Should we ban gas-powered leaf blowers?

Gas-powered leaf blowers are noisy, polluting and harmful to habitat. We'll discuss efforts to ban them in our region and why leaf litter is so important for the ecosystem.

Listen 49:00
(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

As fall leaves blanket yards and sidewalks, the gas-powered leaf blowers come out in full force and there’s no escaping the din – sometimes with a volume that reaches 100 decibels. And while we can’t ignore the noise, many people aren’t aware of the pollution two-stroke engine leaf blowers emit. In one often-cited study, 30 minutes of yard work with a gas leaf blower releases the equivalent hydrocarbon emissions as driving a pickup truck from Texas to Alaska.

There’s also health concerns for workers who operate them for many hours a day and for the communities where they’re used the most. All these issues are spurring more communities to try to ban gas-powered leaf blowers or restrict them – a bill for a state-wide ban has been introduced in New Jersey.

Today, we’ll look at gas-powered leaf blowers and the efforts to ban them. We’ll talk with NANCY ADAMS, who spearheaded a successful blower ban in Maplewood, NJ, and SETH LIEBERMAN, co-founder of QuietCleanPhilly, which is working to phase out gas blowers in Philadelphia.  We’ll also hear from ANDREW BRAY with the National Association of Landscape Professionals about the challenges of switching to green options for business owners and their employees. And, we end our hour with an appeal to let the leaf litter lie. Ecologist DOUGLAS TALLAMY explains how piles of fallen leaves are an essential habitat for bees, caterpillars and other critters protecting them from winter cold.

We recommend

The New York Times, Here’s a Better Way to Care for Your Yard. Your Neighbors, and the Planet, Will Thank You. – “The fix is so easy. Electric leaf blowers are effective, available and affordable. They emit no fossil fuel pollution directly. Their decibel output is safe. The best part? To make the switch requires only the simplicity and speed of personal decision. Yours. Today.”

The Washington Post, How to deal with your leaves  – “Blow those leaves at the wrong time of day or with the wrong kind of equipment, and you’ll wind up with neighborhood beefs and maybe a fine, thanks to increasingly common local ordinances.”

The Atlantic, Get Off My Lawn – How a small group of activists (our correspondent among them) got leaf blowers banned in the nation’s capital.

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