Landscapes were well maintained before gas-powered leaf blowers took over American towns, and in cities that have banned these machines, landscapes are still well maintained. Many pro landscapers know they’re not a necessary tool, and by using clean alternatives to leaf blowers in their clients’ yards, they’re cultivating thriving landscapes with just as much curb appeal, but also richer soil, healthier ecology, and less need for watering and fertilizer.

Bottom line–these clean alternatives produce better results, with happier neighbors.

Landscaping used to be more than scorched earth cleanup.

– Jamie Banks, founder of Quiet Communities

I’ve kept a gas-powered blower on hand [after switching to battery ones], just in case. But I haven’t touched it in over a year.

– Brett Graf, Habitat Gardens

On this page:

Ditch Leaf Blowers
Best Practices
Tools for the Job
Electric Leaf Blowers?
Pros and Cons of Electric Leaf Blowers
Costs of Gas vs. Battery Blowers–Which is Cheaper?
List of Local Clean Air Landscapers
Resources for Landscapers and Homeowners

Ditch Leaf Blowers

Take the pledge not to use leaf blowers, for the sake of your neighbors and the health and environment of Santa Cruz.

And if you hire a company to maintain your landscape, tell them you’d like them to switch to battery-powered or not to use any leaf blowers at all. We’ve made this easy! We’ve written a letter you can customize and send to the owner or manager of your landscape company, or to your HOA: see Greening your Landscape Company.

no leaf blowers

For most properties, rakes and brooms do the job nearly as fast. And–here’s a secret–a lot of what passes for clean-up work can be skipped. Faux English country estates with trimmed lawns cleared of nature’s leaves and insects are out of favor, there’s growing appreciation of functional gardens welcoming to nature, that don’t cost you extra in water, fertilizer, and most importantly, time. If your landscape company resists, remember, they work for you, and their work impacts the neighborhood. Besides using no leaf blowers on your property, consider asking them to clear leaves from hard surfaces only–it will save time, and the remaining leaves help the soil retain moisture and provide cover for beneficial insects and critters.

If you must blow the leaves and all that goes with them, check out battery leaf blowers–they’re as capable as the old gas blowers, cheaper to operate, and much cleaner and quieter. Better yet, get an electric vacuum (or blower with a vacuum mode)–it’ll shred the leaves for you, so they’re easier to use as mulch, and it won’t kick up dirt and toxins from soil and pavement.

And ask your neighbors to do the same–they may not even know their landscape company is using gas-powered blowers.

Best Practices

Moving beyond gas leaf blowers doesn’t need to cost more money. Most properties can be maintained with manual tools with little or no extra labor time, and battery leaf blowers today are as capable as most gas blowers, and cost less to power and maintain.

First decide which surfaces you want clearing. Some landscape companies come through with a leaf blower and blow everything in sight, by default. That’s unnecessary, and it’s bad for your plants and soil. If your landscaper thinks raking and sweeping will take more time, consider asking them to clear just the paths and driveway weekly and the softscapes (lawns and plantings) every other week. Or mulch those leaves or just leave them to replenish the soil (see below).

If your property is too large for manual tools, and you can’t reduce the scope of the leaf collection to save time, and you must blow the leaves and soil all over the place (that’s a lot of ifs), see the section on battery leaf blowers below.

Here are some ways to reduce the time spent on clearing and sweeping, while reaping the benefits that backyard nature offers for free.

  • Leave leaves where they are, around shrubs and plants
    • They act as a natural mulch, providing critical nutrients to the soil, helping suppress weeds, and providing cover for beneficial critters and insects
    • A natural leaf cover fertilizes the soil and holds moisture, reducing the need for fertilizer and watering
  • Mulch leaves in place (mowing leaves with a mulching mower or mulching blades)
    • Provides all the benefits of leaving leaves where they are, but “mulching in place” turns them into tiny shreds, speeding the process
    • Perfect for lawns for a “tidier” look without using a blower
  • Add leaves to your compost pile, and add the finished compost to your garden
  • Or just rake leaves into a pile in the corner of your yard; a simple wire enclosure will prevent the wind from blowing them away
    • Adding sticks and branches to the pile provides extra shelter for local wildlife

Tools for the Job

The best way to clean up most landscapes is with the same tools that have been around for ages. There’s a wide variety of rakes and brooms that handle nearly any regular landscape clean-up quietly, cleanly, and efficiently.

Beyond regular rakes and brooms,

  • Light-touch brooms like the bamboo broom are great for sweeping leaves off of soft surfaces like moss or areas of stones or pebbles
  • The Peace broom blows leaves and other light litter off of most surfaces–human-powered

Consider clearing debris from only paved surfaces, leaving the leaves on softscapes to protect plants and critters and reduce the need for water and fertilizer.

For extra large sites like office parks and city parks, if they absolutely positively have to be cleared with hurricane-force winds, modern battery leaf blowers can do the job (see below).

A manual tool doesn’t need gas. Or a manual.
bamboo broom
Bamboo broom
rake
Low-tech and effective
Any size you want

Battery Leaf Blowers?

