David Stairs

Ah, autumn.

A crispness is in the air. The delectable smell of woodsmoke, the warm sun burnishing a hundred shades of orange, the tang of fresh cider at the orchard, or a field full of pumpkins at sunset. Into this idyll clomp the Boys of Autumn toting the ultimate example of techno-idiocy: leaf blowers.

The Boys of Autumn

Most gasoline powered leaf blowers, originally invented to spray ag-chemicals, use two-stroke engines that are not only dirty, but burn oil. And, of course, they are a huge contributor to noise pollution, with some blowers topping out at 80 decibels. One source, Zero Air Pollution Los Angeles (ZAPLA), states that leaf blower use at one residence impacts eight to fourteen neighbors. Not to mention that people using them don’t seem to mind blowing leaves right out into the middle of busy streets while traffic is passing.

It always makes me marvel to watch a workman with a leaf blower trying to ignore his fate on a windy day; blow ’em away, they come right back. Blowers have been implicated in the spread of toxic dust that can be deadly to the elderly and people with asthma. Since 1976 several municipalities around the country have banned or severely limited leaf blower usage.

In an alternate universe, two hours = 300 calories

What to do about dirty, noisy leaf blowers? Electric blowers are quieter and don’t pollute, and four-stroke gas engines have been introduced to address the pollution issue. But what ever happened to the notion of light physical work? According to Harvard Health, a 125 pound person raking the yard for 30 minutes will burn 120 calories. And this is no small issue for a nation of fatties. The CDC reports that the percent of American adults age 20 years and over who are obese is 35.1%, while the percent of adults age 20 years and over who are overweight, including obesity, is a whopping 69.0% (2011-2012).

So why not just buck the trend? Join in an autumn tradition as old and venerable as cider and donuts, and get a rake!

David Stairs is the founding editor of Design-Altruism-Project.