As spokesperson for Quiet Montclair, I applaud the Township Council for enacting much-needed changes to the ordinance regulating the use of gas leaf blowers, last updated over 20 years ago.
The Council’s action will reduce the use of these outdated machines in our town, providing residents and workers with protection and relief from the extreme noise and pollution they generate. Along with so many of my neighbors from all four wards who called or wrote to their council members, I look forward to actually enjoying some quiet, peaceful days in my own home from May to October.
Over several months of discussions around this issue, a core set of facts has become more widely understood. It has been gratifying to find that in Montclair, at least, no one has denied the science showing that gas leaf blowers pose serious risks to public health, quality of life, and the natural environment. And no one has contested the fact that the workers who operate them on a daily basis, often with no health insurance and little job security, are the ones who bear the worst consequences of chronic exposure.
Rather, concerns have focused primarily on what it will cost in time and money for landscapers, homeowners, and public agencies to reduce — if not yet eliminate — the use of these deeply problematic machines.
So, it is time to better educate ourselves as a community about alternatives.
First and foremost, we need to listen to the horticultural and environmental experts when they tell us that removing every speck of stray organic matter from our properties is harmful, not helpful, to our lawns and gardens. Simply returning grass clippings to the lawn throughout the growing season and mulch-mowing fallen leaves in autumn, for example, will recycle nutrients to the soil, suppress weed growth, and reduce the need for artificial fertilizers. Far from requiring more time and money, these strategies require less. Consumers can ask landscapers to make these options available, rather than assuming that what they want is total removal.
For situations where blowing is seen as necessary, battery-electric tools are much quieter and emit none of the pollutants that their gas-powered counterparts do. Their performance has improved by leaps and bounds over the past decade, and their operating costs are lower than gas, due to savings on fuel, oil, parts, and maintenance. For these reasons, demand at both the consumer and professional levels is skyrocketing. Landscapers in nearby towns such as Chatham and Maplewood already offer services using battery-electric equipment. Hundreds of companies do so profitably around the country.
Yes, initial investments must be made before long-term savings can be realized. Transition assistance programs for small businesses and public agencies are growing in number. Montclair should seek grant funding to help.
Adopting quieter, healthier, greener approaches to property maintenance will benefit residents, workers and business owners, as well as the environment. It is good to see Montclair joining other forward-looking communities around the region in taking action to accelerate this necessary transition.
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