By an overwhelming margin, Town Meeting passed a sensible bylaw to protect us from noise and environmental degradation. A "yes" vote in the referendum on March 7 will be our chance to defend a sound policy and affirm the principle of majority rule.
It is a case of fundamental fairness: showing our children that we don't endorse spewing toxins and damaging the health of those who do our work.
To the Editor of Minuteman newspaper:
I encourage all residents to vote “Yes” on the March 7th referendum to uphold Town Meeting’s vote to transition the town away from gas-powered leaf blowers (GLBs) over the next few years and get the town back into compliance with existing noise regulations. The Town’s Noise Advisory Committee has worked on this issue for several years and developed the bylaw following a long series of discussions with the community, the Department of Public Works, and local landscapers. Last fall, 84% of Town Meeting members voted in support of the bylaw, noting that it provides over three years for landscapers to make the transition. Some members noted that it also provides time for Town Meeting to revisit the final transition date, if needed.
In addition to addressing the on-going violation of existing noise regulations, the Town’s Sustainable Lexington Committee identified that the article also addresses the health and environmental damage caused by GLBs. The two-stroke engines used to power GLBs are loud, transfer harmful vibrations to the user, and fail to fully combust the fuel used – releasing a toxic mix of exhaust, fuel, and particulates into the environment. The operator is directly exposed to the noise, fumes, and vibration throughout the workday, and residents are exposed to the loud buzz of the machines at neighbors’ homes, even two or three houses away.
For years, these machines have been tolerated because they ease spring and fall cleanup, and there has been no efficient alternative. But today, battery-powered leaf blowers are available that eliminate the toxic fumes and vibration, and greatly reduce noise levels. There are already landscapers in town exclusively using this equipment. Upfront costs for this equipment are higher than the gas alternative, but operating costs are lower, resulting in more comparable lifecycle cost.
Town Meeting members demonstrated strong support for this bylaw last fall. I encourage you to show similar support this spring and vote “Yes” on March 7th.
To the Editor of Minuteman newspaper:
Article 10, the ban on gas-powered leaf blowers, passed Lexington Town Meeting by a significant percentage, despite the very real and emotional controversy, despite a very long debate, despite the late hour of the final vote.
What carried Article 10 were some simple, salient facts: the uncontested exorbitant carbon emissions (300 times the non-methane emissions of a Ford Raptor truck) and noise harm caused by these machines both to laborers and to residents; the ongoing high level of violation of the current noise code (6 times the maximum increase in noise allowed under current Massachusetts and Lexington code); the existence of viable, competing, electrically equipped businesses; the adequacy of a 4-year timeframe for re-equipping contractors and residents with alternative technologies, especially knowing that firms are on a 4-5 year cycle of replacing equipment anyway; the ever-escalating cost of gasoline.
Will this change be disruptive? Yes. Any attempt to significantly alter our trajectory in carbon and noise pollution will cause uncomfortable, inconvenient, and – yes – costly breaks in our ongoing patterns of activity. And we need to alter our habits. We need to support different (existing!) business models to confront the climate emergency we and our families are facing.
Article 10 provides a sensible, reasonable transition to accomplish this.
Vote Yes on Question 1
The convenience of lawn services is important for many Lexington residents. But few know using “a single gas leaf blower for one hour produces emissions comparable to driving a Toyota Camry 1,100 miles, roughly the distance from Boston to Atlanta.” Electric leaf blowers not only avoid that environmental burden, but they operate at 1/8th the noise level. Some landscapers are behind a referendum to overturn a decision by Town Meeting (84% voted in favor of the ban after discussions with 60 landscaping companies) to outlaw gas blowers by March of 2025, with home owners given one more year – 2026. Our Public Works has no difficulty meeting this deadline to use electric leaf blowers. EcoQuiet Lawn Care, T. J. Collins Landscaping, and Inspirational Gardens are 3 firms that already use electric leaf blowers and rakes in Lexington. Please consider switching from gas to electric leaf blowers in 2025 / 2026 and voting Yes on Question 1 on election day, March 7th to preserve this environmentally friendly law. More information is available on https://www.lexingtonlivinglandscapes.org/resources-for-homeowners/ or https://www.quietcleanlex.com/learn/faq.
(Washington DC, 7/2/2018)
Thank you. Good afternoon, my name is Nancy Sainburg, and I'm the owner of the Enchanted Garden, a landscaping company located here in DC. We've been in business for over 30 years, and a majority of our business is in DC. We provide services to clients with properties as small as townhouses, and as large as several acres. Both commercial and residential properties.
You may hear some testimony today that it is not possible for landscape professionals to do our job without gas-powered blowers. But I can tell you from my own experience that that is completely untrue. We've been using only battery-operated blowers for the past two years, and have had no trouble keeping up with the work in a timely manner. We've had no complaints from clients that our services are taking more time, and have heard nothing but compliments on low noise levels from the battery blowers.
My epiphany regarding the switch from gas blowers to battery blowers occurred two years ago. I was out walking my dog, and I heard a leaf blower. When I got closer to the noise, I realized that it was my own landscape crew, who were finishing up an installation in my neighborhood. I had heard it from over two blocks away. That was it for me. The noise pollution was just too much.
I went out the next week and bought a battery-operated blower to see how well it worked. The initial reaction from my crew was, "Okay, we'll give this toy a try." But pretty soon they were favoring the battery-powered blowers over the gas blowers. The following spring season, we switched to all battery-powered equipment. The crew asked if we could keep one gas blower for the fall leaf season, and I decided to see what would happen. Once the fall season came, no one even once mentioned using the gas blower. The people who worked with this equipment every day have said that they enjoy using it much more than the gas equipment. They're not subjected to high noise levels, and they don't have headaches at the end of the day, which was often a complaint. Thank you.
(Washington DC 7/2/2018)
[Near the end of the Q&A after Zack Kline's testimony]
[Coucilmember] Cheh: Right, and I wanted to follow up on that, as well. As I was coming in here, I was asked a question by somebody in the media, and they said, "Well, you know what, it may be that they can do the job, but it may take longer to do the job." And so while then noise might be reduced, it goes on for a longer period of time. Is there anything to that?
[Air Lawn Care owner] Kline: You can go into Home Depot and actually buy a battery-powered leaf blower made by Echo. It puts out about 550 CFM, at about 100--
Cheh: Don't go technical on me.
Kline: Sorry. Basically, that's the volume at which you can push the air, and it's actually the most powerful leaf blower in the Home Depot aisle. The only difference is that it's battery-powered versus the gasoline options.
Cheh: Okay, and is that your experience as well?
[Enchanted Garden owner] Sainburg: Yeah, they work great. They don't seem to slow us down at all.
Cheh: Okay. So it's not going to extend the period of time during which the machines will be operating?
Sainburg: Not at all. No, I don't think so.
[Currently in 2022, leading battery powered leaf blowers have reached to the power level of 650-700 CFM.]