Letter to the editor: Sounds of silence


On the rare mornings when my young girls sleep in (and let my wife and I sleep in, too!), we often are woken by the aggressive hum of gas-powered lawn tools, cutting, trimming, blowing. I know, in this challenging pandemic time with its slew of challenges, lawn care noise hardly deserves our attention. Or does it?

Lawn and garden care account for about 1/3 of non-highway gas use nationwide and slightly more in Washington State (as per 2018: www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/statistics/2018/mf24.cfm). Electric lawn tools work great, are quickly approaching cost of use similar to gas, and are pretty quiet. California has just passed a statewide law (www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/2021/10/12/california-newsom-law-equipment-pollution/) to phase out gas-powered lawn equipment by 2024—and they’ve allocated $30 million to help.

Several states and numerous local jurisdictions have taken similar steps. This will reduce contributions to global warming, improve local air quality, and reduce urban noise pollution. With the many professionals hired to keep Edmonds beautiful and many forward looking home gardeners, we are in a great position to use economic incentives, city contracts, and a transition period to take one significant step towards reducing our global warming pollution: phase out gas-powered lawn and garden tools and let’s all sleep a little better.

Michael Jones

  1. You are right Michael- gas blowers do have surprisingly high emissions. And the ARPA funds may present an opportunity to do something like this (we set aside a fund for rain gardens, but Council could use some or all of it for this if there was a plan we liked).

    If you use a gas blower on your personal property or are a landscaping company that uses them, please provide feedback to council@edmondswa.gov about 1) how you feel about legislation like this and 2) what incentives (besides less noise and air pollution!) would make you want to participate in the switch to electric blowers.

  2. Regardless of how you feel about gas powered tools, one thing that really concerns me is the exponential increase in the production and use of BATTERIES. Batteries themselves are an environmental and social issue that is being ignored. They use rare earth materials that will be in short supply (and are mined in countries where mining is a serious problem) and we are doing little to deal with recycling and reuse. I am convinced this will become our next global crisis.
    Also, manufacturing of batteries has an impact on the environment, especially automobile batteries.
    I don’t wish to start a numbers debate with the readers, but I would just suggest that we think some of these things through before jumping to legislative solutions like California is doing.
    Where possible, I personally use electric tools with POWER CORDS.

  3. Getting the metals for magnets and batteries requires strip mining that’s proving to be tremendously bad for the environment, and incredibly fossil fuel energy dependent. The Metals aren’t dug up with electric motors, they aren’t smelted with hydroelectric dams. Rare Earths and Peak Sand crisis totally prevents ubiquitous adoption of electric anything.

    https://earth.org/rare-earth-mining-has-devastated-chinas-environment/ <-mining
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KzP-tobpMU&ab_channel=CNBC <- sand is one of the most finite resources we have, making ubiquitous solar impossible
    https://www.aiche.org/chenected/2016/10/green-energy-hydro-produces-significant-emissions-say-researchers <- the methane produced from hydroelectric dams is worse than CO2 by consumption

    How is a lawn crew going to charge 20 yards worth of batteries?
    Why not open up on the crumb rubber field bans? We have turf in the backyard, it;s terrific.
    https://www.gardentoolexpert.com/are-electric-leaf-blowers-quieter-taking-a-look-at-the-decibels/ <-also, I think we will find that electric blowers that are as powerful as gas ones are nearly as loud. Electric blowers are oft 30% less powerful.

  4. I agree with both previous comments and believe gas and battery powered tools are harmful. Let’s go a small step further and ask ourselves if our yards must look so perfect and if they really require constant grooming? Could some homeowners allow slightly longer blades of grass or less perfectly groomed hedges, plus use raking in place of blowing on occasion?

  5. Maybe it is time to use brooms and rakes? Maybe it is time not to shear evergreen shrubs into blobs and have plant size suitable for the space. Maybe we need less grass and more groundcover. This could also include plants that are chosen for the purpose needed. Capturing rainwater in rain barrels….

