Turn off that leaf blower!

That’s what I yelled out my window yesterday morning at the landscaper using a roaring-loud leaf blower to clear something from in front of my house. Leaves? I guess, but there are not that many scattered on the ground this time of year.

 I was working at home, on a conference call with some people in New York and Southern California. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, and they couldn’t hear what I was saying. But they could hear the leaf blower, all the way from in front of my home in Walnut Creek.

My co-workers could also hear me yell “Turn it off!” But the landscaper couldn’t hear me, not over the sound of that damned leaf blower.  (And, I was using a new phone, and, no, I had not yet learned where the stupid mute button was.)

Actually, that’s been the first time I’ve been home in the middle of the day when the landscapers with the leaf blowers have come to my cul-de-sac.  I’d say the sound from that machine was as loud as a locomotive rushing 10 feet from my window.  I probably could have endured it–I knew it would stop eventually–if it weren’t for the fact that I was trying to talk to people to get work done.

My experience with our neighborhood leaf blower guys comes the week that Quiet Orinda, a grass-roots group of residents in that town, premieres its professionally produced documentary about the nuisance and environmental hazards of leaf blowers.

The big screening will take place 7:15 p.m.  Saturday at the Orinda Theater as part of the 12th annual California Independent Film Festival. Quiet Orinda was formed in 2009 to raise awareness about the air and noise pollution caused by leaf blowers and to promote legislation to encourage healthier alternatives to these machines.

The video, Quiet Orinda, presents “candid, unrehearsed” interviews with Orinda residents who describe how the use of leaf blowers in their neighborhoods hurts their well-being and their enjoyment of their homes and community.

Saturday’s screening will be the first public screening of the video.Tickets can be ordered in advance at the California Independent Film Festival website.

Quiet Orinda has a petition drive going to gather signatures to urge the City Council in that town to consider banning the use of leaf blowers.

Does Walnut Creek need a similar campaign?

30 thoughts on “Turn off that leaf blower!

  1. We don't need a campaign

    WCMC 4-6.203

    “…Maintenance Equipment. The use and operation of any noise-creating commercial or residential landscaping or home maintenance equipment or tools including, but not limited to, hammers, blowers, trimmers, mowers, chainsaws, power fans or any engine, the operation of which causes noise due to the explosion of operating gases or fluids, other than between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. on weekdays and 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. on weekends and holidays. “


  2. Please note that the Quiet Orinda film is with the Bay Area Showcase films which begins at 7:15 on April 24 in the Orinda Theater not 9:00 p.m.

    I really can not see any sensible argument for the use of leaf blowers. The comments I see posted by the pro blower crowd never address noise and air pollution problems. The leaf blower is primarily a tool of convenience and it is actually a very inefficient tool. It blows at over 200 miles an hour and when directed at the ground and at leaves, blows all the particulate matter that has settled there. Particulate Matter that contains toxins like fecal matter, pesticides and diesel soot which are lofted in the air for up to three days and cause health hazards for all of us.
    It doesn't seem to bother the pro blower crowd that people are breathing these particles and that we are made to listen to noise which the World Health Organization considers dangerous.
    I think it is also very inconsiderate to compel the poor workers to use an implement that is as noxious as a leaf blower. They are using dangerous machinery which will cause them to suffer hearing loss, respiratory ailments and myocardial infarctions. Please refer to the damning December 2009 EPA report on particulate matter and the negative health impacts of breathing small particulate matter. For information on health problems associated with noise, refer to the World Health Organization.


  3. Then add the following to your proposed ban: two-stroke motorcycles, lawn mowers,rototillers, anything powered by a diesel engine like generator and heavy equipment (18-wheelers, trains (diesel-electric)graders, skid steers, loaders, etc.) … and I-Pods because of the headphone volumes they generate.

    Do you like unpaved roads? Asphalt uses binders derived from petroleum products and concrete generates particulate matter during processing.

    Oh. Let's ditch plastic too since it is derived from petroleum products.

    Have you ever read the warning label on those CFL bulbs? If broken, you're supposed to seal the area and treat it as a hazardous material spill because you've just released mercury. Yessiree… that's really environmentally friendly.

