Leaf blowers: just a nuisance or useful in parts? – Knowledge

At some point you see them everywhere: the robot lawn mower that rasps across the meadow for hours. The weed burner that burns every scrap of vegetation out of the gaps in the seal. Or the leaf blowers that whirl up leaves in autumn with a hell of a racket. Among all these modern nuisances, the blowing nature tamers in particular stir up tempers: What a Noise, what a cloud of dirt from dog excrement, mould, spores and tire abrasion the leaf blowers whirl up in the air! And how much energy are they wasting in the process, especially in an energy and climate crisis! It used to be possible without it – so why are these things used at all?

This was also the question asked by the municipality of Haar in 2020 after it had dealt with the effects of leaf blowers. “Leaf blowers are as loud as a jackhammer or a circular saw,” explains Lukas Röder, head of Haar’s environmental agency. However, they would not only strain the ears, but also the lungs and heart, since they emit exhaust gases such as hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide.

A blanket of leaves provides shelter for animals

They also have a problem Nature, when its mulch is blown off. In winter, all sorts of insects can hide under it, but also toads or hedgehogs; they are protected from dehydration and cold. In the spring, microorganisms decompose the organic material and provide humus and nutrients. “You should definitely allow this natural cycle,” says biologist Albert Wotke from the environmental organization WWF.

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In addition, all small animals that come within reach of a leaf blower are in acute danger of death, as it shreds everything it sucks in. Wotke speaks of a “gigantic killing machine”.

The municipality of Haar decided to go without their two dozen leaf blowers for a year. The 30 employees of the building yard grabbed the rake instead. And the residents were encouraged to do the same. “We can’t forbid it to the citizens,” explains Röder.

The municipality quickly realized that the renunciation is also associated with effort. Because even if the leaf blowers seem to whirl up the leaves completely inefficiently before they are redistributed in the wind – the devices actually save manpower: there should be more than three employees per device. “Racking the leaves means more work for the building yard,” admits Röder.

In addition, the blower can also reach places where the rakes cannot reach – under cars or in the corners of parking bays. Leaves are not allowed to just lie there, there is a duty to ensure traffic safety. However, the leaves stayed longer on the playgrounds, the sunbathing lawns of the outdoor pool and the forest cemetery in Haar – whereupon complaints were received in the town hall, also because the leaves were blowing into the neighboring gardens.

But the project was well received by most, explains Röder. In a survey of residents, a majority said things had calmed down in the community. In the meantime, the building yard can use the leaf blowers again – however, these should gradually switch from petrol to the quieter and less harmful battery or electric operation.

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Private households are better advised to use a rake

Cities like that have it too Berlin, Stuttgart and Munich decided. The latter has the use of leaf blowers as well restricted“since the state capital Munich is aware of the burden on the environment as well as the disruption of the soil function when operating leaf blowers,” according to the environmental department. The building department now only uses the devices for large-scale use in autumn to blow the leaves off the streets and green spaces. Haar also wants the leaf blowers from now on only use it where it is absolutely necessary.

For private households recommended by the Federal Environment Agency, even to completely do without the apparatus and prefer to use brooms and rakes. Also because the purchase and operation of leaf blowers and vacuums costs a lot of money and hardly makes work on small areas easier. Also, exercise is healthy. Many garden owners see it differently. According to one of the major leaf blower manufacturers, demand continues to rise. This also applies to the “cleaning” area as a whole.

WWF expert Wotke recommends leaving the leaves on the beds and under trees and bushes. You should only rake them from the meadows so that the leaves don’t press together into mats and leave bare patches in the lawn. “I have nothing against grass in the Garden“, says the biologist. “But against ecological deserts.”

And here he is at the second modern nuisance: the robot lawn mowers. These would not even stop at a hedgehog and kept the meadow very short – a problem in times of frequent summer droughts, as the water evaporates faster and the lawn burns. Better is a wildflower meadow that is only mowed once or twice a year and attracts butterflies, bumblebees and bees.

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