The Village of Larchmont Board of Trustees has unanimously passed a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers effective January 1, 2022, the first complete ban in the Northeast United States.
They also limited electric leaf blowers to April for Spring clean-up, and October 15 to December 15 for Fall clean-up, with temporary allowances for extreme weather events as determined by the mayor.
Mayor Lorraine Walsh said, “Larchmont is proud to be a leader in municipal green policy… Thanks to the Larchmont Environmental Committee for working so hard on this legislative change and educating the community about the impacts of gas-powered leaf blower use.”
Effective enforcement improvements are an important part of the new ban. Both property owners and landscape company owners can now be ticketed, drawing them into decisions on property maintenance equipment use and holding them responsible for blower ban violations. Also, fine levels have been increased so violations are no longer considered a part of doing business. The ban applies to all crews and all properties in the village.
This past spring, Mayor Walsh issued an Executive Order banning leaf blowers during the COVID-19 pandemic to reduce noise for those working from home and to protect residents, particularly the most vulnerable members of the community — children, seniors, and convalescents. As the emergency ban took effect, residents praised the relative quiet, clear air, and greatly increased awareness of wildlife, especially birds.
The new ban follows a four-year outreach campaign by the Larchmont Environmental Committee to inform residents and landscape workers of mounting evidence regarding the health and environmental hazards of leaf blowers.
The engines in gas-powered leaf blowers emit particulates and gases that can be harmful when inhaled, and their loud noise raises stress levels and disrupts activities. All blowers send airborne particulates, including mold, pesticides, animal feces and other contaminants that may be inhaled by landscape crews and other passers-by.
Landscape crews are often unaware of the hazards, or unable to control the equipment they use and their exposure. This presents social and environmental justice issues.
Emissions from the inefficient engines of gas-powered leaf blowers also contribute to global warming and climate change. In addition, all blowers dry out and compact soil, increasing run-off. They blow away topsoil, the most nutritious level vital to plant health. This leads some property owners to resort to more herbicides and pesticides as weeds encroach on undernourished plants, toxins that can affect their families and pets.
Blowers also destroy habitats of insects, including critical pollinators as well as small mammals and birds. This contributes to a well-documented decline in insect populations, which is beginning to impact the global food web.
The Larchmont Environmental Committee sees the new ban as a gateway to healthier yards, where electric equipment replaces gas-powered machines, mulching and composting replace leaf blowing, and landscapes are valued more for natural beauty than for highly-manicured grooming.
Joyce H. Newman is an Emmy Award-winning environmental journalist, educator, and gardener. She holds a Certificate in Horticulture from The New York Botanical Garden, and is a tour guide there.