The Mission of Quiet Princeton is to improve the quality of life in our town and to restore and enhance its peaceful, healthy, and harmonious character, by removing and controlling sources of noise and pollution in the environment. Quiet Princeton focuses especially on one of the most invasive and environmentally destructive sources, the leaf blower.
Quiet Princeton was founded in 2016 in Princeton, New Jersey, by a group of local citizens with a common interest in reducing noise disturbance in our town.
News: Scroll down to see 2020/21 Developments and 2021 Focus
A Beautiful Street is also a Quiet Street
Princeton, New Jersey, is justly renowned for its beauty. An important aspect of its beauty is peacefulness. However, urban noise is an increasing societal problem. In our neighborhoods, the peace is all too often destroyed by the use of powerful leaf blowers. Their noise disturbs scores of people who live a block or several blocks away.
— Homeowners who maintain their own lawns or who are away while their lawn is being serviced, using a leaf blower, may not realize how disturbing the noise and pollution are to other residents.
— As the photo below shows, landscape contractors frequently use more than one leaf blower simultaneously, greatly increasing the noise level.
—When a landscaping contractor moves from one house to another down the street, the noise can persist for hours. An increasing tendency to remove every last leaf in flowerbeds, lawn, and even on the sidewalk and street, prolongs the agony.
— All the while, a leaf blower puts out tens or hundreds of times the pollution of a car. Incredibly, recent measurements by the state of California have found that total lawn equipment emissions equal the total emissions caused by cars! This is a serious matter.
—The EPA finds that 17 million gallons of gasoline are spilled each year when refueling lawn equipment. That is more than the amount spilled by the Exxon Valdez in Alaska.
2020 and 2021: YEARS OF MAJOR DEVELOPMENTS
The situation in Princeton has changed significantly since early 2020. The principal events are as follows (greater detail of events and activities is given here).
— More people are staying home because of the Covid-19 pandemic–adults working, children doing online schooling, and families spending more time outdoors. They have become more aware of the disturbance, noise and pollution of gasoline-powered leaf blowers (GLB’s).
— There is increasing concern about the particulate pollution created by GLB’s, which damages the lungs and has now been shown to increase the likelihood of death for those who contract Covid-19. In 2020 Quiet Communities issued a major report detailing these serious health harms. Quiet Princeton presented the findings of this report to town officials.
— There is increasing concern for social justice. Landscape workers are exposed, day in and day out, to the dangerous pollution and deafening noise. This is not acceptable.
— Several years of advocacy by Quiet Princeton to encourage voluntary actions alone to stop using GLB’s has been of lower impact than was hoped for.
— A real alternative to GLB’s has become more widely available. In the last few years there have been significant improvements in, and increased availability of, lithium-battery powered electric lawn equipment.
— Local social media have begun to take up the problems of GLB’s. This has revealed an increasingly large number of residents who are asking for more definitive action on this matter.
— In 2019 the excellent nonprofit group Sustainable Princeton developed a Climate Action Plan which aims to reduce the impact of the town’s activities on Climate Change. With the encouragement of Quiet Princeton, Princeton’s Climate Action Plan includes goals for the reduction of harmful emissions from gas-powered lawn maintenance equipment (goals 6.2, 6.4 and 6.5, page 38). Sustainable Princeton has taken on GLB’s as one of its significant programs for 2021, and is actively working on multiple aspects of regulating them or possibly phasing them out.
– Following presentations by Quiet Princeton to the Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC), augmented by citizen approaches to the PEC and to Princeton Council, both the PEC and Princeton Council have made action on “Sustainable Landscaping” a priority for 2021. Sustainable landscaping includes various components: developing an ordinance to regulate GLB’s; creating steps for a transition from gasoline-powered to battery-electric equipment. starting with leaf blowers; working with landscapers, the municipality, residents, and institutions in the town to make significant changes in their landscaping maintenance practices.
– In 2020, Quiet Princeton has made recommendations for the appropriate components that an ordinance to regulate gasoline-powered leaf blowers should contain. We have named this outline a “Skeleton” – a framework on which to build an ordinance.
— Sustainable Princeton has obtained a grant to work with local landscapers–to get their input, to assist them in making conversions to electric-powered equipment, and to help them adopt more sustainable lawn maintenance practices. Phyllis Teitelbaum of Quiet Princeton is on Sustainable Princeton’s Steering Committee for this project. Eunice Wong of Quiet Princeton is on the Residential Outreach Committee for this project.
— The Princeton Environmental Commission voted unanimously in May 2021 to propose to Princeton Council, with the support of Quiet Princeton, ordinance amendments for bans on the use of GLB’s in summer and winter, bans on Sunday and Holidays, and restricted Saturday hours. This is an important first step.
Covid-19 attacks the lung tissue of those it infects. The polluting 2-stroke engines of gas-powered leaf blowers generate fine particulates that enter the lungs and that are well documented to cause disease and death. Recent studies have shown that these particulates have a further severe impact on Covid patients: they worsen the morbidity and mortality of Covid patients, as detailed here and here, and in Quiet Communities’ report. Quiet Princeton is publicizing this serious issue and is advocating a cessation of use of gas-powered leaf blowers in order to reduce death and illness. While all people are affected, landscape workers are particularly exposed.
QUIET PRINCETON’S 2021 FOCUS
As a result of these changes and increasing public concern about the leaf blower problem, Quiet Princeton has revised its focus.
• Quiet Princeton has begun to advocate for more effective and lasting change by means of an ordinance for the town of Princeton to first restrict and then phase out gas-powered leaf blowers. Development of an ordinance is now under active discussion in Princeton’s government.
• Importantly, this needs to be implemented in parallel with educational programs, working with landscapers and residents to move to electric equipment and, even better, to change practices: to leave leaves in place and to avoid blowing dust and harmful particles into the air. Sustainable Princeton has developed a groundbreaking program and is leading this effort with its grant.
• These actions, taken in combination, will reduce severely harmful particulate and other emissions, reduce exposure of landscape workers to noise and pollution, preserve and improve their jobs and their health, reduce severe noise disturbance and harm to residents, reduce costs to the municipality to collect leaves, and contribute to the goals of Princeton’s Climate Action Plan.
We will continue to promote voluntary change by residents, encouraging them to convert to our recommended “Quiet Landscaping” practices.
COMPONENTS OF AN ORDINANCE TO CONTROL GASOLINE LEAF BLOWERS
A Princeton ordinance must be carefully drafted to meet the needs of the community, to be fair and socially just, and to be enforceable. Two hundred other towns and cities around the country have already passed a GLB ordinance, taking various approaches. We have learned from their experiences. Based on these, Quiet Princeton has made recommendations for the important components that should be in such an ordinance.
Meanwhile, you can take action on your own
“Quiet Landscaping” on this website offers ways to make your garden and your neighborhood quieter.
This video presents ideas for how to shift your thinking about leaf blowers and landscaping:
Explore other parts of this website:
Quiet Landscapers lists Princeton area landscapers who will avoid GLB’s.
Resources lists extensive references on all aspects of these issues for further details.
The idea that leafblowers save time – which is the one and only argument for using them – is outrageous, since it implies that the time stolen from the rest of us is worthless.
– Dr. Winifred Rosen
Leaf Blowers in a social context: What is acceptable today?
Social practices that affect the health of others eventually change. Clear examples where a once-“normal” practice is now unacceptable include smoking in public, and dog fouling. This is illustrated HERE. An important aspect is that people need to be helped to realize that there are alternatives available, including electric equipment and improved landscaping techniques.