One of the pleasures of Sun City life has been starting many of our days with coffee and breakfast in our screened room, enjoying the serenity of watching nature in and around our backyard lagoon.
This tranquility is interrupted when our adjacent neighbors, one every Monday and the other each Wednesday, are visited by their landscapers, who invariably find the need to run their gasoline-powered leaf-blowers for at least 10 minutes.
This racket drives us indoors, which reduces the noise to a dull roar, but there’s no way to really escape it. We don’t have a problem with our neighbors or their landscapers, but with the equipment that is most often used.
While the noise is annoying for us, it can cause serious hearing issues, especially for the machine operators. An interesting article by James Fallow in the Atlantic includes a brief video describing the social-justice issues involved. An internet search for “The ‘Public Health Menace’ of Fall in America” will get you to the YouTube video.
Most gasoline-powered blowers have two-stroke engines and can expose users and others nearby to 112 decibels, which is more noise than that of an airplane taking off.
Unfortunately, noise isn’t the only health concern with these blowers. Two-stroke engines are extremely inefficient. They are fueled by mixing oil with gasoline and, when running, they burn only about two-thirds of the fuel. The rest is exhausted in a toxic, possibly carcinogenic, vapor.
When the machines leave the neighborhood, the fumes linger. The portion of the fuel that does burn causes pollution and adds to the carbon in our atmosphere. Fallow’s article suggests “running a leaf blower for 30 minutes creates more emissions than driving an F-150 pickup truck 3,800 miles.”
There are alternatives to these menacing machines. Not every leaf needs to be removed. There are ecological benefits to leaving them on the ground or composting or mulching them.
I doubt many will consider a rake. Probably the most acceptable alternative would be converting to battery-powered blowers, which are much quieter and have no exhaust.
The initial cost is comparable to gas blowers and operational cost is minimal. No gas can to haul or store in the garage. Instant starting and maintenance freedom are additional benefits. Electrics are generally lighter and easier to handle.
Is it time to discuss converting with your landscaper?
David W. Smith is a member of the Environmental Action Group of Sun City Hilton Head.