Whats New

Added 9/2/99:

Leaf Blower Facts: "Leaf Blowers and Health: Letter to California Air Resources Board"

Added 7/23/98:

Leaf Blower Facts: "Are Blowers Really More Efficient?" and "Blowers Are Bad For Gardens; One Professional's Opinion"

Action Steps and Networking: Another "Quieter Gardener" for our list.

Other Cities: 'California Citizens' Groups Supporting Blower Bans

Leaf Blower Facts: "Are Blowers Really More Efficient?" & "Grandmother Proves Rake and Broom as Fast as Leaf Blowers"

Grandmother Proves Rake and Broom as Fast as Leaf Blowers
(January 8, 1998 press release from Zero Air Pollution, Los Angeles)

In fighting the ban on gas powered leaf blowers gardeners have argued that it would take them twice as long to do jobs if they had to use rakes and brooms. But Diane Wolfberg, a Palisadian grandmother in her late 50s, proved them wrong in tests conducted by the Department of Water & Power Leafblower Task Force last Thursday.

In three tests involving gas powered leaf blowers and battery powered leaf blowers, Diane cleaned the areas using rakes or brooms faster than any of the battery powered blowers and almost as fast as the gas powered leaf blowers and she did a better job in cleaning up the areas.

The Task Force, formed at the direction of the Los Angeles City Council, is composed of two representatives from the gardeners' associations and one representative each from the landscape contractors association, the dealers, DWP, the Department of Parks and Recreation, General Services, the City Council, and the homeowners. It is evaluating electrical alternatives to the gas powered leaf blowers. When it was proposed that the electrical equipment be tested against gas powered leaf blowers which would be the baseline for comparison, the homeowner representative, Jack Allen, also of the Palisades, suggested that rakes and brooms be included in the comparison.

Wolfberg, who like Allen, is a member of Zero Air Pollution (ZAP), volunteered. In the first test, which required each participant to clean a pebbled cement patio area approximately 100 square feet in size with eight chairs placed on the patio, diminutive Wolfberg cleaned the area in two minutes and 30 seconds. The gas powered leaf blower operated by a large, well muscled gardener cleaned the area in two minutes but like all the leaf blowers, did not clean the area of small nuts or leaf stems, something Wolfberg was able to do.

In a second test involving the moving of paper cups and wadded paper down a 50 foot slope and back up again, she was as fast as the gas powered leaf blower and faster than the electric blowers. In the third test, requiring the cleaning of a heavy bed of pine needles and dirt down a thirty foot concrete ramp, she was the fastest and the cleanest. The leaf blowers all sent columns of damp dirt flying into the air as much as five or six feet.

Wolfberg's performance did not impress the gardeners but did impress others who had been convinced that using rakes and brooms was not feasible. The representative from DWP told Wolfberg that she had won him over.

City of Claremont Agenda Report
Prohibition of Leaf Blowers in City Owned and Maintained Property
(excerpt from report dated October 30, 1990)

Following Community Services Commission review in July of this year, staff decided to no longer use leaf blowers in the maintenance of city property. The city's leaf blower ban has added approximately one hour per day of work for each of the two tree crews. There are two people on each crew so we have added about 1/16 of a person in terms of work load. However, the grounds crews have been using a sidewalk vacuum in lieu of a leaf blower and have discovered they are actually saving an hour per day per crew. There are two crews with a total of six people so the city is saving almost 1/5 of a person in terms of workload.

Staff took a noise reading on a vacuum at 50 feet and it read 69 decibels. While this is significantly less than the 73-83 db readings on gas blowers, it is slightly more than the 65-68 db readings on electrical blowers. The vacuum noise is not nearly as annoying as the whining noise of a gas blower. The vacuum is successful in achieving a reduction in dust pollution.

Blowers Are Bad For Gardens: One Professional's Opinion
Note: The statements below are taken from Steve Zien's letter to local Assembly members opposing SB 14, the bill that would prohibit California cities from banning blowers. Zien owns and operates Living Resources Company, an organic landscape management service. In addition, he is Executive Director of Biological Urban Gardening Services (BUGS), an international membership organization of primarily professional landscapers. Zien can be reached at (916) 726-5377.

BUGS has opposed the use of leaf blowers for many years for a variety of easons. There are many hidden costs when utilizing blowers regularly.

Wind speeds in excess of 180 mph are currently blasting landscapes throughout California. Leaves are ripped from branches, new growth and developing flowers are damaged and precious topsoil is blown away. Nurseries and Extension Agents are receiving more plant samples from gardeners indicating a tornado or hurricane devastated their landscape plants. In most instances the winds are unnatural in origin. Leaf blowers are producing wind speeds with greater force than a hurricane. They are having devastating effects.

