Let the leaves fall where they may.
If you insist on cleaning them up, consider a rake. Or, if you absolutely need a leaf blower, try to use electric. The breakdown of leaves are important for the earth, and the use of machines to clear them out is a double-edged sword for the planet.
This is the philosophy behind a proposed study that Oak Bay Coun. Tara Ney has drafted for Oak Bay staff to ban leaf blowers. Council approved the initial motion at the Oct. 19 committee of the whole, which referred it to an upcoming council meeting.
“This directive is trying to signal that leaf blowers are more than just a public nuisance, they do both public and planetary harm, we’re trying to encourage people to consider alternatives,” Ney said.
The situation is exacerbated by the coronavirus and the shift to more residents working from home, Ney added.
The motion is inspired by the pushback from local citizens to the ongoing noise created specifically by gas-powered leaf blowers. The crux of the motion is for staff to prepare a report on how Oak Bay can phase out the use of gas-powered leaf blowers by municipal staff and for residential use, meaning the landscaping industry would be forced to rake or possibly use electric leaf blowers.
However, Ney is considering adding a ban on all gas-powered lawn equipment, which could change how council sees the motion, she said. Regardless, there is a regional movement growing to ban the use of leaf blowers particularly.
One of the biggest complaints about gas-powered leaf blowers is the irritating whine sound, a consistent complaint by residents to Oak Bay. Vancouver outright banned leaf blowers (of any type) on Sundays and in the West End neighbourhood, and also restricted their use to daytime hours. Coastal cities Portland, Ore., and Santa Monica, Calif., also have bans in place.
In Saanich, former councillor candidate Teale Phelps Bondaroff plans to bring his anti-leaf blower petition back to council that he first presented last year.
It’s not a new topic. Oak Bay’s Environmental Advisory Committee brought concerns to council in 2014.
Ney referenced studies that show the noise from an electric leaf blower is reduced 40 to 80 per cent compared to a gas-powered, let alone the reduction in emissions. Ultimately, though, the push is to convince people that if they insist on manicuring the lawn and garden by removing leaves they should prioritize rakes.
Blowers not only remove leaves that would mulch and break down into the soil but also blow away the top layer of soil and insects that are crucial, Ney said.
“Leaf blowers are ripping up the bio derm. We know the health effects of the GHGs, and the noise, but I also say to people if you care about your health, your neighbour’s health, and if you care about the steep decline of biodiversity that’s happened on the earth in our lifetime, then we need to rethink how we care for our gardens.”