BGA200

When ditching gas-powered leaf blowers, it’s tempting to just switch to electric, and do everything the same as before. After all, batteries and battery-powered tools have come a long way in the last few years, and battery leaf blowers are now as capable and affordable as gas ones for most jobs. Actually, they quickly start saving money, because the gas and maintenance costs for gas-powered machines are high. Plus, many companies have a whole line of battery tools which use the same type of battery, so you can easily drop the same battery into a leaf blower, string trimmer, edger, even a chain saw, making it easier than ever for landscapers to upgrade their entire line of power tools.

But before simply switching to batter power but doing everything else the same way as before, take a minute to revisit what you actually want and need doing on your property–there’s a good chance you don’t need a blower at all, and even battery ones have environmental downsides. Take a look at the pros and cons below and decide for yourself.

Electric Leaf Vacuums suck up leaves and shred them before sending them into the attached bag, so they don’t blow away the soil or disperse all those nasty particulates that leaf blowers–whether gas or battery–do. And bonus–shredded leaves take up less space in your green bin or compost pile, and even better, you can use them as mulch around your plants. (Many battery leaf blowers have a vacuum setting).

Pros & Cons of Battery Leaf Blowers

Pros

  • Emits no hydrocarbons, toxins, or carcinogens
  • Electricity must still be produced to charge batteries, but the power that flows through most grids is much cleaner than what 2-stroke engines produce, and getting cleaner all the time
  • They are generally about half as loud as gas blowers (though a few models are just as loud)
  • Cost less to run–no more buying (and spilling) gas and oil, and they’re cheaper and easier to maintain
  • More comfortable–and much safer–for the operator

Cons

  • As with gas blowers, the high winds disperse dust, chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers, and fecal matter from soil and surfaces towards other people’s houses, yards, … and lungs
  • As with gas blowers, they can blow away needed soil and organic matter, and displace beneficial insects and critters
  • The lithium required for batteries comes primarily from just two regions, and extraction has high environmental costs. Cobalt extraction (largely from Congo and Central Africa) is even worse, often involving unsafe conditions and child labor. Demand for these is rising.
  • It is possible to recycle the lithium in Li-ion batteries, but energy intensive and not (currently) cost-effective. This could change.

If you do decide to go electric, here are links to manufacturers’ websites for cordless (battery) and corded leaf blowers and other electric landscape equipment (via CA Air Resources Board).

Switching to battery-powered blowers and weed whips was the best thing I could have done for my workers.

-Arturo Valdivia, Public Services Supervisor, City of Coronado

Costs of Gas vs. Battery Blowers–Which is Cheaper?

Proposals to end the use of gas-powered leaf blowers often raise understandable concerns among landscapers about the cost of switching to electric. After all, the batteries aren’t cheap, and you may need two or three to make it through a full day of jobs. So it is more expensive initially than just buying another gas blower.

But the operational costs of gas blowers are much higher than that of battery blowers. The gas and oil burned in a gas blower are much more expensive than the electricity used by a battery blower. So battery blowers cost less to use, every day, than a gas blower and after about a year and a half the batteries have paid for themselves–every day after that brings in higher profits than you can get by using a gas leaf blower.

The chart below shows a cost comparison over time between a gas and battery-powered model of similar output. The lines show the cumulative cost over time of purchasing each blower (plus 3 batteries and chargers, for the battery option) plus the operation costs.

Costs will vary depending on what model is used, the price of gas at the time, etc., but this scenario is relatively conservative. Gas prices are often much higher, and the more hours per week the blower is used, the higher the savings. In addition, prices and longevity of batteries continue to improve. Some landscapers may need a little help to make the initial switch, and options for that are available, but the economics of gas versus battery blowers are squarely on the side of battery power.

Local Clean-Air Landscapers

If your current landscapers use gas-powered leaf blowers, kindly ask them to use rakes and brooms instead, or, if truly necessary, an electric blower or vacuum. Most have long known that cities are moving to curb two-stroke landscape equipment and have had time to plan for it. Customer demand helps incentivize landscapers to make the switch.

Remember, you’re hiring them, and you’re responsible for what’s produced on (and dispersed from) your property. If your landscaper insists on using gas-powered blowers, consider hiring one of the companies below. They all have agreed to not use gas-powered leaf blowers, either by customer request or as their general practice. This list is new and growing, so if you’re aware of (or the owner of) a licensed landscaping company we should add to this list, please let us know. And if you own or manage a landscaping company and would like to be included on this list, please fill out our short survey.

CompanyOffers Electric/Battery
Leaf Blowing
Offers No-Blow ServiceOwner/ContactPhone
A Growing ConcernYesYesDon Penner(831) 458-3447
Cool Earth LandscapesYesJoe Ruwe(831) 252-9006
Habitat GardensYesYesBrett Graf(831) 359-7918
The Landscape CompanyNoYesPhil Dundas(831) 476-7070
Lovejoy GardensYesYesKristin Lovejoy
Love’s GardensYesYesGolden Love(831) 471-9100
Orchard Keepers, Inc.YesYesMatthew Sutton(831) 854-7811
Petrini’s Gardening ServicesYesNoM. Wade Petrini(831) 818-9207
Rodriguez GardeningYesYesRaul Rodriguez(408) 529-1910
Terra Nova Ecological LandscapingNoYesKen Foster(831) 359-5717

Resources for Landscapers and Homeowners

Join Our Campaign

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!

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