A Week In Life With Leaf Blowers
. . . At least 100 municipalities in California have restricted or banned the use of leaf blowers within city limits in response to people who object to the loud noise of leaf blowers interrupting their lives . . .
 California Environmental Protection Agency

Although at least 100 municipalities in California have restricted or banned leaf blowers, unfortunately, our municipality is not one of them, even though it's been voted the number three “green city” in the United States . . .

Your Home Office Environment

The cartoon above illustrates two neighbours trying to blow the annual leaves into each others' gardens.

Many commentaries we've read on gasoline-powered leaf blowers are written as if there is a “leaf blower season” that occurs only at a specific time of the year and is of relatively short duration. This curious view of the phenomenon appears to come from denizens of the east coast of the United states where there is a definite autumn season during which trees shed their leaves, requiring a cleanup.

Whether that's actually true of the east coast, it certainly is not the case in California: here in California, every day is a blow-day, and sometimes very early morning, and very late at night.

Here is a narrative of a fairly typical week in the life of a California household in an otherwise fabulous condominium complex perched on the western slope of a high ridge in San Carlos, with views of the Santa Cruz mountains to the west. Our living and dining area looks out over the Mid Peninsula Open Space of the San Francisco peninsula to the Santa Cruz mountains. Below in the open space, deer graze, squirrels run around and climb the pine trees outside the windows, rabbits hop around in the underbrush, and quail chuckle quietly all day.

Sounds like an idyllic place, and it is, except for one major problem, namely the thirty to forty hours of two, three, or four gasoline-powered leaf blowers every week of the year. At least three days per week, we are forced to leaf the house and go elsewhere during the “work” (read, air pollution and noise) hours.

MONDAY
7:00 am

Breakfast over a view of the San Francisco Mid-Peninsula Open Space where Quail, Rabbits, and Squirrels run around, Deer graze, and the view is across the open space to the Santa Cruz Mountains. All is quiet (for now).

8:00 am

The first two of three gasoline-powered leaf blowers crank up about two hundred yards away on Crestview Drive. The noise penetrates every nook and cranny of the house.

9:00 am

Two more gasoline-powered leaf blowers crank up, one about three hundred yards away on Brittan Avenue, the other about two hundred yards away on La Mesa Drive. In addition to the noise penetrating the windows of the house from the south east and north west, the noise also appears to emanate from the mid-peninsula open space.

11:00 am–12:00 am

While the two “car park” blowers are roaring away in various parts of the complex, another gasoline-powered leaf blower shows up in the late morning in the courtyard between five yards and fifty yards outside our house and starts blowing at noise levels roughly equivalent to a 1960s-era Boeing 707. Nobody knows who this blowzo is—one of the members of the “landscape” committee actually expressed bafflement as to who this clown is and what he's doing there on a Monday morning. She asked me if I knew who he is. How should I know? I thought members of the “landscape” committee would know something about activities of the “landscapers” and would know something about the “landscaping” (read, creating air pollution and noise).

We leave the house for the day—any activity requiring concentrated thought shuts down, and telephone conversations are impossible.

3:30 p.m.

We get back around 3:30 p.m. in the afternoon. At least two of the gasoline-powered leaf blowers are still roaring, and continue “working” (read, creating air pollution and making noise) until just before 5:00 p.m..

TUESDAY
7:00 am

Breakfast over a view of the San Francisco Mid-Peninsula Open Space where Quail, Rabbits, and Squirrels run around, Deer graze, and the view is across the open space to the Santa Cruz Mountains. All is quiet (for now).

8:00 am

The first of at least two gasoline-powered leaf blowers cranks up about two hundred yards away in the Brittan Avenue car park. The noise penetrates every nook and cranny of the house. The noise comes in from the eastern side of the house, as well as bouncing off of the hillsides of the Mid-Peninsula Open Space to penetrate the house from the western side.

 

We leave the house for the day—any activity requiring concentrated thought shuts down, and telephone conversations are impossible.

4:00 p.m.

