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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Of Burn Bans and Leaf Blowers

posted by on December 11 at 9:35 AM

If the air quality is so bad that we can’t use our fireplaces, should the city really be sending out folks with leaf blowers to—no shit—blow the leaves off the bushes in Cal Anderson park for this third time in a week? If we can’t muster up the nerve to do the little things—get rid of leaf blowers, ban or require deposits on plastic grocery bags—let’s stop pretending that we’re going to do anything about the big things like, oh, seriously reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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Someone once told me that leaf blowers are a wonderfully efficient way of turning fallen leaves into Someone Else's Problem. In light of that, how could we think of banning them?

Posted by Greg | December 11, 2007 9:43 AM

Also, burn ban or no burn ban, I'm going to use my (hypothetical) wood stove if the power goes out.

Posted by Greg | December 11, 2007 9:45 AM

Aren't grocery bags just a cosmetic thing? In fact, they tie up the CO2 so it doesn't get into the atmosphere. A good thing, right?

Posted by Slim | December 11, 2007 9:46 AM

Why aren't they using plug-in electric leafblowers like other Greener cities?

Or ... maybe the Public Intern could rake up a few giant bags (like the ones you get at Home Depot or Fred Meyer) of leaves and dump them on the front steps of City Hall?

Sounds fair to me.

Posted by Will in Seattle | December 11, 2007 9:50 AM

Use a rake.
It's a zen experience.

Posted by Johnny Rigor | December 11, 2007 9:54 AM

Yeah, why do they use those damn two-stroke leaf blowers? They're like the worst air and noise pollution ever, and they aren't necessary. I'd like to know the answer, why do they still use them in Seattle? I wish I was an Editor with reporters working for me. I'd send one of my reporters to ask the damn Mayor what's up with that.

That's what I'd do.

Posted by elenchos | December 11, 2007 10:01 AM

I know that leaf blowers are a source of air and noise pollution and the scourge of city dwellers everywhere, but I am not sure there is alternative and equally efficient way round up and dispose of the leaves in our city parks. It is easy for a homeowner to rake up leaves in the back yard every few weeks, but to do this in a place like Cal Anderson Park is another thing entirely. You could cut all the trees down, of course, but that would please no one.

Posted by Jim Demetre | December 11, 2007 10:09 AM

@4: The answer isn't a better leaf blower. The answer is a Goddamn rake.

Posted by Greg | December 11, 2007 10:09 AM

If your power goes out, burning in your hypothetical woodstove is legal because it's your only source of heat.

Posted by pox | December 11, 2007 10:17 AM

Three observations:

1) My guess is that very few of you have ever used leaf blowers. As a lawn-maintenance veteran from my college summers, I can tell you they are ENORMOUS labor savers when used properly. Yes, you can just blow it somewhere else. You can also blow crap into nice piles which are fast to rake up. They also perform beautifully to remove dead leaves from awkward nooks and crannies (like between closely-planted prickly shrubs). They probably save labor by like a factor of ten. We do plenty of stuff that is bad for the environment to save time and labor costs - this is just one more.

2) Since moving to Seattle from Spokane, I've met quite a few folks who have never engaged in manual labor. Seriously. These folks are pretty quick to stand around with their arms folded saying "well why don't they do it *that* way??". Trust me, hard-working people have thought pretty hard about it already. We don't need limp-wristed NIMBY whiners to help us out, unless you wanna grab a rake yourself!

3) It's sort of ironic for Dan Savage to complain out loud nuisances in Seattle, no? J/k, I actually love Dan, just had to throw that in there.

Posted by BobHall | December 11, 2007 10:20 AM

Fucking noisy pieces of shit, too. Always sound like they're standing right outside the goddamn window! We hates them!

Posted by MvB | December 11, 2007 10:30 AM

#10: A ban would only be on gas powered leaf blowers. Electric leaf blowers work just as well, they're just more expensive (or need a cord).

This isn't a new thing. Los Angeles has banned gas powered leaf blowers since 1998. Vancouver has a gas leaf blower ban too.

Posted by jamier | December 11, 2007 10:34 AM

I love how this reminds me of my favorite absurdist reality scene from Las Vegas.

I'm driving somewhere to run an errand, and a street sweeper's rolling slowly along a curb, blowing dirt and dust and crap onto the adjacent sidewalk. As I'm driving back, I see a guy with a gas-powered leaf blower blowing the debris back onto the street.

Maybe you should take your concerns directly to the Mayor, Dan: Shoot the fat bastard an e-mail. Eliminating the things would be the perfect sort of empty gesture that would allow him to thump his flabby titties with pride and boast about how he's the Green Mayor.

And you wouldn't have to watch the futile things spew exhaust in your nearby park anymore.

