The Demise of Gas Powered Leaf Blowers
By Sarah Wilson
Gas powered leaf blowers (“GLBs”) are more detrimental to the environment than you would think and are responsible for an astounding amount of pollution. A 2011 study by Edmunds found that a two-stroke gasoline-powered leaf blower released more pollution than a 6,200-pound Ford F-150 SVT Raptor pickup truck. Jason Kavanagh, the engineering editor at Edmunds at the time, noted that “hydrocarbon emissions from a half-hour of yard work with the two-stroke leaf blower are about the same as a 3,900-mile drive from Texas to Alaska in a Raptor.” While car and truck emissions have been regulated and improved with pollution-removing equipment, garden equipment engine emissions have been unregulated since the 1990s.
Local laws to curb the use of leaf blowers are starting to appear, with temporary allowances for extreme weather events. Last October, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill banning gas-powered lawn equipment and generators starting in 2024. In September 2020, the Village of Larchmont unanimously passed a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers effective January 1, 2022, the first complete ban in the Northeast United States. In Bedford, Dobbs Ferry, Scarsdale and many other towns, GLBs are currently prohibited during the “off-season” and on certain days of the week.
New York State Senator Pete Harckham recently introduced new legislation (S.7462) that requires all in-state sales of new lawn care and landscaping equipment, such as mowers, leaf blowers and trimmers, be zero emissions by 2027. “As New York continues to advance the goals set in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, we need to do more to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels,” said Harckham. “Gas-powered landscaping devices create an inordinate amount of air pollutants, and so it is imperative that we transition to zero emission equipment.”
Added Harckham, “The environmental benefits of zero emission lawn devices are many, and as more communities in New York look to ban or partially ban gas-powered devices, the switch to electric equipment, which is certainly quieter to operate, will take place quickly statewide.” The bill specifies that with assistance from various state agencies, a plan will be put in place to ensure that a transition strategy is developed by February 2023. The agencies will analyze the issue of new equipment affordability as well to ensure that these zero-emission lawn care devices are affordable so individuals in low-income communities have access to such devices.
Prior to submitting the legislation, Harckham met with professional landscapers, who voiced concerns about recouping investments on recently purchased equipment. The five-year implementation to zero emissions in the bill takes this into consideration.
In the meantime what can you do to reduce emissions?
Rather than blowing your leaves, you can mow your fallen leaves. Leaves provide a protective and nutrient-rich mulch for your lawn. One cubic yard of mulch delivered to your home can cost $30, plus a delivery charge. Mulch in plastic bags is even more expensive. Leaf mulch is an inexpensive mulch that you already have available, which decomposes quickly into healthy soil.
Raking your leaves is a great workout and can be fun (kids love to jump in the leaf piles!) Once you’ve raked, be sure to compost your leaves over the winter. If you bag your leaves in paper bags, leave at the curb for pickup or bring directly to the Yorktown’s Organic Yard Waste Facility, where they will become mulch for others.
If you do blow your leaves, blow them right onto a tarp so you can transport the leaves without having to blow them all they way across your lawn. Your neighbor will appreciate the reduced noise.
When it’s time to replace your own lawn care equipment, go electric! If you use a lawn care professional, speak with him or her about going electric. If they can’t or won’t provide that service, do some research and consider switching to a contractor who does use electric equipment.
Lastly, contact Senator Harckham and let him know you support S.7462!