Opinion: To Protect Biodiversity, Eliminate All Leaf Blowers

Electric and battery-powered leaf blowers have a reduced impact on pollution and human health, but our lawn care practices continue to harm plant and animal habitats.

2 minute read

October 29, 2021, 10:30 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Dubbing them "mechanical locusts"––with apologies to locusts––that fill the air "with the stench of gasoline and death," Margaret Renkl argues for the abolition of gasoline-powered leafblowers, "the most maddening of all the maddening, environment-destroying tools of the American lawn-care industry."

With their outdated two-stroke engines, leaf blowers emit a massive amount of pollutants like carbon monoxide, smog-forming nitrous oxides, and carcinogenic hydrocarbons. "A 2011 study by Edmunds found that a two-stroke gasoline-powered leaf blower spewed out more pollution than a 6,200-pound Ford F-150 SVT Raptor pickup truck." Aside from pollutants, leaf blowers also emit noise "at levels that can cause tinnitus and hearing loss with long exposure," Renkl writes. 

"This month, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California signed a new law making his the first state with plans to ban gas-powered lawn equipment along with other machines, like generators and pressure washers, that use gasoline-powered engines." Around the country, more than 100 cities have passed their own regulations prohibiting gas-powered leaf blowers, and the market share for electric and battery-operated tools is growing rapidly. 

But even clean, quiet leaf blowers take a toll on biodiversity, says Renkl. "Leaf blowers, whether electric or gasoline-powered, dislodge the leaf litter that is so essential to insect life — the insect life that in turn is so essential to birds and other wildlife." To protect local ecosystems and biodiversity, Renkl notes, we should leave the leaves alone.

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