Photo credit: Rob Howard licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

by Arnold Gordon, PhD

Gas-powered leaf blowers cause many problems. They are noisy, pollute the air with carcinogens, aerosolized particulate matter and greenhouse gases, and disturb the natural leaf litter layer that protects the ground.

As far back as 1993, environmental activists urged the Town of Greenwich to impose a ban on the use of gas-powered leaf blowers. In 2011, a new group, Citizens Against Leaf Blower Mania, urged town selectmen to impose a spring-to-fall ban on noisy leaf blowers without success. The current ordinance in Greenwich is the following:

No person shall operate or permit the operation of any gasoline-powered leaf blower between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. Monday through Friday and between 3:00 p.m. and 9:00 a.m. Saturday, Sunday and Holidays. Commercial and/or residential property parcels of one-quarter (1/4) acre or less may only be serviced by one (1) gasoline-powered leaf blower at any given time. Premises located in the Town of Greenwich may only be serviced by one (1) gasoline-powered leaf blower, at any given time, from Memorial Day through Labor Day, inclusive.

Some of these restrictions are ignored especially on large properties. The town noise ordinance allows the use of the blowers every day of the year and enforcement means police must witness offenders using the equipment.

Recently, a new group was formed, Quiet Yards Greenwich, with the goal of finding a better balance between the needs of landscapers and the concerns of homeowners about the impacts of gas-powered leaf blowers on health, the environment and quality of life. The group has created a survey that aims to educate residents on the impacts of gas-powered leaf blowers and determine whether they would support limits on their use.

Quiet Yards Greenwich asks residents to contact local elected representatives and ask for restrictions on gas powered leaf blowers. They also offer some tips for homeowners:

Ask gardeners to mulch leaves by running a mower over them and leave them in place to fertilize your topsoil. Use excess mulched leaves to start a compost pile, mulch garden beds and shrubs, or rake them into the woods. If leaf blowers must be used, switch to electric leaf blowers.

Arnold Gordon is a resident of Greenwich, Connecticut