Stop polluting my air with your lawn care

Letters to the editor. Send signed letters to Nancy@NancyOnNorwalk.com with a suggested headline.

Of all the “modern conveniences” ever invented, surely the most odious is the gas-powered leaf blower. It poses a double threat with its air and noise pollution.

It’s time to stop polluting the air in the name of lawn care.

That’s why Friends of Animals will be asking the Norwalk Common Council Ordinance Committee, at its July 18 public hearing, to pass a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers and to make it effective in a year.

With the climate crisis threatening our planet, we don’t have time for a 4- and 5-year phase out as proposed. It’s outrageous to let an angry mob of commercial landscapers decide whether our communities must breathe in pollutants and dust, putting human and non-human animals at risk.

Communities across the nation are moving to either restrict gas-powered leaf blowers and encourage the switch to electric or to ban gas-powered blowers outright. More than 100 cities and towns have already put a gas-powered leaf blower ban in place.

Research has shown gas-powered leaf blowers emit 23 times more carbon monoxide and 300 times more non-methane hydrocarbons than a typical older model car. Because the combustion process of the two-stroke engine, which burns gasoline and oil, is so inefficient and without the pollution controls used on cars such as catalytic converters, more than 30 percent of that fuel is released unburnt as an aerosol of toxic fumes.

A 2011 study by Edmunds’ InsideLine.com showed that hydrocarbon emissions from a half-hour of yard work with the two-stroke leaf blower are about the same as a 3,900-mile drive from Texas to Alaska in a Ford-150 SVT Raptor pickup truck.

Let that sink in.

There is also risk from the dust the two-stroke engines stir up—pollen, mold, animal feces, chemicals from herbicides and pesticides, and road dust laden with toxic particles from rubber tires. This means an increased risk of asthma, lung cancer and cardiovascular disease.

In terms of noise, for workers who use their machines for hours every day, often without ear protection, the risks can be dangerous. The most powerful gas-powered leaf blowers can produce air that exceeds 200 mph and sounds as high as 112 decibels. Exposure to sounds over 110 decibels can cause permanent hearing loss in just one minute, reports the Total Hearing Care website. 

The good news is many electric leaf blowers now offer power on a par with gas models, advises Consumer Reports, which tests dozens of models each fall. But they are quieter and greener. Current models last only an hour or so before needing a recharge. The solution, especially for commercial landscapers, is to simply have more batteries on hand, just as the tank of a two-stroke blower using a gas-oil mix needs frequent refilling.

As an international organization that puts wildlife and critical habitat at the core of our mission, we’d be remiss not to mention the damage all leaf blowers can do in terms of biodiversity. They blow away all the life in your lawn.

This time of year, people of all ages delight in seeing fireflies. But before we get to enjoy nature’s own fireworks display, these cherished light-emitting beetles go through a four-stage metamorphosis. Females lay their eggs in damp soil under leaves. The larva live in the soil eating snails, slugs, worms and other insects, a stage that can last up to two years.

It’s just one good reason to ditch a leaf blower. If you don’t, you’re destroying precious firefly habitat and insulation.

Another reason to leave leaf litter under trees—caterpillars will fall onto a habitat more hospitable to their reproduction. More than 90% of caterpillars who develop on trees drop to the ground and pupate in the surface litter on the ground or within chambers they form underground. If you love birds, caterpillars are critical food for them.

By the way, you can shred leaves with an electric leaf mulching lawn mower and use them in flower beds, to provide protective coatings for plants and roots over the winter, and even help with weed control. 

We should be doing everything in our power—in our own backyards and communities—to protect the planet, and all the creatures who call it home, including ourselves.

A recent USA Today article revealed several firefly species are threatened with extinction because drought-like conditions are eroding suitable habitat, not to mention habitat is being lost to buildings and parking lots.

We can’t imagine summer evenings without fireflies.

Priscilla Feral

President, Friends of Animals

(Also, a Norwalk resident)


12 responses to “Stop polluting my air with your lawn care”

  1. Bryan Meek

    This latest virtue signaling is brought to you by the same folks who think they are saving the planet by making us use paper straws served up in plastic wrappers.

    Paper bags take 2x the energy to manufacture than plastic ones, which if we really cared about the environment we’d recycle like other towns do.

    But no, this is Norwalk where some would prefer ticks and their diseases to manicured, kept lawns. They’d rather leaves pile up on city streets and storm drains creating floods and car accidents than mind their own business.

    These same people are dead silent about density, water scarcity, and the fact we were sued by the EPA for dumping raw sewage into the river on a routine basis.


  2. Kenneth Werner

    Oh, my! Priscilla Feral’s sincere and passionate letter is also confused and confusing. Is it about leaf blowers, leaving leaf litter under trees to provide a friendly habitat for caterpillars, or firefly habitat erosion? I can agree that we should ultimately replace ICE (internal combustion engine) lawn equipment with electric when possible — I am doing that myself as a homeowner — but destroying the considerable investment of small-business lawn-care companies without a transition period is an extreme position. (Caterpillars have to eat, but so do people.)

    Then, Bryan Meek replies with heat rather than light. He angrily claims Ms Feral wants to heap leaves in city streets, about which she said nothing at all.

    I wish people would think before they typed.

  3. David Muccigrosso

    I’m no screeching bleeding-heart lib, nor a pot-smoking hippie…

    … but I’m with Priscilla on the merits, if not on board with every questionable assertion she makes here.

    Every few weeks a crew comes through SoNo at about 5:30AM on a freaking SATURDAY and starts blasting their gawdawful siren song all through the neighborhood for the next 6 hours. The smell of napal- I mean, half-burnt gasoline and yard clippings permeates the place with its sweet nauseating stench.

