Ordinance Restricting Use of Gas Leaf Blowers Goes Into Effect
By Anne Levin and Don Gilpin
As of Monday, landscapers and homeowners will have to care for their lawns without the use of gas-powered leaf blowers. May 16 marks the end of a 90-day grace period allowing residents and landscapers time to adapt to new regulations established by an ordinance Princeton Council adopted last fall.
The ordinance bans usage of the equipment from now until October, when it is lifted for two months during peak fall season. The ban resumes in mid-December and runs through the following March, when the cycle begins again.
Council voted unanimously in favor of the ordinance after nearly a year of deliberations by Sustainable Princeton, Quiet Princeton, the Princeton Environmental Commission, and the Board of Health. The goal is not only to protect the environment, but also the health of landscaping workers.
“It went into effect in October, but this is the first time people will really be forced to change,” said Councilwoman Eve Niedergang, who led the effort. “The dates we decided on were determined with the input of the landscaping community — when they absolutely need the gas leaf blowers, and when can they manage without them. We tried to do this in an equitable way, bringing in all the parties involved.”
While gas-powered leaf blowers are subject to the changes, gas-powered and battery-powered mowers can be used year-round. The rules allow them Mondays-Fridays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturdays from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.; and Sundays and named holidays from 1-6 p.m.
The ordinance encourages landscapers to replace gas-powered with battery-powered equipment. A Landscape Equipment Transition Fund established by Sustainable Princeton provides up to $500 in financial assistance for qualified small landscaping companies. “There is still money left in the fund for landscapers who want to take advantage of this,” said Niedergang.
A large part of the effort is urging people to consider using the leaves instead of using equipment to blow them off their properties. “The leaves are a valuable natural resource, and it’s much better to keep them on your lawn,” said Niedergang. “They provide a valuable resource
for insects and birds. So rather than sweeping your beds clean of leaves, let them stay around the base of the bushes and trees. We see this as the beginning of a shift in how people view their lawns and the resources nature provides, such as leaves. It’s about thinking in a more ecologically-minded way.”
Residents are encouraged to communicate with their landscapers and make sure they are registered with the municipality, showing proof of workers’ compensation. “That means if a worker gets injured on the job, there will be resources to compensate that worker,” said Niedergang. “What we hear from both workers and the landscaping companies is that they want it to be a level playing field. We want to promote an environment in which the company is registered and provides basic needs required by the state. We heard from a lot of landscape workers who had been injured on the job, only to find that their employer didn’t have that insurance. And they didn’t have the resources to deal with the injury.”
Residents will receive mailers with details of allowable days and hours of use of landscaping equipment. The information can also be found on princetonnj.gov.
“This is an opportunity for people to rethink how they conceive of their property,” said Niedergang, “what we’re calling a paradigm change. This is where the rubber hits the road.”