leaf blowers zero air pollution
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Educating Your Gardener

Alternative Tools

Search Alternatives

Work Procedures

Gardening Tips

Reasonable Expectations

Check Decibel Levels

Workload and Fees


About 4 printed pages.


Educate and Instruct Your Gardener

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ZAP members have often heard, “I can’t tell my gardener how to do his job!”. Why not? Employers are obligated to see that laws are obeyed.

Most employers instruct employees how they want a job done to some extent. They explain their needs, and set forth what they expect of independent contractors hired to do a job.

Yet, it appears that, when hiring new gardeners, most residential employers ask only what the monthly fee will be, and what day of the week the work will be done. No automatic pay increases, no idea of how long the work will take on each visit, what specific chores are included in the initial price, or whether extra or additional seasonal work is included.

What is your gardener’s actual hourly wage? He or she also must take into consideration the costs of running their business and the fact that there is “dead time” traveling between jobs. Raking instead of blowing is just one of these considerations. One that is not difficult or costly to comply with.

Blowers create an illusion of usefulness

Give him this www.zapla.org website address and a printout of libraries in his (or your) neighborhood, that offer free computer access and instruction.

It isn’t personal. It’s business. Your instructions are not requests. They are orders. Be clear. “Don’t use a leafblower on this property. Don’t use water just to hose down sidewalks and the driveway. Use rakes and brooms.”

If you meet resistance, just think to yourself, “I pay you, and you work for me.”

Initiate a conversation and listen to the other side with a mind open to finding alternative ways to solve their problems, not by backing down and allowing the use of blowers. Ask for ways you can make their new job description easier by changing landscape, the environment, or expectations of what is a “good enough” job. See below for other specifics.

Be polite, but firm. Repeat your orders at the end of the conversation and get a confirmation that your worker agrees to whatever new terms you have worked out together.
Educate your Gardener. Explain local laws. “Gas Blowers are illegal near homes because they are not healthy. You can be fined, and I can be fined. It bothers me and it bothers my neighbors.”

If they say they are using another fuel, read more on this site in Debate and the Methanol sections.

If necessary, explain how their blower use affects you. It smells bad, it makes your car dirty and your furniture dusty, it makes you nervous, creates a cough or requires you to take allergy medication. Show some frustration about the situation – the dirty air and noise.

Refer them to good gardening practices and specific expert advice. If they are ignoring the Los Angeles ordinance, give them a copy of it, the press release from Councilmember Miscikowski, and the letter from the City Attorney’s Office, all of which are found on this site. (Refer to the City Attorney’s Office Letter and the Councilmember Miscikowski Letter)

Read the Los Angeles Ordinance
Use alternative methods to collect leaves and debris, instruct workers not to use blowers, or hire workers who do not use Blowers. RAKES AND BROOMS: These may not take more time as compared to the time spent gathering leaves, dust and debris by blower. Especially if the appropriate size and shape are used for each job. For instance, narrow, light rakes in some cases. Wide and/or heavy rakes in others. Both regular brooms and push brooms.

MULCHING MOWERS: These will reduce debris from 10 bags to 1 bag for your compost or the landfill. Some push short grass clippings back into the lawn. If they have a catch-bag, there will be fewer grass clippings to sweep off of the sidewalk.

SWEEPERS: These machines are specifically designed to gather up leaves, dirt and debris.

Hosing down with water, if used at all, should be considered only for the final removal of dust, if the water will flow back into a garden or lawn. All larger debris should first be removed by combination of rake, then broom.

IF YOU MUST use blowers:

Some blowers (even gas models) also will vacuum. Or, use a “shop vac” for dirt, dust and small debris after raking or blowing large leaves. This will not only cut down on emission air pollution, but also on fugitive dust air pollution.

The noise will probably be lower than gas blowers. An electric motor may be soundless, but the air velocity it creates may register as much as 65 dB or more. This is not the aggravating whine of a two-stroke gas engine, however, and may be easier to cope with. Motors may run on rechargeable batteries.

