Evanston bans gas- and propane-powered leaf blowers


Illustration by Emily Lichty

Landscaping companies are transitioning to electric leaf blowers after the city banned gas- and propane-powered leaf blowers Sunday.

Joyce Li, Copy editor

Evanston banned the use of gas- and propane-powered leaf blowers in Evanston Sunday, making the city one of the first in Illinois to implement such a ban, according to Public Health Manager Greg Olsen.

City Council passed the ordinance in November 2021 in response to concerns about air pollution, noise and a directive from the city’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan. The city allowed for a 17-month transition period, during which gas-powered leaf blowers were permitted seasonally.

The city will enforce the ordinance through a graduated fine that begins with a warning and can go up to $250.

“It’s one of the smaller local steps that the city wanted to take in order to reduce our carbon footprint,” Olsen said.

Following the ordinance, Evanston landscaping companies are transitioning to electric-powered leaf blowers, which the ordinance permits year-round with the exception of city holidays.

Austin Hall, owner of Greenwise Organic Lawn Care, said his company started using exclusively electric leaf blowers, hedge trimmers and lawn mowers this season.

“That wasn’t a requirement from the city,” Hall said. “It’s the direction that the industry is going in more generally.”

Ben Klitzkie, maintenance manager at Nature’s Perspective Landscaping, however, said he felt the city did not give businesses enough time or financial assistance to implement the change.

Over the past year, the city has provided landscaping companies with grants of up to $3,000 through the Entrepreneurship Support Grant program to purchase electric leaf blowers. Landscaping companies registered with the City of Evanston can apply through the city’s website.

Though he is grateful for the financial support, Klitzkie said his company had to spend almost $70,000 on batteries and new equipment — the grant was largely unhelpful.

“Not everybody is able to pull the Band-Aid right off, and that’s where a three-year (or) five-year phasing period would have been great,” Klitzkie said.

Communication Prof. Nina Kraus said she hopes this ban will lead to more restrictions on other noisy landscaping equipment. She researches the effect of sound on the brain and said leaf blowers can be extremely harmful.

“It’s an injustice to the poor landscapers who are dealing with the noise and the vibration very, very close up,” Kraus said.

In addition to being ear-damaging, this type of equipment also contributes to a backdrop of moderate but constant noise that weakens people’s ability to distinguish meaningful sounds from background noise, according to Kraus.

She said this background noise puts the brain in a state of constant alertness, weakening cognitive abilities over time.

Klitzkie said he is frustrated that the city allows the use of gas blowers on municipal baseball fields, golf greens and public road construction projects.

“Everybody deserves a cleaner, greener, quieter Evanston,” Klitzkie said. “So now that city really needs to stand by their ordinance and not exempt themselves.”

Olsen said the exemptions were made in part due to the scale of city landscaping projects, which cover greater square footage than most residential plots.

Evanston Director of Health and Human Services Ike Ogbo said the city intends to remove these exemptions in the future.

“We understand that in order for the ordinance to be equitable that the city also has to come on board,” Ogbo said. “(But) this will take internal conversations and developing ways in which we can implement it successfully.”

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