Leaf Blowers: Blows to Sanity

      In a town that is largely affluent, where sterile and perfect lawns and grounds are a powerful aspirational symbol, a small group of ban-the-blower advocates has sprung up, but it is fighting a Quixotic battle.

       One of the rules of civil behavior is that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you necessarily should; for us, leaf blowers fall into the realm of maybe not. Their use comes less from homeowners than from hired workers whose employers know the value of getting a job done as fast as possible, irritating those nearby, which can be considered collateral damage, as they race to the next lawn.

       Because a growing number of people work from home here, many on intellectual pursuits that demand quiet, there is likely to be a hidden economic cost in lost productivity as a result of the noise blowers make, not to overlook plain old sanity. In a place where deference is given too often to intrusive business over the interests of ordinary residents and taxpayers, there is little hope of a quick respite.

       This does not mean that those pressing for quieter seasons should give up. One small step would be to promote the use of leaves as mulches in garden beds and around delicate trees. Cities and towns everywhere, however, have either banned the blowers or strictly limited their maximum sound output. Gas-powered units are the main culprit; they tend to be excessively noisy and their exhaust, especially from the common two-cycle models, are a source of dusty allergens and carbon-based air pollution.

       A sample regulation could come from the City of Palo Alto, Calif., which allows gas blowers only in commercial areas within business hours, and limits their use in residential areas to those that are electric powered and only between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday; Sunday is a day of peace. The trick in Palo Alto and elsewhere is a speedy and meaningful response when complaints come in.

       The alternatives are hand rakes or, heaven forbid, a little tolerance of a few leaves here and there.