Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Blow to Hell

Last July I was complaining about the towns in western Massachusetts being overly zealous in their tendency to mow down all vegetation in vacant areas (“Mow to Hell”). Well, here in Arizona there is an equal disdain for “weeds” and other plants, but folks mostly take weed-whackers to them rather than running mowers over them. They clean up the debris with a truly evil machine, however: The leaf blower

It appears that leaf blowers are standard equipment for landscape companies here (along with electric hedge trimmers and chainsaws for the palm trees). When I was working I dreaded the day the landscaping crew came to do the annual clean-up. It was noisy, dusty, and left the little “garden” a wreck until it grew back. So much for the butterflies and bees for awhile.

Oh, I understand the use of forced air to herd leaves and errant pebbles and such. Using a hose to do that here is a much greater sin than assaulting our eardrums. Wasting water probably is an actual crime in Tucson. Nevertheless, those leaf blowers run on gasoline, so you could argue that they are at the least a waste of energy. Add the air pollution from their emissions, and the noise pollution they generate, and you really have to question whether this is the best way to do the job.

Now, let it not be said that Eric Eaton ever complains about such things without offering a solution, and I do have one in this case. You see, there is this very handy, portable, and efficient device called a BROOM! You’d think nobody here had ever heard of such a thing! I can personally attest to the wonders that a broom can do on sidewalks, driveways, and parking lots.

Oh, and for tougher surfaces, like lawns and flowerbeds, there is this other invention called (are you ready for this?) a RAKE. No kidding! A series of tines that deftly separate dead leaves from tender green grass. Imagine that! Wonders never cease.

The history of the invention of leaf blowers is a bit sketchy, with dates ranging from the late 1950s (Wikipedia) to the 1970s ( However, there is widespread agreement that shortly after they were made available to consumers, people wanted them banned. Carmel, California became the first city to ban leaf blowers, in 1975. Since then several other California municipalities have also banned the noisemakers.

I am not quite as amped-up in my plea for an end to leaf blowers as the gentleman who wrote the online essay ”Leaf Blowers Must Die, but I am quickly approaching that threshold. I think it comes down to that overarching category of Things We Can Do Without, especially given the alternatives available.


  1. OH, come on! You want people to actually do WORK? Raking and sweeping require genuine manual labor! It's the American Way to have a machine do all those mundane chores that would result in blisters! And besides, it's much more manly to sling on a gasoline powered engine and blast the leaves/rocks/dirt out of your way!


  2. Enjoyable post, Eric! Made me smile and laugh more than once. I certainly know what a broom and rake are, but sadly, many people probably do not. :-)

  3. Thanks for the laugh. I am trying to picture those, shirtless, muscle-bound, tan, sweaty men (around these parts anyway, and YES I am looking) wielding anything as unsexy or uncool as a broom. I love it!!!!
    We were given a leaf blower years ago as a gift and in all honesty it has never left the box....I resort to those ancient yet efficient tools...the broom and the rake. I have the calluses to prove it. I also wash my own dishwasher here.

    P.S. I also hang clothes outside on an equally handy device called a clothesline LOL

  4. Here in NorCal we're fighting the good fight too, Eric- we're at Great essay- keep on writing about the scourge of debris blowers. Thanks, Peter K