I’ve been literally choking this one down for years, but what I saw this morning was the final straw.
I was passing through a park on the way to the neighborhood coffee shop when I saw a worker using a leaf blower right next to the little playground where three toddlers were playing under the supervision of their grandparents. The worker, to his credit, was trying to be somewhat considerate by using the leaf blower on it’s lowest setting, but it was still raising a cloud of dust less than 20 feet from the family.
Besides the noise pollution that leaf blowers cause, these dust clouds are terrible for the health of both small children and the elderly. Asthma and allergies have gotten out of control – especially among kids, and one of the biggest reasons is what’s called “particulate matter.”
Particulate matter comes from many sources, but stirring up huge amounts of dust in residential neighborhoods has just got to be among the biggest contributors.
Now before anyone gets all huffy, yes, I see the worker’s perspective. He has a job to do and probably a time limit. But in this and so many instances I have witnessed, including at a number of apartment complexes I’ve lived in, the leaf blowing accomplishes nothing of any real value. At least half the time (from what I’ve seen) these guys are just trying to look busy – blowing a few little leaves off the walkway or, worse yet, out from in between the plants in the dirt (!) to the sides of the walkway.
But it’s worse than looking busy, worse than accomplishing nothing – they are doing harm. As if we didn’t have enough particulate matter floating around in our air, the leaf blowers re-animate what has mercifully fallen to the ground.
Another thing that bugs me about leaf blowers is that they represent one of the things I hate most – shamelessly giving your problems to someone else. When you blow leaves and dirt up into the air so that your little princess of a driveway can look spotless, you are only giving those leaves and that dirt to your neighbors. This is essentially equivalent to dumping your used oil into the nearby creek. They dump for free, and it’s someone else’s problem now.
So what crazy, science fiction, futuristic solution do I have in mind? What terribly socialistic alteration to our perfect capitalist culture? Here it is:
Beautiful, isn’t it? So sleek and aerodynamic. Brooms raise a little dust, sure. But mainly, they push the dirt into a little pile that you can pick up with a dustpan and put into the garbage. And this fantastic invention has a cousin, the push broom.
Then there’s another great piece of modern technology – the rake:
As you can see, the rake is much more efficient that the leaf blower. And you get some free exercise, too!
I ask one favor from each of you: The next time you, your yard-maintenance workers, or anyone in your family uses a leaf blower, pay attention to what you are really accomplishing that couldn’t be done just as well or better with a broom or a rake. Pay attention to the dust cloud that is raised and think about where that dust ends up. Think about the wasted fossil-fuel energy and the pollution just from the exhaust. Then ask yourself: Is this really necessary? Are the benefits higher than the costs?
Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.
Tom also posts on thrustblog.blogspot.com