Leaf Blowers and The Environment

Are you aware of the link between leaf blowers and the environment? As you read this, are you listening to the sound of your neighbor’s leaf blower? Does it sound like a hoard of angry mosquitoes descending on your home? The noise pollution and environmental damage caused by leaf blowers is becoming a big concern for many environmentalists. 

Growing up in New England, Fall was always my favorite season. The brilliant reds and oranges of the maple leaves, the crisp, cool mornings, and the earthy smell of the air as the leaves started to drop to the ground. Then my dad would hand me a rake and tell me to go clean up the yard.

THAT part of Fall I could seriously have done without. I can not tell you how many garbage cans full of leaves I hauled out to the woods while I was growing up!

I swore that when I was older, I would buy a leaf blower and never haul away another leaf ever again. A leaf blower would have been the answer to my prayers when I was 13 but now I think if I hear that annoying buzz one more time I am going to go buy each one of my neighbors a rake!

And hey, the calories burned leaf blowing are a LOT smaller than if you grabbed a rake and did the job by hand!

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The Leaf Blower: A lazy person’s lawn manicure

I live in an average middle-class neighborhood in the burbs of Atlanta where apparently, the grass is supposed to be as clean as your living room carpet. Every single week a truck will pull up to my neighbor’s yard and out comes the mowers, trimmers, and edgers.

Hired help grabs a leaf blower and jug of fertilizer. These lawn service people spend hours at every single house in my neighborhood grooming, primping, and beautifying all the lawns so that not a single Fall leaf dares to decompose into the earth.

And did you ever notice that all those %^$*@ leaf blowers do is blow all the leaves into the middle of the road? Really? How is that helpful? All those lawn service people are doing is guaranteeing that you pay them to come back NEXT week when the wind blows those street leaves right back into your yard!

The Leaf Blower: A lazy person's lawn manicure

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How do leaf blowers damage the environment?

Think about This:  The wind that blows from the nozzle of a leaf blower comes out at speeds close to 180 mph. Wind that strong does not occur in nature unless you are standing in the middle of a tornado.

In addition, that 180MPH air is extremely hot and dry and you can pretty much guarantee that you are literally cooking your lawn.

While you are blowing this extremely hot, dry air at your grass to remove the offensive leaves from your lawn, you are also blowing away a significant amount of top soil, drying out all the plant roots, and killing all the beneficial bacteria that live on top of the soil.

Think of the devastation left behind by a tornado. Now consider that your leaf blower is a mini tornado swirling around your bushes. Devastation on a microscopic level. And if ONE of your plants happens to be sick? Maybe your roses have a fungal disease or your azaleas are harboring some nasty little aphid?

Well, you have now blown those diseases to all the neighboring plants with your leaf blower. WHY? All so you can have a lawn that looks perfectly groomed and a road covered in leaves.

Leave the Leaves for Better Soil Health

Know what does NOT happen to your lawn when you use your leaf blower to sterilize it? It does not get fertilized by naturally composted leaves. Nope, no natural fertilization for that sterile lawn from nature’s own leaves.

Instead, those same highly paid lawn service people will gladly come back (for a small fee!) and dump some nice chemicals on your lawn.

And seeing as you have now spread diseases all over half your landscaping, they will have to spray for assorted fungi and bugs while they’re at it. All because you are horrified at the mere concept of a stray leaf on your lawn. (Check out my post about preparing your lawn and garden for fall for some healthy lawn tips)

If you want to ditch the noisy, pollution-generating machines, read my post on how to leave the leaves and what to do with them when you can’t.

The Leaf Blower: A lazy person's lawn manicure

Leaf Blowers and Noise Pollution

I’m sure you have probably heard that distinctive and highly annoying BBBBUUUUUSZZZZZ on a Saturday morning, right? The lovely sound of your neighbor studiously removing every stray grass clipping or pine cone from his yard?

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that noise levels over 75 decibels can cause hearing loss and are harmful to human health. How loud is a leaf blower? At least 70-75 decibels at 50 feet away and higher at close range. Not to mention the noxious fumes from the exhaust they create! We can go deaf AND lose our hearing all at the same time. Oh, joy!

Leaf Blower Bans in Suburbia

What can you do? Many cities and towns around the country are beginning to see the damage that these leaf blowers can do to the environment.

Several areas have banned gasoline-powered leaf blowers completely. If you’d like to initiate a ban in your city, check out the report below for helpful facts about their health and environmental impacts:

A report to the California legislature on the potential health and environmental impacts of leaf blowers by the California Air Resources Board

As a kid I would have gladly tossed aside my rake in favor of a leaf blower. Why? Because I was lazy and just didn’t care.

That attitude is pretty much the reason why my entire neighborhood has a year-round lawn service. Me? I’ll be out there in the yard with the %&*$# rake. Because I DO care!

And maybe I even manage to lose a few pounds while I am at it! You burn 173 calories per hour raking leaves so ditch the leave blower and get your butt off the couch! Are you going to be a raker or a blower? 


7 thoughts on “Leaf Blowers and The Environment”

  1. I found this doing a search on how others are also annoyed by blower use, or more often misuse. I feel that this contraption has some good uses, but these days, they are used much too much, and on every surface in the landscape. I detest them more because of their misuse than for the noise they make.
    Lazy people today is an understatement, when they won’t use hand tools, or would rather pay some crew to do it for them.
    I rake and sweep my own garden, and I get stared at or laughed at by the neighbors. I just got the house painted and it was clean for about a week, before every flat surface had a coating of grit on it. It was as if I never had the painting done! I know that crud is in my lungs, I close the windows and stay inside till they leave, but I know its making my allergies worse.

    • I am glad you found my article engaging. It drives me nuts every day to see crews leaf blowing our neighborhood. They just blow the leaves from people’s yards into the street. Do they think those leaves are going to stay there when the wind blows? I really wish more people learned to appreciate a leafy yard!

  2. I am definitively a raker. Was also raised on the East Side but in Canada, so we have about the same climate and gorgeous colors in the Fall.

    I can’t stand when people blow their leaves in the street.


  3. It’s probably safe to say that leaf blowers that also work as vacuums have more merit, at least these don’t leave the mess behind, rather they actually collect it. I’d recommend an electric or cordless electric model too, gas powered blowers are simply unnecessary for the casual user.

    • We have an electric one that we use in the fall on our stone patio. with all the flower pots and chairs it is really hard to sweet and it is right under several trees. I agree that electric is much cleaner and quieter than gas!

  4. You’re so right Diane, it’s just moving the mess from one place to another. I recently got a garden vacuum which sucks up the leaves, shreds them and then collects it all in a bag. I think everyone needs one of these!


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