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.