You couldn’t not think about the climate crisis in early June as a haze and odor of burning wood from wildfires in Canada blanketed Connecticut. Getting air quality alerts and hearing that smoke from the fires was elevating fine particle pollution that could impact our lungs and heart, cause breathing problems and aggravate asthma, was alarming.
Not to mention you can’t pick up a newspaper without seeing headlines about unprecedented heat waves, extreme flooding and other results of a planet on the brink. Two months of rain just fell in only two days in Vermont.
The good news is you can help combat the climate crisis by simply reducing your carbon footprint. And that’s empowering.
So, if the machines you use in your yard are burning fossil fuels, it’s time to consider replacing them with electric versions. Lawn care shouldn’t pollute the air or contribute to warming the Earth.
That’s why Friends of Animals will be asking the Norwalk Common Council Ordinance Committee to pass a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers and to make it effective in a year at a July 18 public hearing.
We don’t have time for a 4- and 5-year phase out as proposed. It’s outrageous to let an angry mob of commercial landscapers decide whether our communities must breathe in pollutants and dust, putting human and non-human animals at risk.
Communities across the nation are moving to either restrict gas-powered leaf blowers and encourage the switch to electric or to ban gas-powered blowers outright. More than 100 cities and towns have already put a gas-powered leaf blower ban in place.
Research has shown gas-powered leaf blowers emit 23 times more carbon monoxide and 300 times more non-methane hydrocarbons than a typical older model car. Because the combustion process of the two-stroke engine, which burns gasoline and oil, is so inefficient and without the pollution controls used on cars such as catalytic converters, more than 30 percent of that fuel is released unburnt as an aerosol of toxic fumes.
A 2011 study by Edmunds’ InsideLine.com showed 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 Ford-150 SVT Raptor pickup truck.
Let that sink in.
There is also risk from the dust the two-stroke engines stir up—pollen, mold, animal feces, chemicals from herbicides and pesticides, and road dust laden with toxic particles from rubber tires. This means an increased risk of asthma, lung cancer and cardiovascular disease.
In terms of noise, for workers who use their machines for hours every day, the risks can be dangerous. The most powerful gas-powered leaf blowers can produce air that exceeds 200 mph and sounds as high as 112 decibels. Exposure to sounds over 110 decibels can cause permanent hearing loss in just one minute, reports the Total Hearing Care website.
The good news is many electric leaf blowers now offer power on a par with gas models, advises Consumer Reports. But they are quieter and greener. Current models last only an hour or so before needing a recharge. The solution, especially for commercial landscapers, is to simply have more batteries on hand, just as the tank of a two-stroke blower using a gas-oil mix needs frequent refilling.
As an international organization that puts wildlife and critical habitat at the core of our mission, we’d be remiss not to mention the damage all leaf blowers can do in terms of biodiversity. They blow away all the life in your lawn.
For example, before fireflies delight us with their own fireworks display, these cherished light-emitting beetles go through a four-stage metamorphosis. Females lay their eggs in damp soil under leaves. The larva live in the soil eating snails, slugs, worms and other insects, a stage that can last up to two years.
It’s just one good reason to ditch a leaf blower. If you don’t, you’re destroying precious firefly habitat—some species are already threatened with extinction.
Another reason to leave leaf litter under trees—caterpillars will fall onto a habitat more hospitable to their reproduction. More than 90% of caterpillars who develop on trees drop to the ground and pupate in the surface litter on the ground or within chambers they form underground. If you love birds, caterpillars are critical food for them.
By the way, you can also shred leaves with an electric leaf mulcher/mower and use them in flower beds, to provide protective coatings for plants and roots over the winter, and even help with weed control.
We should be doing everything in our power—in our own backyards and communities—to protect the planet, and all the creatures who call it home, including ourselves.