Dallas hosts meeting on Dec. 7 to discuss ban on noisy and polluting leaf blowers

You can expect your eardrums and the air you breathe to be particularly beaten this week.

As the rare and glorious golden autumn of North Texas dissolves into fall, the yard crews swarm with their leaf-blowing bazookas – all in service of our desire for postcard-perfect landscapes to salute our family and friends on Thanksgiving.

Things could look – and look – considerably different next year, as the Dallas City Council’s Environment and Sustainability Committee resumes discussion on Dec. 7 on whether to ban these noise instruments and air pollution.

Allow me to admit, at the outset, my ambivalence on this subject. As maybe more of you than to admit publicly, I get irritated by the din of leaf blowers smashing decibels when used in other people’s backyard, but I tend to forgive when the lawn guys use them on my own property.

Seriously, I aspire to be a good citizen, an environmental model for my community. I love gardening and always prefer pulling weeds out to cleaning toilets or litter boxes.

But the truth is, I’m never going to take the time to regularly rake my own garden or learn the skills – and it’s not as easy as it sounds – to operate one of these cordless blowers. rechargeable environmentally friendly.

And while I confess, those leaves that cover my lawn actually belong to my neighbors’ trees.

Each fall, I promise myself that for one more season – rather than being the shame of the neighborhood because I can’t keep up with the leaves falling – I’ll let my lawn crew do their noisy and dirty work.

Even the back-breaking raking and bagging of fallen leaves isn’t for everyone, but the process is definitely better for the environment than using gas-powered lawn equipment.(jmaehl / Getty Images / iStockphoto)

Whether you love or hate the gasoline leaf blower, that emotion is driven by the same attribute: the power of the two-stroke or two-stroke engine. It certainly gets the job done, but not without some serious side effects.

The more virtuous among us would like everyone to leave the leaves where they fall. Their argument is that when we treat it like waste, we disrupt the cycle of life.

Other anti-blowers extol the merits of rakes and compost heaps. Just last month, regulation-resistant the Wall Street newspaper published an evil essay by one of his real estate editors titled “This is why leaf blowers are the embodiment of evil. “

This debate is hardly confined to wild garden enthusiasts or grumpy members of the crowd working remotely; environmental damage from lawn equipment should be of concern to all of us.

Two-stroke gasoline engines do yard work quickly and without grueling weight. But fueled by a mixture of gas and oil, they emit an exhaust laden with pollutants of carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides and hydrocarbons – the same substances we are trying to reduce in the global race against climate change.

Supporters of equipment bans emphasize a 2011 Edmunds study in which the automotive reviewer compared a two-stroke leaf blower with a Ford F-150 Raptor pickup and found that half an hour of yard work produced the same amount of hydrocarbon emissions as a 5,887 mile trip in the truck.

A 2017 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Too loud for too long – identified proximity to gasoline leaf blowers as one of four common noises that can affect hearing. A leaf blower, at 90 decibels, can cause damage after two hours of exposure. For comparison, 14 minutes at a 100-decibel sporting event or two minutes at a 110-decibel rock concert can lead to hearing loss.

More than 20 years ago, complaints about noise led Highland Park to pass a resolution encouraging the voluntary operation of “half-throttle” leaf blowers to minimize noise.

Dallas City Council member Paula Blackmon, chair of the environment and sustainability committee, expects the Dec. 7 briefing to provide the latest data to guide council debate.
Dallas City Council member Paula Blackmon, chair of the environment and sustainability committee, expects the Dec. 7 briefing to provide the latest data to guide council debate.(Smiley N. Pool / Staff Photographer)

More than 100 cities across the United States have since cracked down on gasoline-powered equipment, although it is not clear to what extent the app – beyond the self-proclaimed “leaf blower police” – actually supports regulations.

Dallas council member Paula Blackmon, chair of the environment and sustainability committee, told me she expects city staff to provide specific data at the Dec. 7 briefing. .

“This is where I want to start the discussion – with all the facts,” Blackmon said. “I don’t want to start it with an automatic ‘no’ to any type of two-stroke engine. “

His push to consider restrictions or a ban on two-cycle lawn equipment was sparked by a 2019 Atlantic item on inclusive community-wide strategies that led to changes in Washington, DC This ban will go into effect Jan. 1.

Blackmon understands that even a phased introduction of electrical equipment will be a burden on lawn care companies. But she’s convinced that if Dallas is to dramatically reduce pollutant emissions – something it’s mostly nibbled at around the edges – “we’ve got to have a really tough conversation about what we can all do to have a bigger impact.”

“Some of these machines emit as much emissions as a bulldozer,” she said.

My next call was to Ron Hall, whose Ron’s Organics teams have been working on yards across North Texas and whose company has been looking after my property in East Dallas for a decade.

Hall, whose company motto is “Caring for Our Environment, One Meter at a Time”, has a solid reputation for using only safe, organic methods for lawn and garden work. (He is also one of the firefighters who were seriously injured in the Sept. 29 gas explosion at an apartment complex in southeast Dallas.)

Many know Ron Hall as the longtime owner of Ron's Organics.  He's also a Dallas firefighter - and among those injured at the scene of what turned into a gas explosion at a southeastern apartment complex on September 29.
Many know Ron Hall as the longtime owner of Ron’s Organics. He’s also a Dallas firefighter – and among those injured at the scene of what turned into a gas explosion at a southeastern apartment complex on September 29.(Elias Valverde II / Personal photographer)

“I believe in protecting the environment, but you have to have common sense,” Hall told me.

Ron’s Organics lawn care vehicles carry electrical equipment, including blowers. But efficiency is the number one priority: They only stay in business if they stay on track, which means they have to do as many jobs as possible every day.

He likes electrical equipment for individuals; that’s what he uses on his own property. “But my men usually go for the gasoline engine to get the job done.”

After the team members have blown all the leaves in the yard, a heavy-duty gas mower cuts them into small flakes that quickly break down and add nutrients to the yard.

Hall, who says his company uses low-carbon oil in its gas engines, has seen this equipment argument come and go for more than two decades.

Most recently, the Dallas City Council Quality of Life Committee discussed revising the noise ordinance in March 2019 after then-council member Philip Kingston requested a review of the noise ordinance. ‘a moratorium on leaf blowers. The matter was eventually transferred to another committee; no action was ever taken.

Hall says the timing of the last debate is problematic. Even during the months when COVID-19 seems to be declining, he finds an ever smaller number of people who want to do this kind of work and he is already paying 20 to 30% more than he was two years ago.

“People think these landscaping guys are just making minimum wage,” Hall said. “I don’t have anyone in my business making less than $ 15 an hour and our range is $ 15 to $ 25 an hour.”

He estimates that switching to electrical equipment means it will take 20-30% more to do jobs – and charge 20-30% more.

Hall said it was about paying the bills. “At some point, where does it end? “

Since Dallas hasn’t enforced the ordinances already on their books – whether it’s short-term rental properties, plague code issues, or even fireworks – I’m impatient. to hear how he would suggest putting teeth behind another “don’t do this within city limits”.

But that doesn’t make climate change any less of a public health issue. With the constant improvement of electric landscaping equipment, what we really need is for some crafty minds to invent a lithium battery powered leaf blower that doesn’t weigh a ton.

It might not be too late for Santa’s elves to put them into production.

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