  6. I have an electric blower and use it once in awhile, but mostly I don’t see the point of blowers in general. Unless you actually pick up the stuff you blow, you are just putting it into the air, the street and/or your neighbor’s yard. In terms of actually picking up the stuff you blow, eventually it will probably be a city run street sweeper or contracted street sweeper that does it and that machine will be either gasoline or diesel most likely and probably sort of loud. Any form of power driven machinery, electric or fossil fuel, involves chemical reactions and those by definition are going to cause some sort of pollution and have affect on the environment around us. Lead/ sulfuric acid type batteries are about as polluting and potentially deadly as anyone could dream up. If we really decide to save the planet, we will have to go back to horses and oxen and 100 acre farms. Ever thought about how much fuel is burnt and noise is generated every time a Commercial airplane takes off or lands? Are we going to ban those too, or try to make them be all electric? Much of this is much ado that will accomplish nothing.

  7. I agree with the letter writer. Our world is in transition because of climate change, and our technologies are adapting and changing. As we must do. Yes, we need to consider how our electricity is generated, and, yes, scientists need to continue improving battery technology. But please don’t wait for perfection. Change doesn’t always happen exactly when we need it, or exactly how we want it. We can make our best effort, literally starting in our own backyards. Brooms and rakes do work, reducing the amount of lawn in our yards helps. Vegetable plots are great. I’m hopeful we can adapt!

  8. Has anyone considered that lawn mowing services are a necessity for the elderly if they want to stay in their homes? Environmental ideas always sound good in theory, but, one way or another, they may affect someone or something else that wasn’t thought through thoroughly. It is a good idea to try to clean up our environment, but not only would a law to phase out gas-powered mowers and blowers end up costing the homeowners more for their lawn service, but it worries me as to where all the electricity is going to come from to power all the cars, lawn equipment, etc. Are you willing to trade what we currently use for nuclear power? Yes, nuclear power is clean — but remember the problems that can come with nuclear reactors — think Hanford. The nuclear waste has to go somewhere!

    1. What did we ever do before gas blowers and and trimmers?? Oh yeah, neighborhoods kids went around and did that work to earn some pocket money. Of course that would never work now. That would take them away from from their games and devices.

  9. Thank you for a great letter with actionable suggestions, Michael. Thank you Vivian for the option to provide feedback to the city. Unfortunately, if we wait for the perfect solution, we will lose even more ground responding to the climate crisis. We’re already at code red, so it’s time to act.

  10. Air quality has substantially worsened in the twenty years I have lived in Edmonds, as has the noise. Not to hijack but in terms of offenders, don’t forget to add in the unnecessary but trendy wood burning fire pits being marketed right and left and even featured today in Home Concepts which comes in the mail to most. The city has time on GOVAC, wouldn’t it be nice if they would post an image or comment about clean air or even offer educational material on the origins of lawns, the intensive requirements to maintain them and the alternatives? We are too invested in dominating the landscape, at our peril, so I support green legislation and believe that grass roots action can make a difference while technology seeks broader solutions.

  11. I wrote to Phil Williams asking him to look into to using electric equipment more often if possible. Then recently while with my grandchildren @ city park near the spray pad, I was very happy to see a city crew member using an electric blower that was very minimally noticeable and kept the area clean and safe for the kiddos. As always, Phil Williams delivers.

  12. First, to the letter writer: get out of bed in the morning you will be dead a long time. second: the last thing we in Edmonds should do is advocate for any idiotic idea that springs forth from California and their elitist governor. You know kind of like taking cues from Seattle or Olympia.

    1. I would love to get out of bed in the morning. At 86 and disabled I try to get some sleep when the pains allow. Asking for an 8 AM start time does not seem that unreasonable, but apparently, it is. Last week they started in at 6:45.

  13. It seems as though many landscapers do not know their plants. We live in a plant paradise and do not have to plant shrubs and trees which grow too tall and need constant trimming. Hedge rows planted at the edges of our property furnish habitat for pollinators and provide beauty. Birds, butterflies etc. benefit and lawns will be minimized.
    Lawns can support activity for kids but do not have to be the size of a mini football field. Trees actually benefit from leaf and bark mulch. Why blow it all away.
    One concern I read about eliminating gas blowers is the extra cost of the equipment. It can be a burden to some of our owners of lawn and garden services They are not in the high income bracket. Something to think about.

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