Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step

December 1, 2007

Another Reason Leaf Blowers Suck

Category: Garden,Observations – Tom Harrison – 10:26 pm

Friday night, after a long week of work, we settled down to sleep, alarm off, a little extra sleep envisioned in our rapidly approaching dreams. Saturday after 7AM, our dreams were broken by the sounds of leaf blowers. Three men, three leaf blowers, an an idling truck all running continuously between 7:15 and 8:15 were clearing fallen leaves from across the street. The machines were loud. They were stinky. Nothing new here. Except one thing: wind.

By the time I was up and about, Carter and I decided to rake a few leaves of our own (you know, with a real rake). I looked across the street and realized it must have been another house that was cleared of leaves, earlier — our neighbor’s lawn was covered. Of course the wind was blowing hard, and every gust pulled more leaves from the trees, from the surrounding yards, swirling and twirling around. I realized the men had been there for an hour because that’s what our neighbor paid for — pissing in the wind, almost literally.

Feeling slightly guilty, Carter and I spent about 15 minutes raking and bagging some leaves from our lawn. It was kind of fund and energizing, but it was indeed kind of pointless due to the wind, so after a couple of bags, we used our common sense and moved on to something else. In our 1/2 person hour, we left our lawn looking about the same as our neighbor’s with 3 person hours plus 4 machine hours.

And here’s my point. Despite the utter futility of clearing leaves on this windy December morning, the crew of men that showed up at 7AM started their machines, and walked around doing a pointless activity for an hour. I am sure they spent the entire rest of the day doing the same. Each client got … nothing much other than a bill. Certainly no exercise, and certainly not a cleared lawn. The atmosphere got a snootful of CO2, stinky fumes and all sorts of other nasty things. And the landscaping companies and employees got their pay checks.

Own lawn looks as good as the one cleared by 4 machines and 3 men for a full hour. They both look like they have leaves on them.

Everyone did their jobs. No one thought. The air fas filled with pollution, and gasoline was completely wasted. And I got woken up early. Pretty much a dead loss all around.


  1. You are absolutely right about the leaf blowers. I have done garden clean ups with my fiance using a rake. entire yards, garden beds, all powered by coffee and elbow grease. Recently my job had to cut our hours from full time to under 20 hours/wk. To pay bills, I’ve found myself strapping on a leaf blower and being one of ‘those guys’. It’s terrible work. Dust, 2-stroke engine fumes, mold, all surround the poor bastard who must blow leaves for a buck. Occasionally I’ve been caught sneaking back to the work truck to grab a rake. In a wind, a rake is far superior as the leaves are not made airborne where the wind will surely cast them into the next yard. But the leaf blower is the tool of choice for my friend who operates a landscaping business and has temporarily hired me to finish the end of year clean ups. I am 38. I have a plethora of experience in the bicycle industry, light construction, machining, some gardening. How the HELL did I end up hauling a leaf blower around?!!

    Comment by Josh — December 3, 2008 @ 4:22 pm

  2. Josh — thanks for your comment. I think the answer to your last question is on the front page of today’s paper: “US Loses 533,000 jobs in November”, with a side story saying “the jobs report doesn’t even account for the 637,000 people who dropped out of the labor force.” Yep, over a million people not working this month that were last.

    Not to mention people in your circumstances.

    With your skills, you might be one of the people who would have what it takes for one of the “green jobs” that will come, if we just move forward in the US and make renewable energy systems actually happen, finally.

    All through high-school and college, and in the first years of my career, I worked on building construction, and then in property management. I always looked back on those skills as being ones that could serve me well if my current line of work fell through.

    Thanks for your comment, and good luck!

    Comment by Tom Harrison — December 5, 2008 @ 3:57 pm

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