Guest opinion: It's past time for Menlo Park to go electric on blowers


By Lisa Williams and Leah Elkins

Up and down the Peninsula, towns and cities are being proactive around our climate change crisis. One of the ways this is happening is by phasing out the use of gas-powered garden tools.

Many cities have started with a particularly obnoxious offender, the gasoline leaf blower. Throughout Menlo Park, these machines spew polluting fumes and high-pitched whines as gardeners and homeowners blow leaves from one driveway to the next.

Los Altos banned gas-powered leaf blowers in 1991, Palo Alto in 2000, and Los Gatos in 2014. In January 2019, Portola Valley passed a ban with a two-year phase-in period; the Atherton City Council has already had this on its agenda twice so far this year.

We invite Menlo Park to follow suit. Phasing out gas-powered leaf blowers is an easy step to reduce our carbon emissions — and bring some quiet to our neighborhoods. Battery-powered garden tools are significantly quieter than their gas-powered equivalent — and have been improving. For information from AGZA American Green Zone Data, sourced from WHO, EPA, NIOSH, OSHA, ANSI, American Lung Association and Quiet, go to

Gas-powered leaf blowers use an inefficient polluting two-stroke engine that lacks a separate lubrication system. The oil is mixed in with the gasoline it uses for fuel. They are designed to be air-cooled, causing the engine to spew one-third of its fuel as an unburned aerosol directly into the environment.

Not only do gas blowers' greenhouse gas (CO2) emissions contribute to our climate crisis, but the resulting carbon monoxide compromises our brains, particulate matter harms our lungs and hearts, nitrous oxide hurt our throats, and hydrocarbons irritate our throats, noses and eyes.

Not only are gasoline blowers far greater ozone and particulate polluters than the four-stroke engines in gas-powered automobiles, their VOCs (hydrocarbons) emissions are carcinogenic.

Last but not least, their noise pollution damages our nervous system and hearing.

According to the California Air Resource Board, operating the best-selling commercial gas leaf blower for just one hour emits smog-forming pollution comparable to driving a 2017 Toyota Camry about 1,100 miles, or approximately the distance from Los Angeles to Denver.

Also of concern is that gardeners are directly exposing themselves to multiple toxins and continuous loud decibel levels, often not wearing protective gear such as dust face masks and or noise reduction safety earmuffs or earplugs.

By phasing out gas-powered leaf blowers, the Menlo Park City Council would be tangibly demonstrating our city's commitment to our Climate and Sustainability Resolution, which Mayor Ray Mueller signed on Earth Day last April.

It's time for Menlo Park to follow the majority of our neighboring cities and towns and transition to electric blowers. Lithium-ion battery technology has advanced to a level where the commercial electric leaf blower is now comparable in power to the gas blower but without the carbon emissions and other air pollutants, while being significantly quieter.

We invite all interested Menlo Park residents to join our "go electric" coalition to let our City Council know that we want them to take this important step forward. To make sure your voice is heard, please contact Lisa Williams at or Leah Elkins at

Lisa Williams has lived in the Linfield Oaks neighborhood for over 31 years. Leah Elkins has lived raised and her family in the Willows neighborhood over the past 22 years.

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16 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 3, 2019 at 11:17 am

Brian is a registered user.

Given the amount of work that gardeners do in a day and how long the battery lasts in the blowers I foresee gardeners buying generators that they leave running in the backs of their trucks charging the batteries while putting more pollution into the air.

I think the people who use gas powered leaf blowers for their business and livelihood should be part of any discussion in changing the laws around them.

14 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 3, 2019 at 11:25 am

Provide all the gardeners with free brooms.

9 people like this
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 5, 2019 at 12:09 pm

I agree with "whatever."
Time to keep the pollutants (read carcinogens) out of the air that we breathe.
These mow'n blow workers who were either told by their boss, the city, or their own lack of common sense (no mask, no eye protection, no earplugs) are doing a GREAT job of keeping the sidewalks in MP and PA clean. Absolutely unnecessary.
All these problems go away with no blowers.

Brian = wrong...laws come first. Action follows. Workers will adapt.

10 people like this
Posted by Margo
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Aug 5, 2019 at 12:37 pm

I provide my gardener with an electric blower and a long power cord. He doesn't pay a dime. Most gardeners work hard and get minimal pay. Because I have solar panels on my house, my walks are cleaned by the sun! I've encouraged my guy not to blow at all, except for the sidewalks. Since the city, in all its wisdom has carpeted town with liquid amber trees and their pesky seed pods that trip up people, and occasionally poke a hole in a bike tire, I can't justify leaving them on my sidewalk. Other than that, I don't see the big deal about having leaf-free walks. Blowers not only spew out toxins, they also stir up plenty of dust, which is irritating to the lungs and causes asthma in sensitive individuals. Come on folks! Does the outside need to be as pristine as the inside? Think about it. Is it worth the price to have all your leaves whisked away. I've written before about the value of leaves as mulch around your trees and bushes. It saves water, keeps the surface soft and absorbent and in time, breaks down to feed the plants.

7 people like this
Posted by Twentse
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Aug 5, 2019 at 12:55 pm

Twentse is a registered user.

Brooms and rakes should be the only things used.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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