The most recent United Nations climate report reminds us once again of what we already know: the steady rise in global temperatures means catastrophe. We must adapt to what cannot be undone and commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels.
At home, we continue to wonder if our day-to-day decisions matter, as we watch an ongoing parade of environmental and humanitarian disasters. Many of us are beginning to accept that our children and theirs will not know the same planet as we do.
Yet, out of habit or hope, we continue to refuse plastic bags and look at the bottom of containers for the vague symbol of the hunting arrows, eager to put them correctly in the recycling. And we wait, looking to our elected officials for policies that will change our trajectory. We’ve been waiting for decades, as the distance in years between where we are and where we don’t want to be is shrinking.
The question remains: what can we do?
We need to look more and more at ourselves and take charge of what we can change ourselves. A starting point is in our own yards.
The gas leaf blower is harmful in every way and without a doubt – to the environment, to neighbors, to workers who carry them on their backs. These dangers have been the subject of numerous articles. Local and national organizations are working to educate and empower property owners, and provide guides to alternatives.
Neighborhoods remain divided into those that allow the noise and pollution and those that have no choice but to live with it. Yet we all take our recycling to the curb on the same day.
The solution is so simple. Electric leaf blowers are effective, available and affordable. They do not directly emit fossil fuel pollution. Their decibel output is safe. The best part? Making the switch requires only the simplicity and speed of a personal decision. Yours. Today.
The climate and the world are changing. What challenges will the future bring and how should we respond to them?
Landscapers can throw obstacles, but you can jump them. Invest in your own electric leaf blower, charged and ready to go. Or share one with neighbors. Or find a recruiting service equipped to support you. They exist. As more of us work together, the landscape industry will adapt. (There is, always and forever, the rake.)
Some may think they are offsetting the impact of the gas leaf blowers with robust recycling, vehicle selection, “green” purchases and more. But by any measure of carbon footprints, this machine is wearing a dangerously large shoe. To see my neighbors electric car charging in their driveway while a gas blower blaring across their yard leaves me stunned. What mental breakdown happened there?
California will ban the sale of gas leaf blowers and other small gas-powered equipment from 2024, citing serious environmental and human health impacts and the need to reduce carbon emissions. A few cities, including Washington, DC, have completely banned the use of gas leaf blowers. They show the way, but this hard-won legislation is taking way too long.
What does a street, community and country of property owners saying no to gas blowers look like? It looks the same. But it smells better, it sounds better, and it’s a safer, friendlier place for anyone who calls it home.
Last summer, Hurricane Ida devastated my New Jersey town and many others, with waterfalls pouring through basement windows and people drowning in their cars. The curbs were lined for weeks with piles of ruined furniture, boxes of useless memories, and rolls of soaked carpet. This is what a climate in crisis looks like. It’s no longer just the heartbreaking images we’ve seen for years of distant polar bears trying to get a firm foothold on melting ice. It’s here.
We will only know more about this. We will do much better if we choose carefully how best to care for ourselves, each other and our thin slices of this fragile planet. Who will come first to rescue the stranded in a flood? It is always the neighbor who has a boat. Ending destructive emissions and noise in our communities is important. This also applies to the impact of our choices on all those who work and live in the area.
The privilege that landscaping brings to the garden must give way to the privilege of taking care of the surrounding world in the best possible way. Neighbor for neighbour, yard for yard, the switch to electric means real change in the air this spring and from now on.
These conversations can be difficult to have with the good people we live with. Tell them you come in peace.
Jessica Stolzberg is a writer living in Montclair, NJ. lives