Advocating Leaf-Blower Free Days

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We live in the land of leaf blowers. Our neighborhood is filled with trees of all varieties. That is a large part of its charm. My neighbor at the top of the hill showed up at the gym a few days ago: “Have you seen my maple tree? The leaves are stunning.”

Indeed, I had noticed his maple tree. It is hard to miss on the daily walk. Its leaves have turned brilliant crimson, the color amplified when the sun is low on the horizon and shining through them. Walking this time of year is a blessing, with such an array of colors. I also love sitting on the back deck in late afternoon, reading a book and watching leaves descend like rain, a reminder that winter — whatever that might mean, since we rarely had cold weather the past few years — is fast approaching.

Soon the trees will be bare, usually around Christmas. Until then, the neighborhood will reverberate with the sound of leaf blowers, as yard crews descend each week to blow, mulch and bag leaves. At some homes, the crews arrive up to three times a week, the owners apparently opposed to a carpet of leaves on the ground for more than 48 hours. It is a rare daylight moment where a blower is not being used somewhere within earshot. The other day, I counted a half-dozen blowers going at the same time within a few blocks of our house. I gave up trying to listen to “All Things Considered” outside on my phone.

I am not complaining, since I risk being accused of living in a glass house and chunking rocks. Two guys arrive every Friday during autumn and clean our yard, the dad shouldering a backpack blower, his teen-age son bagging the leaves. And I own a blower I use regularly between their visits and throughout the rest of the year, when I handle yard duties. The first year we lived here, I raked and bagged leaves. What would take me four-to-five hours, sometimes more, these two accomplish in an hour at most, for a modest amount of cash. I truly don’t know how they can do this so quickly, but it is certainly money well spent.

The challenge is that there appears to be about a dozen lawn-care services working in our neighborhood, so they arrive at different times of the day, and on different days. It is rarely truly quiet in this neighborhood except before dawn and after sunset. And usually on Sunday, but not always. I have been guilty of using a blower on Sunday, though rarely.

It is not hard to find websites devoted to the evils of leaf blowing. One site’s writer complained, “Blasting out air at hurricane-force speeds, leaf blowers disperse allergens, toxins, pollutants and pathogens into the air.” I do not dispute that point, but the risk seems greatest to the lawn crew fellows, not the public at large. Most wisely wear bandanas and ear protection.

Leaf blowers are here to stay. Cleaning my yard alone without a blower would turn into a full-time job. Mulching is not an option when you have roughly 75 trees on the property. I nearly fell into the covered swimming pool the other day because I could not see where the sidewalk was for all the leaves — three days after the yard guys had cleaned up.

My modest proposal is the neighborhood should designate blower-free days, say Saturday through Wednesday. Most folks seem to prefer to have their yard clean for the weekend, so this should not be an undue hardship. I have no idea how this would be enforced. I came up with the idea. Somebody else can handle the fine print. Having blower-free days would allow us to actually hear the birds chirping, the squirrels gathering acorns, the rustle of the leaves skittering across the pavement.

We hope our next home will be out in the country, though not too far out. Ideally, it will have trees in a forest setting, where there is no reason to rake or blow. The leaves can just decay naturally.

If that occurs, I will have a used blower for sale.

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