Remembering Summer

Ditch the gas powered yard tools to save silence and the environment

By Brenda Kame’enui

Remember when summer

Was sunshine and crickets?

Kids in the street

And fences in pickets?

Today many days

Are powered by tools

We’d rather be lounging

With picnics at pools.

Hackers and whackers

And trimmers and mowers

Loudest of all

Are gas-powered blowers.

They blow blades of grass,

A handful of leaves,

A big cloud of dust

Like you wouldn’t believe.

In an hour, it’s back,

The dust and the leaves

That need nothing more

Than the tiniest breeze.

Thirty minutes of blowing

Is worse than a truck

Monoxide and benzene

From dawn until dusk.

Exhaust that comes out

From the tank and the tube

Is bad for your neighbor

And so bad for you. 

Summer’s upon us

The best season of all

Blue skies and a breeze

Perfection til fall.

Can we think of a way

To get the job done?

If you need it, electric,

But a broom is more fun!

The gas-powered leaf blower spews hazardous levels of carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, hydrocarbons and other cancer-causing contaminants into our summer air. The toxic emissions come in large quantities and are dangerous to anyone who breathes. The gas blower is the biggest hazard to the user, who is just inches away from unfiltered exhaust and extreme noise. Several cities restrict or ban the gas-powered blower.

Sources from Washington University in St. Louis, to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decry the hazards of gas blowers. One hour of the best-selling commercial leaf blower emits as much smog-forming pollution as driving a 2016 Toyota Camry 1,100 miles, according to CalEPA. Leaf blowers, lawn mowers and other non vehicular engines are not regulated as car and truck engines are, and predictions suggest smog from these popular lawn tools with two-stroke engines will eclipse vehicle smog emissions within a couple years. 

Leaf blowers push up to 700 cubic feet of air per minute at up to 200 mph, stirring up fine-particle hurricanes that include pollen, mold, animal feces, heavy metals, herbicides and pesticides, causing damage to the respiratory system. Where does the dust go that the landscaper blows off a driveway and across the street? The homeowner’s dust is now everyone’s dust. It’s like someone smoking in your kitchen, and you can’t get away.

Gas blower noise is so loud it jars the mind and makes your teeth rattle, launching you in search of quiet that can’t be found. The noise is not only obnoxious, but it’s also harmful to our health and a quick cause of hearing loss to users. Blower noise can be heard five blocks away, even farther when it carries across a canyon. Blowers tend to ruin a summer evening. Or morning. 

In my neighborhood, four gas-powered tools fire up at 7:30 am on Tuesday. Another four at 6:30 pm on Wednesday. Four houses away, a team comes every Friday morning, another up the hill Friday afternoon, and another, long and loud, comes four houses the other direction on random days. By February, the landscape service, in search of a good reason for the weekly visit, continues to fire up two gas blowers — one to blow a leaf up the driveway and one to blow water down. Thirty minutes later, blowers and mowers pack up and drive away. Sixty minutes later, the wind picks up and returns the leaf to the driveway. Next morning, a gentle rain leaves more water.

Homeowners believe the landscaper insists upon a gas blower, mower or weed whacker. The landscaper believes the homeowner insists upon the same. Maybe not. Maybe an alternative is possible.

Many city dwellers have tiny yards, with an occasional need for heavy-duty tools. What did we do before the advent of noise- and air-polluting blowers and whackers?  We hired three strong men to help maintain the yard. Today, three strong men or women could be as speedy with a rake, broom or push mower as they were in 1980. 

Remember the sweet sounds of summer? Blue skies and clean air? A powered-up blowing blower takes up airspace and absorbs the sweet sounds. We all share the same space — can we consider alternatives? Eugene’s ambitious Climate Action Plan seeks to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and create livable neighborhoods. Gas-powered tool limits — one way to improve the quality of life we seek.

Brenda Kame’enui is a retired reading teacher with Sisters in Search of Silent Summer (SISSS).

Comments are closed.