Home > Uncategorized > Help Quiet Our Public Space, Get A Rake!

Help Quiet Our Public Space, Get A Rake!

Leaf Blowers Are A Pain In The Arse

(I hope it rains all week)

A weekend in the U.P. woods reminded me of the noisiness of city living. Some of it is fine, like a constant hum that reminds you that you are here. Other noises, like the whining of leaf blowers,  have very few redeemable characteristics (if any) nor reasons to be accepted as part of the public noise-shed. They are relatively new inventions (30 years +/-) and are trying to replace a very effective tool: the rake.

This week’s New Yorker has the scoop on one community’s ongoing debate with the leaf blower titled, “Blowback: The Great Suburban Lead War.” Apart from griping about them with friends and chiding my neighbors, I didn’t realize the debate had escalated to war or that there are other reasons to despise the machine, like air pollution. One hour of blower use is equal to the tailpipe emissions for an automobile driving 350 miles. In addition, the fine dust particulate material kicked up and spread indiscriminately across the neighborhood contains all those lawn chemicals people use to degrade their lawns.

What most of us notice is the noise and despite often being considerably above local noise ordinances, the leaf blower persists. In fact, in Traverse City, it gets a pass in our local noise ordinance (652.05-b). That’s dumb…Is there anything to be done? Considering all the other crap we put up with, leaf blowing is best dealt with as local as possible; public shaming works on many people.

The above mentioned article describes the fight that Peter and Susan Kendall of Orinda, California are leading, but the fight is certainly not the first nor the only one. It’s sensitive, because what would otherwise be a private affair, someone taking care of their own lawn, has now expanded beyond private property lines in a very visible audible way.

I prefer the rake; I wished others did as well. Here are 5 good reasons:

  1. Raking is just as quick
  2. Raking is great exercise (AARP endorsed)
  3. It’s better for your lawn
  4. Save money.
  5. Your neighbors will like you better

There’s probably more…

Is anyone else bothered by leaf blower noise?

Or, perhaps it’s an indispensable tool for you…please share the reasoning.


NOTE: In New Yorker fashion, the above article digs deep and highlights the interesting socio-economic dynamic of the the Orinda debate.



  1. Jennifer
    October 26, 2010 at 10:14 am

    I offered to rake my neighbors lawn to get them to stop with the leaf blower. They thought I was crazy, got pretty irritated with me, and proceeded to use it even more. But then, they also use Chem Lawn, which, by it’s very name, should be outlawed!

  2. October 26, 2010 at 10:21 am

    I rake my neighbors; keep trying.

    Granted, my neighbors leave town in the fall, but they offered me their leaf blower for the job. They also offer me a motorized lawn mower every time I roll out my push-mower. I tell them I can’t hear them over his mower and keep pushing.

    I also collect their leaves for my own compost. They looked at me strange at first, but they’ve come around on that one and offer me their yard debris during the summer.

  3. John Robert Williams
    October 26, 2010 at 10:53 am

    Whoa! Why are you advocating raking the yard? Nothing could be worse for your lawn than starving it of natures food, the natural humus that trees provide. We as a city need to start educating citizens…stop raking and blowing leaves…..mow them into your lawn. I use a mulching mower (never, ever bag!) and don’t take as much as one leaf to the curb. Raking or blowing yards starves the soil of what it needs. Think of a mulching mower as a “food processor” for your lawn. I make a pass right over the leaves and needles, it grinds it all up and puts it right down on the soil as a fine dust of food…what a waste to strip our yards of the food nature gives us…the plus side, I NEVER have to fertilize my yard…no one should have to rake or blow…just mulch it in….its a miracle and its GREEN…it’s easy and it saves the massive waste of time and energy for the city to pick up lawn food and cart it away….and burning leaves?…that’s like burning money!

  4. October 26, 2010 at 11:33 am

    I easily beat my neighbors by a long shot when I rake my yard and they use a leaf blower. And I’m typically raking a thicker carpet of leaves than they are leaf blowing.

    Raking is more than just as fast – it is faster!

  5. October 26, 2010 at 11:41 am

    Well, for those of us who push mow–my preference for everyone–composting the leaves yourself and creating “black gold” that can be spread over the lawn is the MyWHaT recommendation. I only give a limited amount of leaves over to the city, in part because I collect the neighbor’s and have limited space. Of course, also recommended is the slow shrinking of lawns to be replaced by native plants and/or deep rooted grasses that require little water and look great without mowing.

    Of course, if we had one of these bike shredders…i could meet you there JRW.

  6. Carol Navarro
    October 26, 2010 at 11:58 am

    I agree with you 1000%. The noise drives me crazy. What I don’t get is, why aren’t the people using the leaf blowers disturbed by the noise??!!

  7. Bill Palladino
    October 26, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Leaf blowers, lawn mowers, rakes, or goats; the real issue for me is that we in our micro-urban conclaves simply love to consume products and, by consequence, OWN them. No matter your flavor, (and I for one believe the existence of lawns themselves are the true problem), why is it necessary for every home owner to have her/his own collection of identical home-care devices? Especially these arguably big-ticket items that are only used a few times a year. Imagine the local economic power tied up in lawn care implements alone in Traverse City!