    Who's idea was it anyway to add MTBE to gasoline? Wasn't it supposed to burn cleaner but resulted in polluted groundwater?

    This “all or nothing” environmental movement is ripe with hypocrisy.


  4. LefCoast,
    Your right people need to get off their fat butts and do some actual physical labor, raking leaves might be a start instead of paying for that gym membership that is never used. After they do some yard work maybe walk to the corner store for that one item you need.


  5. We see this has sparked as much discussion here as it has at EastBayDaze and that is a good thing.

    Our Solution: After offering our mow and blow people MORE MONEY not to use leaf blowers (they declined) we fired them and found an organic gardener who brings a hands on approach to our grounds. NO NOISE. Better attention to our landscaping and a MUCH more pleasant experience.

    About as much as we paid our blow people BEFORE we offered them the raise! Our gardener says people like him are hurting for work because people think the blow people are the only way to go.

    They're not. Believe me. Wish we'd done this sooner.


  6. Let's be sensible. it's clear to me that leaf blowers are destructive and annoying. This makes them a step backward rather than an advance, kind of like plastic bags. My neighbor uses a leaf blower that has two pitches. The basic motor sound with an added high-pitched whine. It's really obnoxious.


  7. Exactly YYZ… You know if all these antileaf blowers would get off their butt and start acting negative towards all the stuff on your list, then they would have something to complain about. Oh, and BART is too loud too. sooo 1970's technology. Cant they spend our public dollar to create a quiet train? oh whats that? Public dollar… yes… City of Walnut Creek, and many, many other municipals use these “devices” (hopefully 4 cycle) to keep our parks and public areas looking amazing. In fact, you may want to bring it up to Obama, Im sure he could find a way to shove anti-leaf blowers into the healthcare debate.

    Big-ARSE lawnmowers kick up the same amount of “toxins” for way more years than a leaf blower. And as far as I can tell, I have not heard of people failing over. Shoot, when I was a kid, I mowed 5 acres on a riding mower twice a week in the summer.

    Im sure the “interviews” lala-orinda where all staged to the anti-crowd. So if you sat in front of OSH or homedepot and asked everyone coming, do they care about the noise of leaf blowers, they would probably have no problem. IF you sat outside Whole Foods and asked the same question, the spectrum changes.

    Happy Medium people. Get over your “banning” everything thoughts and move along. The anti-leaf blowers and the leaf blowing crowd, neither will win unless there is a happy medium for both.

    Here is an idea, if you live in an apartment complex, to stop the leaf blowers twice a week, all residents are required to participate in twice a week landscaping maintenance. Thats right, pick up a broom and rake. Oh you dont want to? Then your rent is going to go up.

    Homeowners… its your house, do what you want… within the WCMC code of course!


  8. Soccer Mom, many thanks for featuring Quiet Orinda's efforts to restrict the use of leaf blowers in our city. We're gratified to see the majority of commenters supporting our campaign! However, the few who support leaf blower noise and air pollution always seem to employ the same, specious arguments: that banning leafblowers naturally leads to a ban on any sound-generating activity. Or, “it's my right” to infringe on your right to enjoy a peaceful neighborhod- so deal with it!

    So, let's flip the argument around-if you object to an outright ban, will you agree to respect your neighbors' rights, and voluntarily switch to rakes and brooms? We'd much rather not have to go through all this hassle to fix a serious problem, one that never should have been allowed in the first place!


  9. Peter, you going to tell us HOW I should rake and WHEN I should rake as well? Why dont you make lamorinda an HOA, then your all your dreams will come true!


  10. oh god, if the gardeners were mostly white far less people would be upset by the noise because they would never expect the poor white gardeners to rake and bag. only in the east bay…


  11. Dear Cry me a River,

    We at Quiet Orinda aren't the slightest bit concerned about “how or when you should rake”- or indeed, whether you choose to gather your leaves or simply let them decompose in situ!

    We're very much of the persuasion “live and let live”, which is why we respect your right to relative peace and quiet – by not contaminating your premises with particulate matter and unnecessary noise! Hope this clears things up!


