by Barbara Joy Cooley, Sanibel Resident
After hearing dozens of citizens complaining loudly about the air pollution and noise emitted by gas-powered leaf blowers, the Sanibel City Council reacted by merely reducing the hours that these devices can be used by commercial landscapers and city employees. Because a few landscapers do not want their workers to wait until 9AM to start working, they have replaced the gas-powered blowers with more environmentally friendly electric ones.
That ordinance was passed by the Council in December, but even as the Council members passed it, they acknowledged that they need to do more to reduce or eliminate the use of these pollution spewing machines.
In January, they shocked the citizens by doing as little as possible: they passed a resolution to “encourage individuals and businesses to voluntarily use environmentally friendly alternatives to gas-powered landscape equipment, including electric and battery equipment, in addition to manual tools.”
I thought that this request for voluntary action would result in no change. But then this week the Feds, in the form of J. N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, stepped up to the plate by announcing that they would eliminate the use of gas-powered leaf blowers in the Refuge. I note that the National Wildlife Refuge, being Federal property, is not subject to Sanibel regulation anyway. But the Refuge management has taken a decisive action and shown us all what real leadership looks like.
There are rumors that the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation will follow suit. If so, then about half of the island will not be subjected to these obnoxious, polluting machines.
Next up? How about all the homeowners associations and condominium associations? It is possible for homeowners associations to take this action; the Captains Walk association has eliminated the use of gas-powered leaf blowers on its grounds.
What about individual homeowners who consider themselves to be environmentalists? Isn’t almost everyone on Sanibel Island an environmentalist? Can’t they hire only landscape maintenance companies that don’t use gas-powered equipment? That’s what my husband and I do. The crew that works on our property efficiently uses rakes and brooms.
Should residents think about the health of people working in their yards? Is it okay for these people to have to breathe poisonous fumes? Is it okay, when instead of tolerating this threat to human health the homeowners could tell landscapers that they don’t want gas-powered blowers used on their properties?
And what about the landscape companies themselves? Do they have a responsibility to the environment? Do they have a responsibility to the health of those who work for them?
Does there have to be a law banning the use of gas-powered leaf blowers? Or do Sanibel people and businesses have the ability to act responsibly on their own?
Let’s see what they do — or don’t do.