Many leaf blower devotees are quite fat -- at least that's how things look in my small town. They're out in force right now, working to remove every last leaf or twig on the lawn before Thanksgiving rolls around. Even if I can't see them, I can certainly hear them. Some models blow up to 200 miles per hour, their engines whining noisily with the effort. But the machines are more than a neighborhood nuisance. U.S. News & World Report has claimed that a single gas-powered leaf blower can create as much pollution annually as do 80 cars.

The hand-held contraptions weren't always like this. It's believed that the leaf blower's long-ago precursor was a simple bellows, pumped by hand. By the 1970s, though, motorized blowers were in use. Because of the nuisance factor and the negative environmental impact, there has been talk of banning the leaf blower completely, in some pockets of the U.S. But for myriad reasons, the bans usually don't take hold.

We don't necessarily have to regulate leaf blowers out of existence. Rather than arguing the environmental angle, I think leaf blower opponents would have better luck playing up the health benefits associated with tackling most landscaping chores by hand. For my part, I sometimes casually drop into conversation that I've lost a few pounds raking the leaves and pruning my shrubs one snip at a time.

And it's true. One online calorie counter, for instance, suggests a person weighing 150 pounds will burn over 200 calories per hour while raking leaves, and 238 calories will melt away during one hour of pruning shrubs with manual clippers rather than the high-powered hedge trimmer. Not too shabby. So, with a nod to Sarah Silverman's Great Schlep, I say we lobby our grandparents -- as well as our parents, aunts, uncles and everyone else -- to hang up their ear-splitting, gas-guzzling leaf blowers for the sake of physical fitness. And, should they refuse to stop blowing leaves, at the very least, we can try to convince them to opt for one of the lower-impact electric-powered models instead.

Story by Susan Brackney. This article originally appeared in Plenty in November 2008. The story was added to

Copyright Environ Press 2008