    I’d like to see neighborhoods working together on small cooperatives for these tools. I’m lucky enough to be involved in one… it’s my condominium association. None of us need to own this stuff. It’s the basis of farm cooperatives around the world and can easily be scaled to meet local community needs. But it takes a bit of vision, collaboration and trust.

    When I lived in Slabtown the noise from one leaf blower or lawnmower in isolation was never the issue. What was maddening was the constant drone of these things on any given Saturday or Sunday, often amplified by simultaneous uses nearby. There seems to be no sacredness left to daylight hours. I’d gladly pay for the privilege of having a two-stroke-engine-free day in the week.

  8. October 26, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    When I suggested to a friend once that we should ban the leaf blowers like they do in some cities, her genius idea was that instead we should make raking look very cool, hip, desirable, sexy, fun. So I do my best! I love to rake and we rake some into the yard and compost some for our garden. But my neighbor doesn’t seem to pick up on just how cool it is as she blows that obnoxious tool every weekend of the fall. Sigh.

  9. October 26, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    Folks – having been to your fine part of the country and enjoying your nearly pristine back country I applaud you for your care and concern of and for your part of the world.

    I always marveled at how little trash there was along your roads compared to out here in California. But we’re trying, and here’s a link to a recent story we did on the blowers, which are being fought over here in Orinda.

    Here’s a link to a story we did on the topic: http://patch.com/A-rcG

  10. October 26, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    Nice discussion here today. I appreciate it. Just to be clear, I was singling out the leaf blower because it has a particularly annoying pulsating noise to it. Even a single machine going in a neighbor’s lot can be disruptive and harmful, the science of which is documented in the New Yorker article).

    I agree with Ashlea, let’s support the rake by making them fun and sexy…a lot like pedaling to work!

    What can make raking sexy?

  11. nate
    October 26, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    i heard chem lawn actually offers organic low phosphate fertilizers….

  12. Nate Elkins
    October 26, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    I rake… and use a leaf blower….

    MY rake has a wood handle which is from unsustainably harvested timber in Oregon (old growth I think) – the plastic was made in Gary Indiana and then shipped to NJ where they formed it into a rack and then it was shipped to China where they assembled the handle, and oh yeah I forgot the foam handle cover which was made India, and flown to China to be attached to the wood handle and then….shipped to Home Depot in Traverse City where I bought it….

    MY leaf blower on the other hand is electric and powered by the solar panels on my roof, the plastic it was made from came from recycled plastic milk and soda bottles, it was made and assembled in Michigan, shipped by train to a local hardware store where I bought it on my bike….and the noise it makes, well…I have to admit it is the closest thing I get to meditating all week…the constant drone actually seems to give my solitude!

    Moral of the Story….sometimes we just need to look at it upside down, from the outside in or inside out, whichever you prefer.

  13. John Robert Williams
    October 27, 2010 at 9:12 am

    Don’t move the leaves, USE the leaves….why fight nature? Saves energy.

  14. Cy Clone
    October 28, 2010 at 10:48 am

    Raking leaves in my bikini would be a start! But only if you rake yours in a speedo! But then again, I agree with JRW…leave ’em; good for your soil!

  15. October 28, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    I’m glad no one took the bate on this comment. Come on, Nate, you can come up with a better counter argument without resorting to fabrication.

    That said, your correct that there are lower decibel leaf blower models available. Unfortunately, they aren’t popular because 1)they tend to have sufficient, but lower horsepower (because that’s important when blowing leaves around (sarcasm intended)) and 2) they are perceived as too quiet. Apparently, part of the joy of using a leaf blower IS damaging your ear-drums and annoying your neighbors.

  16. Anonymouse
    November 11, 2010 at 9:12 am
  17. November 11, 2010 at 9:25 am

    Most people are hesitant to click through a link that is posted by “Anonymous” or”Anonymouse” and offering no context. In the future, please provide a name and some context.

    For the readers, the link goes to a Washington Post article titled, “Blow the Man Down Problem solving, guy style.” It’s a sarcastic story on the masculine nature of leaf blowers and where their use can lead–head butts, hammer tossing, a sheriff and Canadian-U.S. border disputes.

  18. Anonymouse
    November 19, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Let me ask you something if I had chosen to post the link with my real name would you think it was any safer?

    Even though I do live in TC, I’m sure you don’t know me and your readers don’t know me, so I don’t see how choosing a clearly anonymous name makes links I post any more or less threatening than using my real name?

    Besides, providing name and context like you did RUINS the mystery, magic and humor of just clicking through and reading the article!! Try being a little less serious sometimes, Gary!

    PS Dave Barry is a legend.

  19. November 19, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    I certainly will honor your right to be Anonymouse. Part of the goal of this BLOG is to help create community, and there is value in people identifying themselves. The affinity of honoring that with our true identity helps that a little and does give some people a more confidence in clicking through to links…but, isn’t the only thing. I appreciate that you like to comment and that you do comment, and that you would like to remain Anonymouse is fine. Whatever…

    Also, you’d be surprised who knows who in this town!

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