Some newer models, or those in development, offer an assortment of tools attachable to the same electric motor.
Search out these alternatives. Find distributors of the above suggested machines through local lawn and garden supply or repair shops. They also may be listed as Garden and Lawn supplies in the Yellow Pages phone directory.

Sometimes individual products are targeted to specific locations or climate zones. Go to various manufacturer’s web sites to see all of their products and to find distributors.

Remember, any single store will want to sell from their own inventory. Their representatives may demean the alternative products you seek out. One salesperson insisted to a ZAP member that there were no bans or restrictions on gas blowers in Los Angeles, and made untrue allegations to back up his claim. These were loosely based on year-old newspaper articles.
Watch work procedures for time-consuming bad habits.
Most clean-up time is spent on gathering-up grass clippings, dirt, dust and small bits and pieces, which could be swept aside, or even back onto the grass or into bedding areas.

If your worker is diligent and responsible, give constructive instructions for making work on your own property easier. If they spend several minutes blowing just a few leaves all the way down your driveway, suggest they just leave them. If they’re trying to blow damp leaves or flower petals, suggest they rake.

If the worker is incompetent or puts you in jeopardy of being fined for a leaf blower ban violation, get another gardening service.
Pass on Gardening Tips.

See specific advice
Gardeners come with all levels of knowledge and experience. Many are concerned only with clean up, and are not aware of the damage their work habits can cause.

Gardening experts do not recommend blowers. They dry out the earth, deplete minerals, blow off rich topsoil, and remove leaves and other potential mulching materials.

Leaves should be left to mulch in bedding plants and other areas from fall through spring.
Establish Reasonable Expectations for yourself and your Worker.

Besides his own pride of doing a “good job”, he may believe you consider a “good job” to mean that every speck of dust is removed from every bit of hardscape each and every week.
Suggest alternatives and express more reasonable expectations.

Your patio doesn’t need to be as clean as your kitchen floor when their work is done – just reasonably clear of leaves and debris. Perhaps this is true only part of the year.
Check the decibel level of all machines used on your property. Newer blowers show decibel levels on a sticker. Older machines may become noiser than the original sticker indicates.

Los Angeles Noise Regulation Section 112.05(c) states that powered equipment intended for repetitive use in or within 500 feet of a residential zone shall not exceed 65 decibles at a distance of 50 feet. This specifies lawn mowers, backpack blowers, small lawn and garden tools.

Download Word Document "L.A.LAW.doc"
Discuss the workload and fee schedule with your worker in a manner that is non-threatening. Workers have been given an inflated estimate of how much more time their work would take without the use of blowers.

Ask what things slow down the work, what things must be done weekly, what can be done every other week or monthly.

Can edging be done less frequently? Gas edgers use the same 2-stroke engine as gas blowers, with the same emissions and noise.

Have you ever offered a raise? Have you ever been asked for a raise? How long have you been paying the same rate, and is it still fair?

Gardeners have been led to believe that they will be fired if they ask for an increase in pay. Many seem fearful of even making suggestions that might balance out the workload.
Help your worker find the actual increase, if any, in work time without a blower.

Compare new work practices with those he uses now.
See the Debate section to prepare yourself for an “automatic” response regarding the supposed difference in work time or possible increase of fees if a blower is not used. See the results of timed tests conducted by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Workers who really have no idea of the differences will throw out a figure they have read in news articles or heard from others. It is likely to be far higher than the actual differences on your own property.

Time the gathering of leaves, grass clippings, dust and debris with a blower one week, and with rake and broom the next, working at the same pace and clearing the same amount of leaves and debris.

How much gathering is done on landscape, compared with the amount done on hardscape? Perhaps some paths and the driveway can be cleared less meticulously or less often.

If warranted, pay more. It might be an increase of only a few dollars per month! Or, adjust expectations.