Posted by Gomez | December 11, 2007 10:46 AM

Why pick up leaves? Why not let them rot where they are? So your green grass wouldn't be as green. So what? So people would have to bike/drive more slowly. So what? The only reasons I can see for picking them up are
A) when they are in a pile they are fun to jump in.

B) the leaves could be composted and used where the compost is needed, for example, in public gardens.

Posted by Devils advocate | December 11, 2007 11:00 AM


I only very rarely see leaf blower operators actually pick up leaves. Instead, they blow leaves into the street where (surprise!) traffic blows the leaves right back onto the sidewalk.

Besides, the end result of banning leaf blowers is that gardeners will just have to charge more for their services, oh, and they'll no longer be able to do a half-assed job of blowing leaves into the street or someone else's yard.

Posted by keshmeshi | December 11, 2007 11:06 AM

Do everything and stop letting the government be so governmental:

1. get electric blowers. or rent them.
2. use more rakes -- hiring people is good -- at Home Depot se puede encontrar jornaleros para $12 an hour.
3. Put out the call to the neighborhood:
--we need volunteer leaf rakers every Sat, Sun and Weds pm.
--we'll have supervised leaf jumping for kids (unsupervised jumping on streets where drivers can run over a kid inside a leaf pile=bad).
--Vivace can sell or donate hot cider. You can spike it!
--Ask mulch moochers to come and mooch our leaves. Like the zoo doo thing.

The gas blowers are a capital cost that sits in storage, requires maintenance, requires oil from bad countries, then they wear out and end up in a landfill. Yes ban them, ban plastic bags like the UK is consdiering, and until we do -- stop thinking Seattle is so damn green.

Posted by unPC | December 11, 2007 11:08 AM

@14: There are more than aesthetic concerns at work, here. Left to their own devices, leaves flow into storm drains and clog them. Then whole neighborhoods float away. You may have noticed this happening last week.

Posted by Orv | December 11, 2007 11:17 AM


Obviously no member of my class has any experience "blowing leaves", as it were, with a leaf blower. Nor any other form of manual labor. The Calvinist conceit that toil is morally uplifting is, well, quaint and rather charming. But only to a point, and we shouldn't get carried away.

I'm hardly going to shirk my duty as a leader of opinion merely because I don't get my hands dirty, nor am I going to go get my hands dirty in some bourgeoisie pantomime to empathize with the common people. I do my part, and the workers do theirs. You mechanicals most assuredly do need my limp-wristed direction, lest you get yourself into serious trouble. By definition, you don't know it, and that's what I'm here for.

Good day sir.

Posted by elenchos | December 11, 2007 11:46 AM

10. There are electric leaf blowers, Bob. The issue here is the needless usage of gas and spewing of exhaust.

Posted by Gomez | December 11, 2007 11:58 AM

@17 - which is why i said dump the leaves on city hall's front doorstep.

Or even the Mayor's front lawn.

Look, there are electric leaf blowers - and our electricity is mostly renewable energy anyway. Gas leaf blowers create a lot of unburned gas emissions which contribute to global warming.

If you wanted to be nice about it, you could get one of those Compost Bins from the city, fill it with leaves from the park, and place it on the front steps of City Hall.

And take video.

Posted by Will in Seattle | December 11, 2007 12:30 PM

I am still waiting for someone to answer me why the mayor after the storms last year said he would work to make Seattle prepared for the next big storm. WHICH we were not ready for a year later.

Kinda off topic but to say that the City is serious about greenhouse gases and dealing with the affects of global warming is really quite funny. Burn bans? Shit, at the rate the city deals with anything we should just make sure we have body bags available.

Posted by Just Me | December 11, 2007 12:32 PM

By the way, the burn ban has been lifted.

Posted by Greg Barnes | December 11, 2007 12:38 PM

@20: Unburned gas emissions contribute to photochemical smog, actually. It's the emissions that happen when gas *is* burned the contribute to global warming. Both are bad, but they're bad for different reasons.

@22: I was wondering if the high particulate levels had anything to do with that huge compost pile that caught fire down in Kent last week. The fire department gave up on trying to put it out. For a while it was like our own local version of the Springfield Tire Fire.

Posted by Orv | December 11, 2007 1:09 PM

Why not just mow over them and compost the resulting nutrient rich blend? Or mow over them and leave them where they lay so that the grass will be even greener?

Posted by Z girl | December 11, 2007 3:07 PM

21. Because that's why civic officials always say after big storms. It means about as much as, "I had salmon for dinner last night." Of course they didn't do anything to prepare for the next storm and of course it did as much damage.

Though, granted, most of the carnage was outside Seattle city limits, so Nickels and the City couldn't have helped what happened there.

Posted by Gomez | December 11, 2007 3:30 PM

Oh my gawd, I so totally don't care.

Posted by Boomer in NYC | December 11, 2007 6:00 PM

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