Quiet, Please! by J.E. Dean


At 7:30 a.m. on Saturday morning my wife brewed coffee and suggested we enjoy it on our porch looking onto Island Creek.  It was a beautiful morning. The birds were chirping and the gentle breeze could be heard from the trees. Then, across the creek, a leaf blower was fired up.  For the next half hour—until we finally gave up trying to enjoy the morning—some sort of yard clean-up was executed.

Unfortunately, our disrupted Saturday coffee was not a rare occurrence.  In season, from late March until early November, the sound of lawn tractors, chain saws, hedge trimmers, and, worst of all, leaf blowers can be heard, usually from the crack of dawn until shortly after sunset. The noise produced is, some tell me, unavoidable. The alternative, some claim, is foot-high grass, uncontrollable weeds, and “jungle.”  

Are these claims right?  I don’t think so. Lawn and garden maintenance doesn’t have to mean deafening and/or irritating noise. Could there be alternatives that might make our community more pleasant, more livable, and more attractive?  The answer is yes.

Did you know that Washington, D.C. has banned gas-powered leaf blowers, effective January 1, 2022?  There are more than 100 communities that have already banned leaf blowers, including cities in Florida, California, Texas, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and others.  Some entire countries in Europe have also banned them. Why shouldn’t we join this movement?

In addition to the simple pleasure of quiet, there are other more compelling, economic and health reasons for banning  leaf blowers and exploring alternatives to the whole array of hyper-polluting, noisy lawn tools. First, is the impact of the devices on our hearing. The Center for Disease Control estimates that leaf blowers produce at least 90 decibels of noise. This can cause permanent hearing loss with only two hours of exposure. Second, is pollution.   A two-stroke commercial leaf blower produces more pollution than a Ford F-150 pick-up truck driven more 3,800 miles. Third is cancer. The EPA has suggested that the emissions from gas-powered lawn tools are carcinogenic.

The time is now for governments at all levels to start crafting relief from the racket and poison produced by these devices. The following are a few starting points:

Local governments should purchase and use battery-powered, quiet lawn tools.

Dates should be set for a blanket ban on offending machines—the date can be set far enough in the future to permit the existing equipment used by contractors and homeowners to wear out.

Restrictions should be placed on the hours noise and pollution producing machines can be used.  Any mowing and leaf blowing before, say, 8:00 a.m. and after 7 p.m. should be banned. And why not consider freeing up one day altogether from noise—Sunday?

Access to information about “approved devices” should be posted widely as a means of encouraging all of us to convert to cleaner, quieter and healthier machines as soon as possible.

The eastern shore is already a great place to live. Why not make it better?    

I welcome readers’ reactions to these proposals—both agreement and disagreement. I hope you will leave a comment and share your views.  Thanks and here’s to a quiet and peaceful morning.

J.E. Dean of Oxford, writes on policy and politics based on more than 30 years working with non-profits and others interested in domestic policy. He is an advocate for the environment, civil public debate, and good government.


Letters to Editor

  1. Peter Gallagher says

    Amen to a peaceful, quiet Sunday morning…a time to reflect on and enjoy all that our natural Eastern Shore offers.

  2. David Lloyd says

    Could not agree more with these suggestions! Leaf blowers are awful! And, in addition to the noise and environmental negatives, consider three things: first, the raker of leaves, grass, etc, misses the good exercise you get from hand raking! Second, the grass/ground doesn’t get the benefit of having the soil get a little scratching/mixing. And, third, you miss out on chances to catch up with your neighbors who are also likely to be out raking leaves and or grass!! Sure cannot catch up when you can’t hear yourself think much less hearing your neighbors’ latest!

  3. Alan Boisvert says

    Totally agree about noise of any type. However, when will restrictions begin, where will they end and who will institute and enforce them? For instance I am constantly bombarded with engine noise and spinning wheels from morons and their cars/trucks with little or no mufflers. Are their police here in Easton? And I find the air traffic noise from the Easton Airport much more annoying then from an occasional weed-whacker or leaf-blower. Those military style helicopters rattle my windows. Why there are not restrictions on pilots taking off with throttle wide open, seemingly making as much noise as they possibly can. More morons. So, my point is, yes, I agree, there is lots of noise here but from my vantage point picking on leaf-blowers is minor compared to the many other nuisances.

  4. Christopher Thomas says

    MORE government oversight is not what Talbot County needs, and there are already noise ordinances for Talbot County that establish the following: (92.5 C 2) Operation of garden and lawn maintenance equipment between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 1/2 hour after sunset. AND (92.5 C4) A person may not cause or permit noise levels emanating from construction or demolition site activities which exceed:90 dBA from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.; or The levels specified herein from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. If quiet leaf blowers are what you want, pay the landscapers a higher rate to buy better equipment, or hire the ones that use the quiet equipment (or use rakes?).

    Taking away an entire day from the men and women who work these jobs shows that you are not in touch with the local community and what they do to make ends meet. Lawn care is a very viable second/third/fourth stream of income for the folks who live here, and taking away 1/7th of the week (and 1/2 of the weekend, where a lot of these jobs get done) is simply untenable.

    Your problem is with enforcement, not with the law. Check it out here: https://ecode360.com/33777325

  5. How about you just go back wherever it is you came from going to put a ban on leaf blower and other contractor equipment. So you going to take food out of my children plate because I can’t work so you can enjoy your cup of coffee? Get real. This is ridiculous and only someone who is so bitter with life that they would even think about this. You people need a serious reality check.

  6. Bob Willoughby says

    There is a solution. Buy a thousand acres and build a house right in the middle of it. Then the rest of the world would be far enough away not to disturb you. It is hard to believe that someone would actually think that they can do what they want on their own property.

  7. I trust you do your own (or have it done for you) landscaping in the same manner you suggest? We recently purchased a propane torch for effective and environmentally safe weed control (read: no roundup). It does an amazing job but certainly puts out some ‘noise pollution’. Should that be banned? We also use a high powered leaf blower bc a rake would not be realistic on multiple acres. However, with those leaves we are able to create our own mulch that is not treated with dyes ot chemicals. All of this to say, we take efforts to change what we can for our own household but realize everyone has the right to decide what is best for their own property. Enjoy your coffee and your views!

  8. Katie Favinger Manes says

    I’d like to offer a different perspective.
    Quite possibly the people across the way enjoy making their property look clean and tidy. They may find their relaxation in a landscaping job well done. There are people who don’t find lawn maintenance a chore, but a way to get exercise, de-stress, and to take pride in what they have.

    In addition, I’d like to note that hand raking isn’t always possible, especially if you have a large property like the ones on the water tend to be. If you have a long driveway to get to your home, it would be unreasonable to sweep it making a leaf blower the most practical option.
    Another consideration is that the morning hours tend to be cooler, an ideal time to work outside. Between the blazing sun and the typical Eastern Shore humidity, outside work mid-day can be miserable.

  9. Walda DuPriest-Brandt says

    I agree with your suggestions. Living in town, we hear a symphony of leaf blowers from morning to late afternoon. It seems that each worker spends an excess amount of time to complete the task. While in sympathy with the workers, improving the quality of the way we do the work is not beyond reach. The consumer could help absorb the cost to help contractors switch to more environmentally friendly methods. The worst of it is surely the adverse health effects on the workers who carry these vibrating, gasoline blowers.

  10. Rob Coughlin says

    Well said. And we got by for thousands of years without the din of leaf blowers. At least on Saturday mornings

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