On Sept. 6, the Seattle City Council passed a resolution in support of phasing out gas-powered leaf blowers in the city by 2027. The legislation, which is a nonbinding resolution, asks the Mayor’s Office to develop a plan to stop the city and its contractors from using gas-powered leaf blowers by January 2025 and private individuals, businesses and institutions from using the machines by January 2027. However, the bill shies away from setting a hard deadline, inserting a clause reading “or later, if necessary.”
The resolution was introduced by Councilmember Alex Pedersen, who represents the University District, Ravenna, Wallingford, Laurelhurst and other neighborhoods of northeast Seattle. It was passed unanimously by the council.
The Seattle legislation comes after similar initiatives in other states and municipalities across the United States. In 2021, the California state legislature passed a law banning gas-powered leaf blowers and lawnmowers by 2024. Another ban in Washington, D.C., went into effect earlier this year.
Behind the local initiative is the activist group Quiet Clean Seattle, which is concerned about the air and noise pollution impacts of gas-powered leaf blowers.
Peri Hartman, the founder of the group, said that advancements in the development of electric leaf blowers have made the need for gas-powered ones obsolete. Hartman has been researching new electric leaf blower models and said that he has identified one that is likely powerful enough to deal with the most intensive needs, such as blowing wet leaves.
He also said that, in Santa Cruz, an environmental group found that savings from switching away from fossil fuels could recoup operating costs within 10 months.
“Electricity is incredibly cheap compared to gasoline, and the labor to maintain the gas engine is substantial, whereas there is zero-to-no labor to maintain an electric motor and battery,” Hartman said. “Plug it in the charger at night and in the morning you throw them in your bag and you get going. That’s it; nothing else to do.”
Quiet Clean Seattle is also concerned about how gas-powered leaf blowers could pose an occupational health and safety risk to landscape maintenance workers. Gas leaf blowers can exceed 100 decibels and emit toxic fumes. One study found that an hour of operating a gas leaf blower emitted the equivalent of 1,100 miles worth of air pollution from a 2016 Toyota Camry.
Advocates have also said that gas blowers disproportionately impact Latine landscape workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 47.1 percent of American landscape and groundskeeping workers in 2021 were Hispanic or Latine, while comprising about 18 percent of the entire workforce.
While momentum is behind proponents of the gas leaf blower ban, since the legislation is nonbinding, it will be ultimately up to the Mayor’s Office to decide how or whether to implement it.
Read more of the Sept. 21-27, 2022 issue.