Calgary

Calgarians petition for leaf-blower ban to cut down on noise, air pollution

A group of Calgarians is asking the city to ban gas-powered leaf blowers in an online petition that already has hundreds of signatures.

About 700 people have signed a petition asking for city council to impose ban

About 700 people have signed a petition asking Calgary's city council to ban gas-powered leaf blowers. (Kiran Singh/CBC)

A group of Calgarians is asking the city to ban gas-powered leaf blowers in an online petition that already has hundreds of signatures.

Project Calgary — a community-led organization with a mandate to champion ideas that it says would improve the city —  launched the petition, and not only because the leaf blowers are noisy.

Volunteer Peter Oliver said research shows they are also worse carbon emitters than cars.

"They contribute a large amount of noise pollution, particularly at a time when people are more than ever working from home, but also an incredible amount of air pollution, which we know can lead to respiratory problems in people as well," Oliver said.

"And at a time when city council has declared a climate emergency, banning gas powered leaf blowers is just low-hanging fruit."

'This is a really easy one'

The move would align Calgary with about 100 cities in the U.S. that have either banned or restricted gas-powered leaf-blowers.

The state of California, for example, will soon ban the sale of new gas-powered leaf blowers and lawn mowers in an effort to curb emissions.

According to The Associated Press, state officials said in 2021 that running a gas-powered leaf blower for one hour emits the same amount of pollution as driving a 2017 Toyota Camry from Los Angeles to Denver.

That's about 1,770 kilometers.

Oliver said Canadian cities like Toronto and Vancouver are considering similar efforts. 

"This is by no means something unique to Calgary," Oliver said. "It's something I think people in cities across North America are waking up to."

Oliver said there are plenty of practical and economical alternatives to gas-powered leaf-blowers.

Shovels, brooms, rakes and electric leaf-blowers, to name a few — or in the event of a heavier snowfall, an actual snow blower.

"At a time when we're faced with all these difficult challenges with respect to taking climate action, this is actually a really easy one," Oliver said.

'They are a nuisance'

One city councillor who's interested to see where the conversation goes is Ward 11's Kourtney Penner.

"They are a nuisance from a noise perspective, and they are a nuisance from an emissions perspective, definitely," Penner said.

"And it's a good thing that people are bringing awareness to it, and that they're talking about it, and that we're talking about how, as individuals, we can make collective change around climate."

But the flip side, Penner said, is that some individuals with physical disabilities might find shovelling more difficult than using a small leaf-blower.

Penner said managing the policy side — bylaws, contractors and equipment, for example — will also be complex.

So, it'll be a balance, she said. But worth looking into.

"I would love to see administration lead this conversation," Penner said. 

"We also need to show leadership and responsibility to citizens on what's possible as well. And I say that's also a really important part of this conversation."

With files from Helen Pike and The Associated Press

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