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Beyond Leaf Blowers

Are leaf blowers bad?  Should they be banned?  That's a debate that is currently happening in San Mateo.  Leaf blowers cause noise & air pollution and are potentially harmful to the landscape workers who use them all day.  These are the facts - but regulating use is problematic - from the potential economic impact to small, minority owned landscape companies to the difficulty of enforcement.  So nothing has changed.  Well...something has changed...have you seen our new Landworks Leaf Mulcher?

With an electric 15-amp 1800 watt motor, it sounds like you're running a shop vac.  The result is a beautiful mulch that will more quickly decompose in your compost bin and makes excellent worm bin bedding.  We're so lucky to have a large camphor tree out front to give us with a year-round supply of leaves!  Oh...where was I...leaf blowers...yes.

This much is true: one person's yard waste another person's soil food.  Soil food?  Isn't that what they call fertilizer at Home Depot?  Yes and no.  For decades we've been marketed "Miracle Grow" and "Turf Builder" chemical products to spread on our lawns.  Problem is that most of the nitrogen in these products can't be absorbed and ends up polluting our waterways.  Ever notice the amount of water that runs down the street while a neighbor's sprinklers are on?  Not good.

The social pressure to have a green grass lawn may have started in the 50's & 60's as American suburbia was built.  But it's 2020 - so while we rethink things like our criminal justice system, the healthcare system, racial inequality and a broken food distribution system - we also need to divorce ourselves from the supposed green lawn utopia.  Think of the impact we could have on food and water insecurity if we grew food on our property instead of decorative grass!

While we're rethinking - let's address the green bin.  In San Mateo, homeowners are given the opportunity to separate organic materials from trash - with the intention of keeping organic waste out of the landfill.  Just to give you an idea of what this looks's an image from inside the green waste facility in San Carlos:
Photo taken April 18, 2019 at the Recology San Carlos Green Waste Facility.

Lots of plastic and other waste in there.  I think there's a better way.

Back to my new leaf mulcher.  How about this idea:  replace the trucks that haul organic waste all the way to the Central Valley composting facility with electric mulchers.  $220 each (not trying to sell these...but here's a link if you'd like to check them out for yourself).  Feed the mulch to the soil - which will be healthier and better able to support growing plants.  Grow fruit trees, blueberry bushes, a vegetable garden...and the plants will naturally sequester carbon in the soil - helping to mitigate the rise in global warming.  Share the harvest from your yard with people in the community who need a bit of help.  Isn't this better than a grass lawn?

If leaves become a valuable input - as opposed to an invaluable waste product - the practice of collecting leaves will replace blowing them - and the leaf blower issue becomes irrelevant.

And those landscape crews - the "mow & blow" people - can increase their revenue by offering gardening services beyond lawn mowing:  fruit tree pruning & care, designing and building raised bed gardens, advanced irrigation and rainwater harvesting.  Oh...and onsite composting.  Could we get the local government to subsidize this work as part of the Climate Action Plan?

What I'm describing is already happening in pockets around San Mateo.  It's time to stop debating leaf blowers and start moving toward a new vision of the perfect yard. 


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