Santa Cruz C.H.A.S.E. began in 2013 as the Leaf Blower Task Force Santa Cruz in order to study the issue of leaf blowers in the city. The group conducted a large-scale survey on residents, finding widespread and overwhelmingly negative opinions about the use of leaf blowers in the city. At the time, the group did not push for regulation, opting instead to educate the public about the full range of their health and environmental impacts and to encourage residents to voluntarily end their use and to ask their landscapers to do the same.
In the years following, the group (now Coalition for a Healthy & Safe Environment–C.H.A.S.E.) met periodically, reported on the science surrounding the health and environmental impacts of two-stroke leaf blowers, and continued outreach and education. Meanwhile, most landscaping companies continued to use gas-powered leaf blowers, even as the evidence grew about the heavy impacts of two-stroke engines in populated areas, and even as the capability of electric leaf blowers approached that of most gas-powered ones and their prices dropped dramatically. Both the science and the economics favored turning the page on these machines.
So the community group felt there is no longer any sound reason to defend gas-powered leaf blowers‘ continual soiling of our air, taxing of our health, and disturbance of the peace. Our members began meeting with city officials and council members, started a petition, and began drafting language for an ordinance to ban gas-powered leaf blowers within the city.
The benefits are clear, and waiting to be claimed–quieter neighborhoods, cleaner air, less smog, lower greenhouse gas emissions, less asthma, stress, and other health impacts, and so on.
We created this website in July of 2020 to share the information we’ve gathered, further grow support for our cause, and press the city council to finally take this long overdue step to a cleaner, healthier, saner city.
On this page:
Why do you want to ban leaf blowers? What people do on their property is their business. Personal actions are up to personal choice as long as they don’t impose too heavily on other people’s lives or property. But the impacts of two-stroke gas leaf blowers fly outwards in all directions. The noise travels for several city blocks, affecting literally hundreds of people at once, and the pollution spreads even further. And the noise is not just an annoyance, it’s highly disruptive–it interferes with students’ education and studies, with conversations and meetings, and with all sorts of work and economic activity. It’s like a tax–on people’s productivity, communications, health, and quality time with family.
Won’t a ban harm the landscape workers who use leaf blowers? Actually, it’s the current situation that harms landscape workers. They are the ones operating these machines, for hours each day, breathing in the carbon monoxide, unburned hydrocarbons, toxins and particulates, right at the source, so that we can have pretty landscapes. When the companies they work for finally switch to battery blowers or manual tools, there will be just as much work as before, only they won’t be forced to sacrifice their health every day to make a living.
Would a ban on leaf blowers put landscapers out of business? Some people claim that if landscapers can’t use gas-powered leaf blowers, they would not be able to stay in business. No one likes being required to make a change, but the evidence shows that manual and battery-powered tools are perfectly consistent with a profitable landscaping business–in fact, the reluctance to change long-held habits costs money over time. Batteries for electric blowers are an up-front cost, but result in lower operation costs immediately–electricity is far cheaper than gas. And the investment fully pays for itself in about 1 to 3 years, after which the use of battery tools is more profitable. And the prices and longevity of batteries continue to improve. But you don’t have to take our word for it; look at the many cities that have already banned leaf blowers–landscape companies there are alive and well.
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To get the city council to finally pass a leaf blower ordinance, we’ll need to be able to reach out to our allies and supporters at various points. We can only do this together!
David Shaw, Director of Santa Cruz Permaculture, Coordinator of the Right Livelihood College at UC Santa Cruz
Tim Bratton, Non-profit Director
Ken Foster, Permaculture Instructor, Cabrillo College; Founder and Co-owner, Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping
Santa Cruz Climate Action Network
Katie Fortney, Copyright Policy and Education Officer, California Digital Library, University of California
Gary A. Patton, Former Santa Cruz County Supervisor
Joe Jordan, Educator, Scientist
David Foster, Former Santa Cruz Planning Commissioner; past Executive Director, Habitat for Humanity Monterey Bay
Orin Martin, Chadwick Garden Manager, Apprenticeship Instructor, UCSC Farm and Garden
Jonathan Scher, Nurse Practitioner
Ron Perrigo, Clean Team
Erin Loury, Fisheries Biologist
Krista and Peter Cook, Owners/Brokers, Lighthouse Realty and Property Management
Lisa McAndrews, Madrone Landscape Group; former Horticulture Instructor, Cabrillo College
David Bezanson, Ph.D., Active Five-Committee Member, Physicians for Social Responsibility, National and SF Bay Chapter; Retired Clinical Psychologist and Neuropsychologist
Lydia Neilsen, Certified Permaculture Educator
George Jarrow, RN, former Nurse Director, Dominican Hospital
Keresha Durham, Educator and Environmental Leader
Ellen Vaughan, Higher Education Sustainability Manager
–further endorsements forthcoming–
Santa Cruz, California