The most recent United Nations climate report reminds us, once again, of what we already know: The steady rise in global temperature spells catastrophe. We must adapt to what cannot be undone and commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
We at home are left to wonder whether our daily decisions matter, as we watch a continuing parade of environmental and humanitarian disasters. Many of us have begun to accept that our children and theirs won’t know the same planet that we do.
Still, out of habit or hope, we continue to refuse plastic bags and search the underside of containers for the faint chasing-arrows symbol, eager to place them correctly into 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 shrinks.
The question remains: What can we do?
We must, increasingly, look to ourselves and take charge of what we can change on our own. A starting point is in our own yards.
The gas leaf blower is by all measures, and without dispute, harmful — to the environment, to neighbors, to workers who carry them on their backs. These hazards have been the subject of countless articles. Local and national organizations work to educate and empower property owners, providing guides to alternatives.
Neighborhoods remain divided into those who allow the noise and pollution and those who have no choice but to live with it. Yet we all bring our recycling to the curb on the same day.
The fix is so easy. Electric leaf blowers are effective, available and affordable. They emit no fossil fuel pollution. Their decibel output is safe. The best part? To make the switch requires only the simplicity and speed of personal decision. Yours. Today.
Landscapers may throw up hurdles, but you can jump them. Invest in your own electric leaf blower to have charged and ready to use. Or share one with neighbors. Or seek out a yard service that is equipped to support you. They exist. As more of us join together, the landscaping industry will adapt. (There is, always and forever, the rake.)
Some may feel they offset the impact of the gas leaf blowers with robust recycling, choice of vehicle, “green” purchases and more. But by any measure of carbon footprints, this machine wears a dangerously outsize shoe. To see my neighbors’ electric car charging in their driveway as a gas blower blares across their yard leaves me bewildered. What breakdown in thought has happened there?
California is banning the sale of gas leaf blowers and other small gas-powered equipment starting in 2024, citing severe impact on environmental and human health and the imperative to reduce carbon emissions. A few cities, including Washington, D.C., have banned the use of gas leaf blowers entirely. They point the way, but this hard-won legislation is taking much too long.
The climate, and the world, are changing. What challenges will the future bring, and how should we respond to them?
What does a street, a community and a country made up of property owners who say no to gas blowers look like? It looks the same. But it smells better, it sounds better, and it’s a safer, kinder place to all who call it home.
Last summer, Hurricane Ida battered 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 heaps of flood-ruined furnishings, boxes of unsalvageable memories and rolls of drenched carpeting. This is what a climate in crisis looks like. It’s no longer just the heartbreaking images we’ve been shown for years of faraway polar bears trying to find firm footing on melting ice. It’s here.
We’ll only know more of this. We’ll fare far better if we choose thoughtfully how best to care for ourselves, one another and our thin slices of this fragile planet. Who comes 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 matters. So does considering the impact of our choices on all those working and living nearby.
The privilege that brings a landscaping service into one’s yard must make room for the privilege of caring for the surrounding world in the best possible way. Neighbor by neighbor, yard by yard, the switch to electric will mean real change in the air this spring and from now on.
These conversations may be difficult to have with the good people we live alongside. Tell them you come in peace.
Jessica Stolzberg is a writer who lives in Montclair, N. J.