Letter to the Editor: Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers Should Be Silenced

A Wilmette residents weighs in on the leaf blower debate in Glencoe.

To the editor:

The LakeShore Estates Owners' Association's president, David B. Brode presents compelling arguments and excellent suggestions for permanently banning gas powered leaf blowers in residential communities like Glencoe. Gas powered leaf blowers don't just create noise, they create a particularly painful kind of noise that other noise makers don't produce. 

RELATED: Glencoe Homeowners Association Asks to 'Protect the Neighborhood' Against Gas Leaf Blowers

And, for residents annoyed by barking dogs, noisy neighbors or roving saxophone players, remedies are already on the books. Local ordinances provide year long relief for these kinds of residential disturbances.  Why make an exception for gas powered leaf blowers?

It is an oxymoron to compare noise downtown from traffic, police sirens and a panhandling saxophone player who plays television theme songs for hours at a stretch to residential neighborhoods. Residents have the reasonable expectation of a quality of life that excludes the regular intrusion of downtown, and/or industrial-type noise. Being subjected to months of gas powered leaf blower noise and pollution from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. six days a week is not what most residents moved in for. 

It is hyperbole to equate at-home workers who complain about gas-powered leaf blowers as demanding "complete quiet all day long." And to argue that people who work at home "probably should not be living in Chicagoland" because they object to the months of gas powered leaf blower noise and air pollution that occurs from morning to night, shows insensitivity and intolerance. 

 As for the person who "suspects" the SUVs and luxury autos driven by the vast majority of Glencoe residents create more pollution than a leaf blower used a "few times each year," he suspects wrong. The facts are the opposite.

See: http://daviswiki.org/Banning_leaf-blowers

Furthermore, where I live, in Wilmette, when lawnservices are using gas powered leaf blowers, it is difficult and unpleasant to even take a walk on the sidewalks. Not only is the noise unbearable (they can use ear protectors), but so is the smell and the clouds of dirt and dust they bring up. The public sidewalks, which are intended for walking, become difficult and unpleasant to navigate throughout gas powered leaf blower season.  

It is also unpleasant when the dual products of gas-powered leaf blowers enter one's home though the (even closed) windows: hideous noise and pervasive, lingering foul odors. 

What has happened? Even in the face of intrusive machines with marginal benefits that are linked to deafness and lung-related illnesses, and degrade residents' hard-earned quality of life, people sometimes hesitate to speak up. But, these issues are too important to succumb to philosophical distractions like pleas to deal with grand overall issues, such as "noise," which are meaningless because a quieter and healthier community can only be achieved by dealing with the specific culprits, like gas powered leaf blowers.

As residents oppose a future marred by noisy, polluting gas powered leaf blowers, they can simultaneously take practical and life enhancing steps to make these machines obsolete. Decreasing the size of lawns and developing areas of beautiful and fragrant native Midwest grasses, flowers, shrubs, sedges, trees, and, perhaps, adding a bench, small paths, and bird baths, leads to a greener, quieter, healthier life style. Choosing native plantings will enable Glencoe residents to enjoy the native birds and butterflies that our current life style has driven out.

Most Midwestern butterflies only lay their eggs (reproduce) on native Midwestern plants," which is the vegetation they co-evolved with, as most butterfly caterpillars can only digest the native vegetation, as opposed to, say, vegetation from Asia. Some butterflies are specialists. Monarch Butterflies, for example (the official Illinois State Insect), only lay their eggs on species of Milkweeds (exs: Orange Butterfly Milkweed, Sullivant's or Prairie Milkweed, White Milkweed and Swamp Milkweed).  

If Glencoe's residents prefer butterflies to gas powered leaf blowers, they will prefer landscaping and gardening with beautiful, low-maintenance native plants, such as purple and yellow coneflowers, orange and pink milkweeds, golden Alexanders, blue wild indigo and native prairie grasses instead of high maintenance lawn-dominated landscapes surrounded by faddish Asian ornamental grasses, and introductions from China like daylilies, butterfly bushes and hostas.

Eliminating noisy, smelly, pollution producing gas-powered leaf blowers used on high maintenance lawns by choosing beautiful low maintenance, bird and butterfly friendly native flowers and plants will make Glencoe a quieter, pleasanter and healthier community.    


Charlotte Adelman 

Charlotte Adelman is a Wilmette resident, whose efforts helped achieve a Wilmette ordinance forbidding summertime use of gas-powered leaf blowers. Charlotte is the co-author of The Midwestern Native Garden- Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants, An Illustrated Guide (Ohio University Press 2011). Website: http://www.ohioswallow.com/book/The+Midwestern+Native+Garden


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