Get Rid of the Leaf Blower
Call it autumnal guilt. It is kind of cheating, after all, to dispatch thousands of beautiful oak, maple, and elm leaves in an hour or less with minimal physical effort, all because you used that leaf blower.
With lawns, as with almost everything else in life, looking good comes at a price-one you may want to reduce to spare the environment and your neighbors' sanity. A single gas-powered leaf blower-and more than 2.5 million of them will be sold this year alone-can emit as much pollution in a year as 80 cars. And the artificial winds of up to 200 miles per hour a blower generates can create a mighty roar. Many communities, like those in Montgomery County, Md., have restricted blowers to those with noise levels below 70 decibels, while others, like Palo Alto, Calif., have banned them outright. Plus, leaf blowers spew the mold, allergens, and dust particles that Mother Nature tamps down with rain and decomposition into the air at high velocities, exacerbating health problems like asthma and lung irritation.
There is, in fact, a simple path to a perfect and guilt-free lawn: the rake. Yeah, it takes longer. And guilt alone may not be enough to make you put the blower on eBay and embrace an unplugged lawn. So when the leaves fall, remember that the extra hour or two spent on old-fashioned yardwork yields some very modern benefits:
l Get fit: Walking around holding a leaf blower for one hour expends approximately 140 calories. If you drain that blower of gas and start raking leaves instead, in only 60 minutes you can burn off about 325 calories.
l Get rich: The initial expense of up to $500 for a blower plus regular gasoline refills (or electric bills) adds up quickly. A great rake costs only about 25 bucks, can last for decades, and requires an occasional hand swipe to remove stuck leaves. Do the math, and save for that new BMW.
l Get refreshed: While you're raking, you can ponder, guilt free, philosophical questions like, "Why do we love leaves when they are on trees but hate them when they're on the ground?"
This story appears in the December 25, 2006 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.