The village of Oak Park has officially and totally banned the use of gas-powered leaf blowers. The ban is a huge win for residents who have long complained of the extreme noise and environmental pollution caused by gas-powered blowers, but celebrations may prove a bit premature. The ban doesn’t go into full effect until June 1, 2025 — just over two years from now.
The delay is intended to give ample time for bilingual outreach and time for landscaping businesses to phase out current equipment. The time frame also allows for the village to conduct a diversity, equity and inclusion analysis of the ordinance. If all this happens faster than expected, there is a chance the village board could enact the ban sooner. The board, save Trustee Jim Taglia who was absent, passed the ban unanimously at its March 13 meeting.
The ban directly supports the village board’s goal to decrease community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2030 and to reach net-zero 2050 as gas-powered leaf-blower use presents a disproportionate environmental impact. Using a gas-powered leaf blower for just 30 minutes releases the same amount of air pollutants as driving a Ford F-150 pickup truck 3,900 miles, according to the Energy and Environment Commission.
The campaign to ban the lawncare devices wasn’t led by the village’s sustainability department but by the residents of Oak Park, as Trustee Susan Buchanan noted at the village board meeting. Roughly 1,000 residents signed a petition in support of prohibiting year-round use of gas-powered leaf blowers.
“That’s more people signing a petition than I have seen since my time on the board,” Buchanan said.
What residents hate most about gas-powered leaf blowers is the extreme noise. The noise emitted by a gas-powered leaf blower ranges between 102-115 decibels at the ear of the operator. This level of noise is dangerous. Noise above 70 decibels over a prolonged period of time can damage hearing while noise above 120 decibels can cause immediate harm to the ears, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Use of gas-powered leaf blowers is already prohibited in Oak Park between June 1 and Sept. 30, which will remain the case until the ban goes into effect. For landscape companies reluctant to say goodbye to their gas-powered leaf blowers, the village will be providing some incentives to sweeten the transition to electric. Just what those incentives might be has yet to be decided.