Few sounds make me angrier than gas-powered leaf blowers. Every time I hear them, they disturb our environment by emitting hazardous fumes and noise pollution in our communities.
In fact, gas-powered leaf blowers are among the greatest contributors to air pollution in Georgia and beyond.
A new report by Environment Georgia Research & Policy Center confirms what we already knew. Gas-powered lawnmowers, string trimmers, leaf blowers, chainsaws and other garden equipment generate large amounts of air and noise pollution.
Lawn and garden equipment in Georgia emitted an estimated 864 tons of harmful air pollution in 2020, an amount equivalent to the pollution emitted by 9.2 million typical cars over the course of a year, according to the report, which analyzed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data.
The report also showed that Georgia is among the top 10 states in the amount of air pollution generated by gas-powered lawn equipment. And four counties in metro Atlanta — Gwinnett, Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton — were among the top 10 in the state.
The good news is there are alternatives — electric lawn equipment — that are readily available for residential and commercial uses.
Jennette Gayer, a director with the Environment Georgia Research & Policy Center, and other environmental leaders invited people to Avondale Estates at the offices of Shades of Green Permaculture to demonstrate how electric lawn equipment is already in use.
Its zero-emissions service only uses electric-powered lawn equipment, and its EcoLawns trailer has solar panels that recharge the lithium batteries so the service can operate continuously.
All forms of electric lawn equipment — including leaf blowers — are also widely available for residential users at affordable prices.
The bad news is that during its 2023 session the Georgia State Legislature passed a law that forbids cities and counties from regulating or restricting the use of gas-powered lawn equipment. According to an exchange on Next Door, Georgia is the first state in the nation to pass such a bill.
Studies after studies have shown that gas-powered lawn equipment are one of the greatest contributors to air pollution – and a leading cause of climate change. And yet, our state is doing all it can to prevent local governments from encouraging the transition to electric equipment. Fortunately, that law is supposed to sunset in 2031.
“We took a step back,” Gayer said of the new state legislation. “We are calling on local governments to do work that will encourage this revolution and the transition from gas to electric.”
DeKalb County Commissioner Ted Terry said it’s an especially important time of year to focus on alternatives.
“Over the next several weeks we will be hearing the buzzing of leaf blowers,” Terry said. “We have to take action on climate change.”
The report highlighted several facts that show how gas-powered lawn equipment is bad for the environment. For example, using a gas leaf blower for one hour produces as much pollution as 15 cars driving in your neighborhood for one hour.
The report did encourage local and state governments to use electric equipment on public property and provide financial incentives to promote the widespread adoption of electric lawn equipment. The report further suggested cities and states consider restrictions on the sale and use of the most polluting fossil fuel-powered equipment.
Terry said he would do what he could to promote electric equipment in DeKalb County.
“These tools are harming the environment we steward and affecting the health of those doing this valuable work,” Terry said. “This is why I’m championing efforts that will assist with an equitable transition to electric lawn tools.”
Vicki Mann, co-founder of Quiet Georgia, also endorsed the use of alternatives to gas-powered lawn equipment.
“We have a chance to cut down on our air and noise pollution problem by switching to cleaner, quieter, readily available electric lawn equipment,” Mann said. “We shouldn’t accept tons of air pollution and ear-splitting noise as an inevitable byproduct of taking care of our gardens and lawns, nor should it come at the expense of the landscape workers health that maintain them.”
Gayer summed it up by saying the evidence is clear to make the transition to electric.
“There’s a new generation of quiet lawn equipment,” Gayer said. “It’s absurd that we have been tolerating so much harmful pollution and noise just to cut grass and maintain landscapes.”