September 2, 2020

Banning Gas Leaf Blowers Would Stop Noise, Encourage a More Organic Solution

To the Editor:

I am so pleased to see the issue of the gas leaf blowers resurface in Princeton. The loud noise and disturbance they cause are a nuisance, for neighbors, residents, visitors, and animals that share our environment. The noise is a pervasive problem as the current regulations permit blowers to be used extensively.

Town Topics has published many letters from residents for weeks, indicating our community wants a real solution. It well documented that these noisy, highly “inefficient,” air polluting machines are very harmful to humans. The leaf blowers generate dangerously fine particulates which damage the human respiratory system. Summer heat compounds the issue. The chairs of the Princeton Environmental Commission and the Board of Health recently sent a letter sharing that the leaf blowers are a public health concern.

On September 12, 2020, the New Jersey Environmental Lobby will recognize Grace Sinden. a local environmental activist, at a virtual event. For five full years, Grace advocated and worked intensively to get an ordinance passed banning gasoline leaf blowers in Princeton. In 2000, 20 years ago, Council considered an ordinance to ban the blowers. It was sadly defeated due to the advocacy of those that support gas blowers. At that time battery and electric leaf blowers were not readily available.

In addition to being noisy and a public health hazard, leaf blowers degrade our environment. For 10 years, myself and local activists have campaigned and provided education on the benefits of leaving the leaves. This is a simple, organic, free solution with the added benefit of supporting our planet. The leaves can be placed in a homemade leaf corral or just mowed and mulched returning to the earth as nature intended. At our September 12 event we will have a Zoom leaf corral building demonstration by Stephen Hiltner, a local resident.

Asking homeowners to require landscapers to use battery powered equipment can’t hurt, but it is not an adequate solution. Moreover, it is exclusive, ignoring renters who have little to no power to demand that a landlord take any action. Similarly, it excludes those that are harmed the most, low paid workers, with the least power to advocate for their health. Many of these workers live in our community.

If 20 years ago our community, green leaders, and Council explored an ordinance, why is this not being proposed now? Banning gas powered blowers would stop the noise, encourage a more organic solution, and protect everyone in our community, not just those individuals that have the power to demand a battery powered solution. Would we have smoking bans that protect workers if the issue was not addressed with legislation? No.

Bainy Suri
Chestnut Street