leaf blowers

How dangerous are leaf blowers for the environment?
Image: Shutterstock

As the season changes from summer to fall, the leaves will begin to change and then, gradually, drift from the trees to the ground. For those who have yards, there will be some real work to be done—piling leaves up, then bagging or composting them takes a lot of effort. The bigger the yard, the more hours will be spent picking up fallen leaves to prevent the grass underneath from dying off over the winter.

With this addition of yard work comes what may be, for the environmentally conscious, a difficult decision: to use leaf blowers or rakes to get the job done. Rakes are man-powered and therefore safe to use (at least safe for the environment), but for large lawns, raking can take hours of labor—not to mention the process will probably need to be repeated at least a few times throughout the season.

The other option is to use a leaf-blower—an option that cuts down on both labor intensity and time spent working. But many leaf blowers are gas powered and use a two-stroke engine, and that’s got a lot of environmentalists up in arms.

rake and leaves

Moral of the story: Break out the rake!
Image: Shutterstock

Two-stroke engines mix fuel (gasoline) with oil in order to lubricate the engine and complete the combustion process. Unfortunately, this combustion process releases air pollutants like carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides, and hydrocarbons in significant quantities. The widespread use of two-stroke engines has been known to lead to terrible air pollution.

Two-stroke engines used in leaf blowers have been proven to release comparable amounts of these pollutants as large automobiles, such as trucks and SUVs—and in some cases, even more contaminants.

So how on earth are these things still in existence? The effects of gas-powered leaf blowers may be worrisome, but the truth is that their use is not yet widespread enough to be causing a significant problem. But the more in-use these types of devices become, the bigger the problem will be.

On that note, gas-powered lawnmowers are guilty of the same crime. The moral of the story: it’s better to not use gas-powered household tools if you can avoid it.