We return around 4:00pm. At least one of the gasoline-powered leaf blowers is still roaring three hundred yards away in the car park at 3310 Brittan Avenue near Crestview Drive, and continues until just before 5:00pm.

WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY
7:00 am

Breakfast over a view of the San Francisco Mid-Peninsula Open Space where Quail, Rabbits, and Squirrels run around, Deer graze, and the view is across the open space to the Santa Cruz Mountains. All is quiet (for now).

 

Wednesdays and Thursdays are sometimes “quiet” days—except when they are not. Whether a Wednesday or Thursday will be quiet or filled with the roar of gasoline-powered leaf blowers is never known in advance. Nobody is in charge, and the lunatics are running this asylum. In any case, you can not make any plans for any concentrated thinking activity requiring blocks of un-interrupted silence. The schedule and duration of Wednesday or Thursday noise is unknown, and they can appear at any time and start making noise when you're least expecting it.

FRIDAY
7:00 am

Breakfast over a view of the San Francisco Mid-Peninsula Open Space where Quail, Rabbits, and Squirrels run around, Deer graze, and the view is across the open space to the Santa Cruz Mountains. All is quiet (for now).

8:00 am

A gasoline-powered leaf blower cranks up in the car park area beside Brittan Avenue. The behaviour of this particular operator will be educational.

8:30 am

A lawn mower and sometimes a weed whacker crank up in the courtyard between five yards and fifty yards outside our house. We know from experience that the gasoline-powered leaf blower will not be far behind the lawn mower and weed whacker. Whereas the lawn mower and weed whacker operate only as long as needed to get the actual job of mowing and whacking done, the gasoline-powered leaf blower will be in continuous use for as long as the blowzo feels like indulging his noise addiction.

10:00 am

So we leave the house for the day—me to attend a meeting with a business consultant. Any activity requiring concentrated thought shuts down, and telephone conversations are impossible. The 8:00 am gasoline-powered leaf blower has moved from the car park proper to the north-western side of the driveway at Brittan Avenue.

2:30pm

We return around 2:30pm. The 8:00 am gasoline-powered leaf blower has moved from the north-western side of the driveway at Brittan Avenue to the eastern side of the driveway. At least one of the morning gasoline-powered leaf blowers is still roaring four hundred yards away in the car park at 3352 Brittan Avenue, and will continue until just before 5:00pm.

 

We leave the house and the condominium complex again.

4:30pm

We return around 4:30pm. The 8:00 am gasoline-powered leaf blower has moved from the eastern side of the driveway at Brittan Avenue to the car park at 3310 Brittan Avenue, where he will wind up around 5:00 p.m. The other gasoline-powered leaf blower is still roaring four hundred yards away in the car park at 3352 Brittan Avenue, and finally finishes around 5:00pm.

 

This year (2007), not only have the number of gasoline-powered leaf blowers doubled from two to four, but the hours of operation have been extended at both ends of the day.

SATURDAY
7:00 am

Breakfast over a view of the San Francisco Mid-Peninsula Open Space where Quail, Rabbits, and Squirrels run around, Deer graze, and the view is across the open space to the Santa Cruz Mountains. All is quiet (for now).

9:00 am

850 yards away on Leslie Drive a gasoline-powered leaf blower cranks up and runs continuously until around noon.

 

The gasoline-powered leaf blower is operating around a house with a total area of half an acre. The noise “footprint” of the blower—the area covered by its noise—is 0.785 square miles or five hundred acres. The relative noise “footprint” of the blower therefore affects one thousand half-acre plots—its relative noise “footprint” is one thousand times its half-acre “operating area”.

 

In contrast, the fifty-five square mile noise “footprint” of a 1960s-era Boeing 707 was around thirteen times its four-square-mile airport “operating area”. In relative terms, the twenty-pound “twenty-first century” gasoline-powered leaf blower is seventy-seven times as noisy as a two-hundred-ton 1960s-era jet turbine airplane.

 

Such is “technological progress” in the Good Ol USA.

 

This Web Page Updated 2007 September 27