opinion | Switch to electric leaf blowers for the climate

The latest United Nations climate report reminds us once again of what we already know: the steady rise in global temperatures spells disaster. We must adapt to what cannot be undone and commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels.

We at home must ask ourselves if our daily decisions matter as we watch an ongoing parade of environmental and humanitarian disasters. Many of us have begun to accept that our children and theirs will not know the same planet as we do.

Despite this, we continue to reject plastic bags, out of habit or hope, and search the bottom of bins for the faint chasing arrows symbol to ensure proper recycling. And we wait, looking from our elected officials to policies that will change our course. We’ve waited for decades while the gap in years between where we are and where we don’t want to be is shrinking.

The question remains: What can we do?

We increasingly need to look at ourselves and take responsibility for what we can change ourselves. A starting point is in our own shipyards.

The gas leaf blower is unquestionably harmful in every way – to the environment, to neighbors, to workers who carry it on their backs. These dangers have been the subject of countless articles. Local and national organizations are working to educate and empower property owners by providing guides on alternatives.

Neighborhoods remain divided between those that allow noise and pollution and those that have no choice but to live with it. Yet we bring all of our recycling to the curb on the same day.

The solution is that simple. Electric leaf blowers are effective, available, and affordable. They do not emit any fossil fuel pollution directly. Your decibel output is safe. The best part? The change requires only the simplicity and speed of personal decision. Yours. Today.

opinion interview
The climate and the world are changing. What challenges does the future bring and how should we react to them?

Landscaping can throw up hurdles, but you can overcome them. Invest in your own electric leaf blower to keep it charged and ready to go. Or share one with neighbors. Or contact a garden service who can assist you. They exist. As more and more of us band together, the landscaping industry will adapt. (There is always and forever the rake.)

Some may believe they are offsetting the impact of gas leaf blowers through sound recycling, vehicle choices, green purchases, and more. But judging by the carbon footprint, this machine wears a dangerously oversized shoe. Seeing my neighbors’ electric car charging in their driveway while a gas blower blasts across their yard baffles me. What mindset happened there?

California will ban the sale of gas-powered leaf blowers and other small gas-powered appliances by 2024, citing serious environmental and human health impacts and a need to reduce carbon emissions. Some cities, including Washington, DC, have banned the use of gas leaf blowers entirely. They show the way, but this hard-fought legislation is taking far too long.

What does a street, a community, and a country of property owners saying no to gas blowers look like? It looks the same. But it smells better, it sounds better, and it’s a safer, friendlier place for all who call it home.

Last summer, Hurricane Ida devastated my New Jersey town and many others, with waterfalls pouring through basement windows and people drowning in their cars. For weeks, the curbs were lined with piles of flood-damaged furniture, boxes of irretrievable memories, and soaked rolls of carpet. This is what a climate in a crisis looks like. It’s no longer just the heartbreaking images we’ve been shown for years of faraway polar bears trying to find a firm footing on melting ice. It is here.

We’ll just know more about it. We will fare much better if we carefully choose how best to care for ourselves, for each other, and for our thin slices of this fragile planet. Who will be the first to save the stranded in a flood? It’s always the neighbor who has a boat. It is important to end harmful emissions and noise in our communities. This is also true when considering the impact our decisions will have on everyone who works and lives nearby.

The privilege of bringing landscaping into your own garden must give way to the privilege of caring for the environment in the best possible way. Neighbor by neighbor, yard by yard, the move to electric will mean a real change in the air this spring and from now on.

It can be difficult to have these conversations with the good people we live with. Tell them you come in peace.

Jessica Stolzberg is a writer based in Montclair, NJ opinion | Switch to electric leaf blowers for the climate

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