How to Get a Law Passed in Your Municipality
Before raising a discussion about leaf blower restrictions it is important that residents understand the many negative aspects of leaf blowers:
Noise, emissions and air quality, the impact on the health of landscape workers, contribution to climate change, impact on local ecology, social justice issues, possible town taxes and roadside safety.
Using social media, local papers, tabling events at festivals and farmers’ markets, demonstrate alternatives to leaf blowers, such as mulch mowing, composting, and using leaves as a protective mulch. For details visit: www.leaveleavesalone.org
Avoid suggesting electric blowers as a first alternative: simply switching from gas to electric blowers will result in failure – and the noise and ecological impact will still be an issue. The key point is to have people understand that leaves have value in a landscape, and should be kept on a property and used.
Find Like-Minded Allies
Gather a committee of people to work with and make sure they understand all the issues surrounding leaf blower use and are able to discuss the topic with facts. Try to find representatives from different constituencies representing those who work or study from home/the elderly/youth/medical & health/environmental and social justice advocates. Find landscapers who operate a responsible/sustainable business, ideally using electric tools. (If you cannot find any you MUST convert one or two, help them with the transition and champion their new business practices.) If possible, establish a committee with an email address to shepherd all the email communications. This way you can keep track of all email addresses to keep the community informed and rally the troops when necessary.
Identify and Anticipate Objections
Be prepared to talk about objections with clear science-based facts and constructive conversations. This is not an anti-landscaper initiative and we do not want landscapers to feel that their livelihood will be threatened. Landscapers will always be needed but they may redirect their work to mulch mowing, creating and maintaining compost piles, pulling invasive plants, etc.
Examples of objections from landscapers you should expect:
Work will take more time without gas blowers; property will not look as good without GLBs; electric equipment is not powerful enough,;electric equipment is too expensive; batteries don’t last long enough; (re)charging takes too long; this may work for small properties, but not large ones;
leaving the leaves encourages ticks. Be prepared with answers to these objections,
Research Neighboring Municipalities
Know what other towns are doing and what laws have been passed near you. If there is no local movement, become familiar with legislation in municipalities with similar landscape needs.
Communicate with Elected Officials
Reach out to your elected officials with all the facts: prepare a robust presentation to show them. Try to identify one or two who will be your champion, pushing any movement forward. Get community members to reach out to the elected officials: letters, emails, and phone calls are vitally important to get the attention of legislators. Keep these coming in throughout the process.
Identify Benefits to the Town
If your town collects residents’ leaves the municipality will save money when leaf mulching is adopted and leaves are left on residents’ properties
- Less labor required for leaf pickup
- Less road damage from heavy equipment picking up leaves
- Mulching property owners will no longer subsidize leaf removal property owners
- Roads and sidewalks are kept clear/safety considerations
Start Outlining Legislation
Assess how far your elected are prepared to go – ask for the moon and accept the stars.
Consider: A complete ban on gas leaf blowers, phased in over a period of time, Time of day restrictions, Day of week restrictions (some towns have no blowers on specific days), Seasonal restrictions – summer time bans, for example. Blower use limited to hardscapes, Number of blowers on a property at any one time, Decibel limit (hard to enforce as police have to see the use and use decibel measuring device or app).
Determine Enforcement Procedures
Work with your code enforcer and/or police department. Citizen reports have typically been the main method of reporting violations. Determine if video and photo evidence will be acceptable. Consider an enforcement blitz where police make blower violations a priority for a short period of time. If police are to enforce, it is essential to engage the Police Chief to make sure all personnel are trained on the regulations and enforcement. Provide necessary support materials for police to help with education.
Build Support in Your Community
Continue publicity and education on both the negative aspects of blowers and their alternatives. Generate publicity through social media, letters to the editor, tabling events. Use promotional materials, including handouts and door hangers. Reach targeted communities through their communications – churches, environmental groups, schools.
These will be determined by your town leadership. Usually one or two town hearings must be held before a law will be passed. Respond to concerns after the first hearing and be prepared to make amendments to your proposal before the second hearing.
It is extremely important to line up supporters from different constituencies who are prepared to speak up. Ensure that they speak both at the beginning of the hearing, to set the tone, and others at the end to leave the hearing with a message in favor of restrictions. Invite:
Medical experts, people who work from home, environmentalists and conservation committees, considerate landscape company owners, citizens from other municipalities with bans in effect and young people
When you get to the point of proposing a law, write the code the way you want it. They will rewrite it, but better to base it on your wishes.
Make the fine sizable so that the big operators can’t just write fines off as a small business expense and the only impact will be on small-time operators.
Penalty should be for the landscape company and homeowner, ALSO ban use of generators on trucks to charge batteries.
Investigate opportunities for trade-in of gas for electric/community discount
Try to get schools to limit GLB use voluntarily because municipal regulations don’t generally apply to school property.
Have the municipality and schools implement a policy of replacing gas powered landscape equipment with electric when there is a need for replacement.
There are many existing resources; no need to reinvent the wheel:
www.leaveleavesalone.org, (ALSO Healthy Yards and Leave Leaves Alone on FACEBOOK), American Green Zone Alliance https://agza.net/,
Quiet Communities https://quietcommunities.org/
For more information contact: email@example.com (Larchmont), firstname.lastname@example.org (Bedford and Healthy Yards),
email@example.com (Irvington, NY)