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Blowing leaves: absurd and irresponsible

Fall can be a beautiful time. At any time of the day, you are surrounded by trees aflame with color.

Standing in a hail of falling leaves can transport you to a magical place inside. Jumping in piles of raked leaves can make anyone happy for a few moments and bring back happy, messy childhood memories.

The only thing that interrupts these halcyon moments are leaf blowers. Leaf blowers are like an artificial hangover for me. The noise goes straight to my nerve endings and heads straight for the irritation centers in my brain.

As I’ve mentioned before, living downtown is noisy. Much of the noise is unavoidable. Traffic, sirens and construction sounds have become ambient noise to me. But the leaf blowers are pretty much a seasonal phenomenon.

I’m not what you’d call an environmentalist. I do, however, understand the importance of a clean environment. I recycle what I can and I try and think about some of the products I buy. That is why I do not understand the use of leaf blowers. Why not rake or sweep the leaves up?

Leaf blowers not only create noise pollution, but they create other types of pollution as well. They are powered by gas, the combustion of which releases all sorts of junk into the air. Since I have been diagnosed with asthma, I’ve started to care very much about the quality of the air I breathe in.

Along with the diesel fuel, the leaf blowers are also stirring up dust and mold and little bits of glass. This is all headed for your lungs.

The other thing that bothers me about the use of leaf blowers is the way they are used. For instance, Tuesday morning, I was walking to work with my ridiculously oversized coffee, when a leaf blower man started his machine up right next to my ear. It hurt. He started blowing some garbage around, completely oblivious to the character and content of his surroundings. He looked up at me, mouthed an apology, but kept right on blowing.

Not two blocks later, I saw TWO men with leaf blowers clearing the leaves out of a very small parking lot. The leaves were not being picked up and discarded. They were just being blown out to the sidewalk, creating yet another environmental hazard, a slip and fall accident.

On my way to school, I observed two city employees clearing the leaves out of the Park Blocks.

They were being far more responsible. They had blocked off the area they were cleaning up and were preparing the leaves for proper, safe disposal. I must say in the defense of the city employees, that they often have large areas to clean up, and the leaf blower is probably the best tool for the job. Though I wish there was some sort of leaf vacuum that would just suck the leaves up instead of blowing them into my already distressed alveoli.

Many years ago (at least it seems that way), when I lived in Eugene, the use of leaf blowers was severely restricted. You could only use them during certain hours, and they were forbidden outright in others.

During my childhood, there was no such thing as leaf blowers. My childhood was not that long ago.

Dad would hand me a rake, and put me to work. I would rake all day. Then I would jump in the pile I raked up and be forced to rake it up again. Then we either composted the leaves or I had to put them in huge black plastic bags. My parents always got the cheap ones that would fall apart if you put too much stuff in them.

The point is, it is a lot better to rake or sweep up the leaves in a small area, than make a big mess with a leaf blower. Also, putting the mess where it becomes someone else’s responsibility makes your leaf blowage pointless. What if the leaves blow back into your space? And what if some elderly person slips and falls on the mess you left? Wouldn’t it be funny if you got sued?

If you are going to clean up your yard, and you are not living on half an acre, be nice to your neighbors and leave the leaf blower in your garage. Or just get rid of it.