  12. we cant even have friends over to enjoy the garden since very day there are blowers going one neighbor after another..its just terible in danville! i hate the blowers. have u ever watched them. if they bent over and picked it up instead of blowing it across a wid driveway grrrrrrrr


  13. Yo freaking Liberals are out there … Oh my Gosh stop the leaf blowing as you may blow an endangered salamander off a tree or something..

    What about the Icelandic Volcano spewing more pollution then all automobiles and factories in the history of mankind … How are the Icelandic people going to be penalized for this egregious violation of pollution protocol..

    Lets all sing Kumbayah while we wait for the value added tax on top of all of our other taxes to be implemented..

    Hey SM and all the other Libs on here lets say you work 40 hours work and your paid a respectable salary for your hard work.. Please take 50 % of your earnings and just give it to the person standing in front of you in safeway..

    That's wealth redistribution** Do that every week for one year and let us know how you feel.


  14. Susan and Peter,

    you may want to ban broom sweeping of concrete based on this report for particulate matter. If you are going to throw leaf blowers around like they are the devil, then take a look at broom sweepers. Yes, a broom sweeping concrete kicks up particulate matter. The compare a street cleaner, a broom and a leaf blower, and probably a lawn mower as well. They all throw your particulate matter around.

    As for the noise, tough luck. They are decibel ratings on all equipment. Equipment manufactures can control this for the equipment. But if you are going to “regulate” noise, then include all the noise contributors in the lalarinda HOA.


    Your just pissed that the leaf blower makes more noise then other particulate matter machines and you pick and easy target.

    If you ban on certain days, then it will be more blowing on other days…. so basically you are not going to win.

    Cigarettes produce more particulate matter than diesel fuel! You should be telling your neighbors to stop smoking outside in the neighborhood!


  15. Had something similar happen during a phone interview for a job. Needless to say, I didn't get it.

    I hate those effing things. Most of the time the guy (not to be sexist, but I have never seen a woman using one) just blows the leaves to another property where they just get blown right back (job security?). Along with the noise pollution is the nauseating exhaust(the maintenance at my current job uses one in the garage.)

    Really have nothing positive to say about these things.

    Come on elitist geniuses, instead of leveling insults, why not invent something better?


  16. Sure. Try to legislate something. That's great. Make a rule. Enforce it. In fact have someone else enforce it. That way it'll be much cleaner. Don't go across the street and ask your neighbor.
    In fact, go as green as you want – especially those that are on their soap box here. But if you drive a car, instead of riding a bike – Or if you live in the Orinda hills where you have to use an inordinate amount of gas getting up the hill. Maybe someone might legislate that you need to get rid of your car all together. Or even better move to somewhere where it's flat.
    Maybe then you'll understand how silly it is to create a law.

    Oh and for those of you that have issues with particulate matter in the air…maybe we could ban wind too.


  17. Can't stand those leaf blowers. I have a neighbor that uses one every Sunday of all days. I swear he runs it for like two hours. What is wrong with a rake? Sheesh!


  18. Leaf blowers are kind of useless. Besides the fact that they produce a lot of noise when used, they are not actually helpful in clearing out the leaves. A rake or something would probably do a better job.


  19. I hate these leaf blowers in Arizona! Just blow it over there, then over there and then the wind comes and blows it some more! What's the point???

    Then every Wednesday we have a blower sweeper to sweep up crap that just blows around from the wind. Really? We need that done??


  20. My Neighbor's gardener has the worst polluting gas blower ever. He used to stand for half an hour blowing all the dust through the

    gaps in the fence and covered my side yard, house, windows – In through the open windows with dust. After repeated discussions

    and requests for using a vacuum with both the gardener and my neighbor – no results. One day I was hosing it all off my windows

    and they came by. I found that a circular wall of mist/water can block a lot of the dust and exhaust. But I'd have to be there

    every day. Finally, one day, I turned the hose to stream and directed at the gardener, yeah I know sounds mean. But it's just

    water, not toxic, not a pollutant, not dirty sooty or cancer causing. It actually took a few times beleive it or not and the

    gardener would swear at me but it was worth it. NO More GAS LEAF Blower on the side yard next to my house.
    So until they go all electric as noted above, we have a zone of Water vs. Exhaust & Dust between us.
    I do recommend this tactic to many of the extreme Blower cases above.
    They can complain to the City as well, or the courts but I think they would lose.


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