Leaf Blowers-An Apology, of sorts

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Landscaping is pretty non-controversial, for the most part. After all, we’re out there, in all weather, making things better. Healthier trees, mown grass, clean and safe walkways, to name just a couple of things we do. In fact, I dare say, we’re only unpopular one time of the year, and we’re right in the middle of it now. Leaf Blower season.

We don’t really like them either. They are heavy, not the most ergonomic of things to lug around, and they’re noisy. Necessary? Absolutely. Spend half of an hour in communion with a rake, and you’ll quickly understand exactly where your shoulders are, how they are supposed to move, and why it is just not possible to rake all day, or even part of a day.

Mulching leaves is a great option, and something we do as much as possible, by putting special blades on the lawn mowers. This is the ultimate in recycling-putting the leaves right back in the ground from whence they came (sort of). Unfortunately, many of the trees on campus have large leaves, and tend to drop all at once, which quickly overwhelms the ability of the mowers to chop the leaves. So we pick them up, using large vacuums, and take them to compost.

The no-mow areas are a great help this year as well. We are not picking up leaves in those locations at all, so that’s a significant amount of area we don’t need to cover anymore.

I was going to write about emissions from leaf blowers, but after some quick research on the web I decided not to even go there. It’s polarizing, to say the least. Proponents were quick to point out that all emissions from leaf blowers in use for one year equal the emissions form call cars in use for 11 hours. Opponents state how up to 30% of the fuel goes out the exhaust unburned (side note-that is on older models, not the ones we use). Regardless, after having just attended the local 350.org International Climate Day of Action, I’m feeling a little guilty, but realistic. They are tools, and a safe and efficient one, but one we would like to use as little as possible. We enjoy our work, and would like to keep doing it for a while, so we need to keep very good care of our shoulders.

We as a department have been phasing out our older models, in favor of more fuel efficient, and much quieter models, not just for the environment and the Middlebury community, but for us as users. The model we are switching to is a low emission, fuel efficient model with the lowest decibel rating on the market. They are so much more pleasant to use, in fact, that they are often the only ones in use.

So sorry about the noise, we’re not crazy about it either. We’re trying to get through it as quickly as possible. We’ve got snow to start thinking about.

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