    I don’t give a flying rat’s patoot about caterpillars. These blowers are simply an absurd nuisance, and there’s a CLEARLY superior alternative. The only reason the work crews don’t use the alternative is because the gas ones are cheaper. TOO BAD. Sometimes in our economic life, we impose costly regulations because THEY MAKE LIFE BETTER. I would bet that Mr. Meek would have been against mandating seatbelts 40-50 years ago, but I’d also bet they’ve probably saved his life or the life of someone he loves on MULTIPLE occasions. Not all costly regulation is bad, and this one counts in that category.

    Let’s just ban the darned things and move on to more important issues.

    1. Skip Hagerty

      Ms. Feral,
      Despite all the gas leaf blowers, the firefly population seems to be thriving. During a brief drive through the backroads of Norwalk and Wilton this evening, I whacked no less than 30 or 40 with my car’s windshield. I bet Tysen’s workers can’t come close to topping that bug body count in a whole day.

  4. Bryan Meek

    We already have a noise ordinance on the books that is rarely enforced. More rules to enforce means less rules enforced.

    And if you make it unaffordable and more time consuming to have leaves raked, they will end up in the streets and the storm drains.

    1. David Muccigrosso

      How cute.

      If the noise ordinances are enforced, then the gas blowers will be effectively banned ANYWAYS.

      Which means that having leaves raked will be more “unaffordable” ANYWAYS.

      All that banning the gas blowers does is make it easier to enforce.

  5. diane keefe

    I agree with Ms Feral. Public health benefits far exceed the cost of switching from gas to electric leaf blowers. I ‘ve been using an electric one for years.
    Landscaping businesses who have to convert will raise their prices to cover the cleaner equipment. This new ordinance is a simple fix for the toxic nuisance of two stroke gas engines. Let’s make ‘ em obsolete!
    Diane Keefe

  6. Tysen Canevari

    Cmon Priscilla, Cry me a river with your letter. You and Lisa Shanahan and your crusade against blowers is a joke. You are worried about inchworms, snails, and fireflies? Well I am worried about my family of 6, 25 employees and their families, and all of my clients. What gives you the right to tell me what kind of tools to use to make a living? Are you going to ban tractor trailers, cars, boats, airplanes, and buses? Your rhetoric is just that! Total nonsense. I have been in business for 25 years. I have never had an employee ask for a day off because his ears hurt! I have never had a condo association ask that we triple their rates and use battery operated equipment that simply dont do the job. What world do you live in? Obviously, you live on a small parcel of land where you can cut your grass with an electric mower. Well those of us in the business dont have many houses like that for clients. You know absolutely nothing about how we do business during the day. We run a responsible business and contribute to our community in so many ways. You make us sound like we our some kind of mafia. I pay taxes to the city, I sponsor baseball teams, I give to charity, we mow the grass at two of the firehouses in town at no charge to say thank you to those that serve us. We are not polluting. It is you and this ordinance committee that is polluting the airwaves with propaganda! The ordinance group holds meetings via zoom only and doesnt tell anyone except the same group of 6 or 7 people that call in to say how bad we all are. You make it sound like we run around with blowers all day with nothing to do. Why dont you discuss the safety factor of the lithium ion batteries? Two weeks ago a bicycle shop in NY burned down from lithium ion batteries charging overnight that caught fire. Four people died unfortunately. Not fireflies Priscilla!!! Human beings. Regardless of what the rule becomes in Norwalk I will not jeopardize my building or peoples lives by charging batteries all night in my building. Did you know that you cant ship those batteries on a plane or boat? I wonder why Priscilla? These are facts! By the way, Why doesnt the council focus on the feces overflowing into Long Island Sound near the Maritime Center because of our antiquated treatment plant? Is it because this is an election year that we shouldnt talk about it? Did you know Westport passed this silly rule? Guess how many tickets have been handed out? NONE. If you want quiet then Vermont might be a good place to start. Messing with people’s way of making a living that you are definitely not educated about is not a good place to start. Your voice is on this matter is wasted air!

    1. David Muccigrosso

      >> Obviously, you live on a small parcel of land where you can cut your grass with an electric mower.

      >> You know absolutely nothing about how we do business during the day.

      >> Messing with people’s way of making a living that you are definitely not educated about

      Tysen, why do you have to make so many assumptions about someone else in order to make your point?

  7. John O’Neill

    The only thing missing from above is comparing Norwalk to Laguardia run way noise. What I find interesting about the above is I never ever hear them discussing punitive actions versus China for what they’ve done to our climate over the last 30 years. NEVER. Do they thnk Xi gives a damn about your butterflies? I haven’t heard a call to boycott Chinese goods from any of the above. Carbon Dioxide emissions from China have tripled over the last 30 years. So….when these activists above start marching on Bejing I will take them seriously.

  8. Tysen Canevari

    Not an assumption David. I am aware of where the author lives. Her whole story is based on assumptions. She has never spent a day with us landscaping yet wants to tell us whats an acceptable way to do business? Should i also assume all friends of animals drive electric cars too? Also, David if a company is using blowers at 5:30 am on a Saturday why dont you call the police? That might be the normal thing to do in that situation.

  9. Liz Conti

    This is a serious threat to the civil liberties of individuals and businesses. This will put small businesses out of business. This is absolutely virtue signaling and it hurts little people in the interest of the powerful special interest. We see the people that our leaders in Norwalk DON’T want here any longer. The disdain for the working class by the leaders in this community is staggering and it STINKS!

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