Blower winds stress plants causing dehydration, burned leaves, and the suspension of photosynthesis and other natural plant functions. Overall growth is slowed. Natural openings in the leaves that allow for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide are sealed shut. Disease spores laying dormant on the soil or fallen debris are blown back onto plants where a little moisture can renew their cycle of infestation and damage. The severity of damage corresponds to the training of leaf blower operators. Blowers effectively distribute disease spores, weed seeds and insect eggs throughout the landscape (as well as to neighboring landscapes). Blowers create a disposal problem for many landscape managers gathering up a tremendous amount of organic debris. Instead of utilizing it appropriately on site it is generally hauled away for disposal. Most landscapers currently do not have a composting program to utilize this material. Most of this organic material ends up in sanitary landfill sites which are being rapidly filled to capacity. Many communities are passing regulations limiting the disposal of landscape wastes in landfills.

A common practice by professional landscapers is to simply blow plant debris off the property and into the street. Vehicular traffic then blows this material on neighboring landscapes or back onto the freshly blown site. Material is rarely moved into a pile where it can be collected and taken to a compost pile for proper recycling.

Another hidden cost of leaf blowers is that they deprive flowers, shrubs, and trees of life-giving mulch. Without this natural blanket, erosion, water evaporation and the spread of disease all become problems. Mulch, when not blown away, creates a favorable growing environment for plants and beneficial organisms both above and below ground while adding nutrients to the plants root zone. When mulch is removed to the compost and renewed annually many soil borne diseases are kept to a minimum.

Blowers use nonrenewable fossil fuels while creating air pollution. This is a serious problem in the Sacramento area.

Perhaps the major complaint most professional landscapers receive about the use of blowers is noise pollution. This is a serious problem that has resulted in local ordinances regulating the use of power blowers. Clients, their neighbors and the operator are all impacted by the howl.

This paints a bleak picture for the power blower. It is perhaps the most over and inappropriately used landscape tool. Autumn's tremendous amounts of organic debris that requires collection might be considered appropriate use of this tool. However, the weekly routine of blowing abuses the soil and damages landscape plants while the noise generated creates ill will from neighbors and clients alike. Leaf rakes deserve a renewed interest in the maintenance of landscapes.

The landscape maintenance industry should join BUGS and take a positive approach to blower bans. Old fashioned leaf raking can be a renewed service that their business could provide. It could be used as a selling point--no noise and environmentally sound too! Approach it right and they could charge the client an appropriate fee for this service, especially if blowers are banned. This could even become a major selling point for some companies. It could lead to business growth and the hiring of more personnel to meet the demand. Environmentally sound landscapers should be able to turn this kind of legislation into a positive for their businesses, making it work to their benefit.

Living Resources Company--Owned and operated by Steve Zien - Organic landscape management services including soil analysis, custom organic fertilizer formulation and application, organic pest management, aeration, consultation, and more (no mowing) - (916) 726-5377 - Never uses leaf blowers or toxic chemical pesticides.

California Citizens' Groups Supporting Blower Bans
(alphabetical by city)

Laguna Beach - Laguna North Neighborhood Association
P.O. Box 292
Laguna Beach, CA 92652
e-mail: jhegly@aol.com

Long Beach - Residents for Less Pollution
Los Altos - Blowers Annoy Neighbors (BAN)
Contact Myra Orta ate-mail: meemaa@aol.com

ZAP - Zero Air Pollution (Los Angeles Chapter)
P.O. Box 3441
Santa Monica, CA 90408

ZAP - Zero Air Pollution (Manhattan Beach Chapter)
web site: http://www.nonoise.org/quietnet/zap/index.htm

Menlo Park - Citizens Against Leafblowers in Menlo (CALM)

Mountain View - Blowers Out Of Town (BOOT)

Palo Alto - Magic
P.O. Box 5894
Stanford, CA 94309
e-mail: magic@ecomagic.org

Piedmont - Peace In Our Town

Santa Barbara - Ban Leafblowers And Save our Town (BLAST)
P.O. Box 55
Santa Barbara, CA 93102
web site: http://www.nonoise.org/resource/activist/blast/blast.htm

Walnut Creek - Walnut Creek Citizens Against Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers
web site: http://www.radiocamp.com/leaf/
e-mail: leaf@radiocamp.com

Note: This list will be updated as information is available. If no contact is listed, you cane-mail jvkelts@ns.net and ask to have a message forwarded to a particular group.

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