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In today’s Washington Post, “Gas-powered leaf blowers: Simply terrible for the air.”  (That’s the title in the print version.)  And then there’s the deafening noise.

Posted by

Susan Harris
on September 17, 2013 at 9:08 am, in the category Gardening on the Planet.

Load More By Sandra Knauf
Load More In Science Says


  1. Laura Bell

    1st January 1970 at 4:00 am

    Aside from the pollution from gas-powered engines, what about the dust & debris put into the air by these things? I just drove through a blower-generated dust storm – a crew of four guys driving a hurricane of dirt & leaves of the sidewalks & out into the street – and I’ll probably meet more through the day and week. The crews drive the leaves & dust off the sidewalk presumably to be picked up by the street sweeper. But the sweepers come along quite infrequently & rarely in conjunction with the varied mow-blow-go schedules, so the street traffic then pummels the debris into more dust and deposits it back up on the sidewalks … to be blown off again next week. It’s very dry here – no rain, generally, between mid-May & mid-October – so the dust gets kicked around for quite a while before there’s any rain to wash it away. As an allergy sufferer (not to mention a fan of peaceful mornings) I would love to see these crews just use a broom, for pity’s sake.

  2. Nina

    16th May 2008 at 7:01 am

    I hate the damn things too. But the reason gardeners, ie, maids for your “yard” use blowers is a time/cost issue. Weekly gardeners are usually paid so little that they must do as many houses as possible in a day just to make ends meet. Blowers are much faster than rakes or brooms. They are also usually pretty damn ignorant about environmental issues. When homeowners start paying more & better attention to their outdoor spaces & how they are cared for, ban use of blowers on their property AND pay the gardener a bit more for the extra time it takes to deal with leaves/debris, we might all have a little more peace & quiet. We’d get to keep our topsoil & mulch too.

  3. gemma

    22nd July 2013 at 5:08 am

    I’ve heard about this time/cost issue and I take issue with it. Has anyone done an actual study?

  4. Laura Bell

    19th August 2015 at 6:31 am

    FYI: These are city crews using the damn things. Making $20/hour. I’d be happy to pay more to have them keep the peace & use non-polluting methods. If you check my post, my bigger complaint is about the dust & allergens that get thrown into the air, though certainly noise & hydrocarbons are plenty offensive.

  5. Michelle

    21st May 2016 at 11:46 pm

    You’d probably enjoy The Tortilla Curtain by TC Boyle. Reading these comments reminded me of it.

  6. Nina

    3rd June 2016 at 3:50 am

    “For the exercise”……. you try mowing 8-10 lawns in 1 day under the broiling sun plus taking trash bins out the street, picking up dog poop, a bit of trimming, watering pots, etc & whatever else homeowners ask you to do. Weekly gardeners get PLENTY of exercise. Many homeowners ( here in So. California) demand pristine & frequently expect that larger tasks, such hedge trimming, be done often w/o extra compensation. I know & work with many weekly gardeners so I’m aware of just how many houses they’ve got to do to eke out a living.

  7. Anne Wareham

    4th November 2016 at 3:32 pm

    I don’t think you get this thing in the uk, which is interesting. Leaves on grass can be mowed up, surely, and elsewhere winter winds blow leaves on to beds where they provide excellent mulch.
    But I do know someone in USA said they wouldn’t buy The Bad Tempered Gardener because I mention using one – for hedge clipping maybe, I can’t remember! It’s our hedge cutters that really make the noise here, I’m sorry to say, and I’m hoping for a cordless electric system for that when we can afford it one day.
    It is fascinating discovering how different gardens are in the USA.

  8. John by the river

    25th November 2016 at 9:35 pm

    Try looking for the Black & Decker lithium battery one. I found it on Amazon and it was around $125. Buy an extra battery as they take 8 hours to charge. Works great and not much noise – except for the whirring blades.

  9. Sandra Knauf

    28th November 2016 at 7:19 am

    Leaf mulch for beds that would also compost? What a concept! Sorry to say it’s pure ignorance and being tied to a ridiculous “standard” here. (Not to mention a hard-on for loud, polluting, gas-guzzling machinery.) Maybe with these kinds of articles people will learn something. Eventually.

  10. admin

    28th November 2016 at 2:29 pm

    I use electric leaf vacuum/mulchers as much as possible and use the shredded leaves as mulch in the garden beds. I tried the lithium battery version but returned it the next day as, sadly, it wasn’t up to the task. The other problem is that I destroy at least one leaf vacuum/mulcher a year….they can handle leaves, but not too many of the sticks and occasional pebbles that they try to ingest.
    If I could only create with a robust, easy-to-use, reasonably priced version, I think I could make a fortune….unless someone can tell me where I already can buy one.

  11. Alice

    30th November 2016 at 7:21 am

    Another thing that really bothers me about the use of these noisy machines is that 9 out of 10 of the “landscapers” using them in my neighborhood do not use ear protection. Their employers could apparently care less that these folks are damaging their hearing.

  12. Geoff Lewis

    30th November 2016 at 11:52 am

    Commercial landscapes involve paved surfaces and stakeholders expect weekly upkeep: organic matter, dust, grit and refuse removed. Most apartment, townhouse and commercial properties won’t or can’t afford the much higher landscape maintenance bill required to keep paved surfaces clean with brooms. I’m all for mowing leaves up off grass – outdoor vacuums that lawnmowers are – and just leaving leaves on garden and landscape beds. Nobody yet wants leaves, spent flowers, seed pods etc. left on paving. Low-noise backpack blowers don’t burn very much gas in a year compared to say, a car. And if they are being run a lot, it means they’re taking care of a bunch of properties. And four-stroke backpack blowers are available.

  13. Michelle Derviss

    30th November 2016 at 11:56 am

    An easy fix – compensate the grounds crews a fair wage to use less time efficient modes of grounds clean-up.
    Frankly we don’t care if we use brooms, rakes or blowers as long as we can get the job done and are not penalized for being less productive with our time.
    This goes against the grain of capitolism and is the crux. But if you can pitch the idea that in the long run it is better for the community at large to use a less effective time mananagement strategy then you might make some headway. Otherwise use an electric blower and make everybody happy.

  14. Of Gardens

    30th November 2016 at 12:00 pm

    The noise pollution is a big issue with the gas powered leaf blowers. There are alternatives on the market, electric leaf blowers, which are much quieter, but also more expensive. The cost of upgrading to electric is sited as being too expensive for the average lawn maintenance company to switch. I would like to see some change in the ubiquitous use of the noisy gas powered leaf blowers. Noise pollution is another pollution whose detriment is underestimates.

  15. Gail

    30th November 2016 at 7:45 pm

    I refuse to buy one for my business as I use a rake or broom only. My customers don’t seem to mind and I take the leaves home for use in my vegetable garden. At home we use our commercial mower and chop them up for use in garden beds.

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