FAQs around leaf blowing
CALM answers to Frequently asked questions and common objections
1) A gas leaf blower ban will cause undue hardships for our landscaping business. We’ll have to buy new electric blowers.
Commercial landscapers already replace their blowers periodically. If the cost of two new battery blowers, extra batteries and chargers is somewhere between $800 and $2,000, passing the entire cost on to customers, even at the high end, would amount to only a couple of dollars per property per week for one year.
With the cost of fuel, the American Green Zone Alliance estimates that it costs $7 to $8 per hour to operate a gas-powered leaf blower vs. $1.05 for an electric blower.
The owner of one local landscaping company who uses all-electric equipment says that his services are so in demand that he has had to turn potential customers away. This suggests that there is real business opportunity in going all-electric.
2) Homeowners want their properties to look a certain way. How are they and their landscapers supposed to do that now?
Homeowners can become good stewards of the land. The Pound Ridge Conservation Board promotes mulch mowing instead of denuding lawns of all leaf matter. Whole leaves left in beds are healthy for plants, shrubs and insects. Leaf cover provides a home for bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects, according to the Cornell Cooperative Extension. And homeowners who adopt these practices can pocket the cost of commercial fertilizers.
In Pound Ridge, we have chosen to live in deciduous woods. The pristine yard is a recent development — historically, we had beautiful lawns before leaf blowers.
3) I have a right to do what I please on my property and have it look the way I want. This is a regulation overreach.
A homeowner’s rights end where they infringe on the rights of others to enjoy their own properties. Loud noise and noxious fumes don’t stop at property lines. They intrude on a neighbor’s right to peace and quiet and clean air. Loud noise and noxious fumes don’t stop at property lines. They intrude on a neighbor’s right to peace and quiet and clean air.
And Pound Ridge has many regulations limiting what you can do on your property, from keeping goats to flying drones.
Just this past November, New York State voters amended the state constitution to read: “Each person shall have a right to clean air and water, and a healthful environment.”
4) Individual homeowners are not covered by the current noise ordinance. Why should a resident who owns a leaf blower not be allowed to use it?
If gas leaf blowers are unacceptably noisy and emit unacceptable levels of pollution when used commercially, then they are too noisy and too polluting when residents use them. As neighbors, we share the air the same way we share our ground water. We wouldn’t tolerate toxic chemicals being introduced into our shared water.
5) I have four acres. There’s no way an electric blower will move all those leaves, especially wet leaves.
We want to put to bed the notion that battery leaf blower technology is “not there yet.” Electric equipment can readily meet the demands of large and small properties to clear walkways, patios and driveways. One local landscaping company maintains more than 60 acres a week with all-electric technology. Can battery blowers move massive piles of wet leaves as “efficiently” as gas blowers? No. But that’s when alternatives to blowing — mulch mowing, letting leaves lie — are good options.
More than a few owners of large properties in Pound Ridge have planted meadows of native grasses and wildflowers instead of seeding high-maintenance lawns. Meadows especially benefit birds and pollinators, and they help to preserve the rural surroundings that make Pound Ridge a special place to live.
6) Why are you singling out gas leaf blowers? They are not the only noise and air polluters.
Gas leaf blowers are in a category by themselves. You couldn’t invent a better machine for turning gas and oil into harmful pollution. They do so in three ways:
Exhaust emissions An idling 2-stroke engine can produce up to 60,000 times the safe levels of benzene, a known carcinogen. Two-stroke engines are being phased out in many places and industries. Landscaping is one of the last holdouts.
Noise A gas leaf blower can be as loud as an airplane taking off. Noise at this level can begin to cause hearing loss after just two hours. Persistent loud noise has been shown to cause increased stress, heart problems, higher anxiety, sleep loss, decreased immunity and other health problems. It has also been shown to negatively impact our children’s ability to learn.
Dust Gas leaf blowers create a toxic cloud of particles, including mold, animal feces, pollen, spores, residue from tires and brake linings, and heavy metals from herbicides and pesticides. One gas leaf blower blows five pounds of particulate matter into the air per hour. The dust menaces the health of workers and residents alike. It can travel for miles and take hours, even days, to settle.
Vehicles in New York State must pass emissions and muffler tests. A car can’t be louder than 82 decibels. A gas leaf blower at full power would pass neither test.
7) Your proposal allows the use of electric leaf blowers. Don’t these blowers damage and desiccate the soil much like gas blowers do?
Electric leaf blowers also desiccate the soil, but their power is less than that of gas leaf blowers. By requiring the use of less powerful tools — and encouraging homeowners to leave leaves as mulch and ground cover — Pound Ridge would lessen, if not eliminate, the negative impact of leaf blowers on soil.
If responsible yard care measures are taken, the only areas that would ever really need to be cleared by blowers would be sidewalks and driveways. Even then, a rake or broom often works just as well.
8) Pound Ridge isn’t Larchmont, where homes are much closer together. Noise is less of a problem here where we live farther apart.
Most people in Pound Ridge live within earshot of their neighbors. Backpack blowers at the point of operation can reach as much as 105 decibels, which can heard from a mile away. Experts in acoustics say that blower noise is especially irritating because of its strong low-frequency component, its changing amplitude and the powerlessness of the hearer to control it.
Bedford, which has more large estates than Pound Ridge, has moved to ban gas leaf blowers.
9) As a landscaper, how am I supposed to recharge my blower batteries while in the field?
You will need a charger at your base and have enough batteries to get through the day. Most homeowners will allow you to charge batteries while servicing their property. Batteries can recharge in as little as 30 minutes.
10) What about enforcement? We don't want our police distracted enforcing this law.
Some towns have hired code officers, but we think that our police, who currently enforce our noise ordinance, should be able to handle this. Also, people will learn about the new law and soon modify their behavior.