Support for weeding out gas-powered landscaping gear is growing

Last month, two very similar motions were tabled in Vancouver City Council addressing the current and future uses of landscaping equipment. Councils. Adriane Carr and Sarah Kirby-Yung plan to establish guidelines that will ban the use of gas-powered tools across the community by 2025.

Currently, a noise regulation bans the use of leaf blowers in Vancouver’s West End, and the devices are scheduled to operate within 50 meters of each apartment on weekdays and Saturdays in other areas of the city at certain times. Like many others, these statutes are particularly difficult to enforce. Many areas that have been cleaned of dirt with a leaf blower are only a few meters away from houses.

Vancouver isn’t the only one looking for changes in the status quo. In recent years, communities like Oak Bay and Saanich have also considered banning gas-powered landscaping equipment. Other jurisdictions have been remarkably quick. In California, in 1998, the City of Los Angeles banned the use of gas-powered leaf blowers with regulations imposing fines not only on those who operate the equipment, but also on those who procured their services.

Research Co. and Glacier Media interviewed British Columbians about the types of landscaping equipment used on their property. Almost two in five residents (38%) remember using a gas-powered lawnmower, and three in ten (30%) remember using an electric lawnmower.

At this stage, electric leaf blowers seem to be more common (27%) than their gas-powered counterparts (20%). Significantly fewer residents have relied on cylinder mowers (10%), the quietest option for mowing grass.

British Columbians 55 and over (52%) and residents of northern BC (58%), southern BC (52%) and Vancouver Island (50%) are particularly reliant on gas-powered lawnmowers.

There are two aspects that motivate the proposed bans on the use of gas-powered equipment for landscaping. There are concerns about the noise these devices make – even if they are intended to be used at certain times of the day – as well as concerns about the air pollution they may be responsible for.

When we asked British Columbians how concerned they are about any type of pollution associated with the use of landscaping equipment, 50% said they were “very much” or “fairly” concerned about noise – a percentage that did up to 54% 18-34 year olds and 55% in Metro Vancouver.

The preoccupation with air pollution is rated slightly lower: 44% of British Columbians say they are “very much” or “fairly” concerned about it. Again, the youngest adults in the province (50%) and those in Metro Vancouver (51%) are more likely to be concerned.

When British Columbia is asked to consider banning certain types of equipment, there is some clarity. First of all, power tools are much more welcome in our lawns and gardens. Only 27% of the province’s residents would be willing to ban electric lawnmowers, while 53% are against it. A little more than three in ten (31%) would prohibit the use of electric leaf blowers, while almost half (48%) are against it.

The support for the passage of statutes to ban the use of gas-powered landscaping equipment in a community has not been overwhelming. Leaf blowers are the most polarizing tool, with practically the same proportion of British Columbians approving (38%) or against (40%) a ban. While a third of the province’s residents (34%) are in favor of banning gas-powered lawnmowers, 44% are against it.

There is a generation gap when it comes to gasoline lawnmowers, but it is not as radical as we have seen in other areas in recent years. Support for the banning of these tools reaches 39% among British Columbians ages 18 to 34, but drops to 34% among 35 to 54 year olds and 30% among 55 year olds and over.

Currently, concerns about noise and air pollution from landscaping equipment outweigh support for a comprehensive ban on gas-powered tools. British Columbians seem aware of the challenges ahead but are not yet ready to endorse relevant legislation. When Coun. Carr and Graf. Kirby-Yung are implemented, the City of Vancouver can provide a roadmap for other communities and eventually for the entire province. •

Mario Canseco is President of Research Co.

The results are based on an online study conducted among 800 adults in British Columbia from June 18-20, 2021. The data was statistically weighted by Canadian census numbers for age, gender, and region in British Columbia. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 19 out of 20.

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