kill the grass so the leaf blower should only be needed in the fall.

But you can also change the plantings in your yard to have less grass, the highest-maintenance weed in the world! More garden beds with variegated leaves or flowers to attract butterflies and hummingbirds not only reduce how much area needs to be raked, they can make your garden beautiful, smell great, provide habitat for wildlife, and you get fresh-cut flowers for indoors! And if you're not into gardening, some low-maintenance ground covers are better for under trees where grass has difficulty growing.

Joan S.
JC S.4 years ago

I have had for years been an opponent of these noisy smelly things. Nothing like waking up at the crack of dawn to the roar of one that is all the way down the block but sounds like it's under my window. Toxic horrid things

Magdalen B.
Magdalen B.4 years ago

Leaves on paths can be rather slippery. I'm not bothered about the ones on the garden and must confess to collecting them from under the trees in the street with my wheel barrow for my compost heap. There are a lot especially since the local council decided they can't afford to clear them away.

Rosie Lopez
Rosie Lopez4 years ago

ty

Catherine Turley
Catherine Turley4 years ago

you didn't mention that the neighbor's gardeners blow half the leaves into my yard.