What you can do to help enforce the gas leaf blower ban in Princeton

To the editor: 

Princeton’s revised noise ordinance, which regulates gas leaf blowers and other gas-powered lawn maintenance equipment, is now in effect. Because of the revised ordinance, it’s now illegal in Princeton to use gas leaf blowers from December 16 through March 14, and from May 16 to September 30. It’s now illegal in Princeton to use gas leaf blowers on Sundays and major holidays, before 8am Mon-Sat, after 8pm Mon-Fri, or after 5pm on Sat. It’s now illegal to use chainsaws, hedge trimmers, string trimmers, and pole trimmers before 1pm or after 6pm on Sundays, on major holidays, before 8am Mon-Sat, after 8pm Mon-Fri, or after 5pm on Sat. 

The town is creating a new position—Code Enforcement Officer. Once the Code Enforcement Officer is hired, he or she will enforce the ordinance and will work to educate landscapers and residents about the ordinance.

What can you do while we are waiting for the Code Enforcement Officer? If you hear a very loud leaf blower, it is probably a gas leaf blower. If you hear it after December 15, on Sunday, on a major holiday, before 8am on Mon-Sat, after 8pm on Mon-Fri, or after 5pm on Sat, the leaf blowing is violating the revised noise ordinance. 

You can document this violation of the ordinance. If the violators are from a landscaping company, take photos of the illegal leaf blowing (but not the workers’ faces). Take a photo of the name and telephone number of the company on the side of the truck. Also note the address of the homeowner and, if possible, the homeowner’s name. If the violator is a resident, note his or her address and, if possible, his or her name. In both cases, note the day and date and time. Save this evidence. 
Once the Code Enforcement Officer is hired, you can submit this evidence to See/Click/Fix (Access Princeton). See/Click/Fix will send your evidence to the Code Enforcement Officer. Until January 24 (90 days after the ordinance was passed), for a first or second offense, the Code Enforcement Officer will give the owner of the company and the homeowner or the resident a written warning, along with education about the ordinance’s requirements. After two warnings, companies, homeowners, and residents that violate the ordinance will have to go to court, where the judge will probably fine them.

Another option, when you hear violations of the revised ordinance, is to educate the workers or the resident using the leaf blower. You can tell them that Princeton has a new law that makes what they are doing illegal. You can explain why (after December 15, Sunday, after 8pm, etc.). You can ask them to stop. And you can ask the workers to tell their boss about the new law.

Eunice Wong
Quiet Princeton


  1. This hardly affects landscaping companies who employ armies of leafblowers descending on the neighborhood every workday. It only affects a few remaining homeowners who do it occasionally themselves on the weekend. It would have been better to limit the number of leaf blowings allowed on each property to 1-2/month.

  2. Gee, now the government is regulating how I deal with my leaves. Where else will they overreach? Tell me where I can park on a public street?

  3. Are you kidding me? We are paying for a leaf blowing Code Enforcement Officer???

  4. Can it really be so impossibly difficult to invent a leaf blower that works as well, costs the same, and doesn’t sound like an air-raid siren? I wish the American Society of Mechanical Engineers would hold a student competition on this. Princeton University has a mechanical engineering department, last I looked. Anyone there game?

  5. I moved to Princeton from another state in July. I have been astonished at the way people tolerate the noise and air pollution that comes off these nasty machines (they produce more air pollution that a diesel truck). I do not wish to expose my vulnerable young children to that. This was something that could have helped but doesn’t go far enough at all (There are now plug in and battery powered blowers that work just as well as gasoline powered ones but are not being used).
    The university facilities are one of the worst offenders and could of started leading by example.
    Check the AQI in Princeton compared to adjacent towns and you’ll see the problem. It’s not the the quantity of particulates in the air but the make up of them…much is nanoparticles that are directly related to CVD and stroke incidence as well as cognitive decline and Alzheimers. We are sowing an epidemic of Alzheimers disease and respiratory illness because of this chronic poisoning of the air.
    For me, I’ve decided to leave the town already.

  6. @John I did just what you suggested and I’m not seeing the AQI result you are claiming. The AQI index seems most closely related to how urbanized a town in New Jersey is. There are plenty of leaf blowers in the adjacent towns to Princeton, but they have lower AQI than Princeton as they are less dense.

    We are currently having a moral panic in Princeton regarding gas leaf blowers. Yes, individually, they pollute a lot more than a car. But there are also a lot fewer of them than cars or diesel trucks. Also battery powered leaf blowers work fine on small in-town lots. They are not practical currently for larger lots in the former township unless you are prepared to spend $2000 or more to have enough batteries to complete the job on a large lot.

  7. Virtue signaling by rich suburbanites who have nothing better to do except watch the cars parked in front of their homes and dole out town money for ‘free, self-funded’ projects that make them feel better about themselves and their cultivated guilt. Paid by you, the taxpayer hard at work. Wake up people! Lets have some common sense initiatives and money spent wisely for all residents in every part of town. Better yet how about a thoughtful 10 year plan on where funds will raised, managed and be appropriated instead of spending on everything that pops into a council member or residents head. Stick to a fiscally responsible budget instead of sticking it to the taxpayers. Revolutionary!

  8. I know the intentions of Sustainable Princeton are well intended and they want to save the environment, but i fear they are winning the battle but losing the war. All these requirements that dictate how people live their lives and prevent them from doing simple tasks like taking care of their yards result in a lot of anger and frustration from people who would think of themselves as moderate voters. These battles serve as red meat for the conservatives and will result in Republicans running the country, and refusing to act on global climate change. Banning leafblowers aren’t going to save the Earth. Let’s save our political capital for the most important issues.

  9. @anonymous
    This is a local issue, please keep partisan politics out of it. If you are willing to tolerate these things just to save “political capital” I think you’re very much mistaken. Local politics is very important as it affects us directly, and as pointed out already these machines are very harmful to everyone around them in multiple ways. The nanoparticate pollution they produce is loaded with pm5 and pm10, nanoparticles that easily cross the blood brain barrier and lodge permanently in the central nervous system. As a consequence, research is showing this to have a major role in neural health issues, both psychological (acute and chronic depression) and in the incidence of organic brain disease/ neurological damage, both associated with cognitive impairment with ageing and Alzheimers disease.
    Just for the record; I am one of these moderate, swing voters you mention and I think this is the best news I could have heard.

  10. It is infuriating to consider the implications of this so matter-of-factly stated set of instructions: that one should go after the workers whose livelihood depends on the most cost-effective and longest-lasting method for maintaining the homes of the rich. I guess there is no concern for how one’s pathetic tattle-tale behavior might negatively affect them, on terms of income or citizenship. If you were to step outside the reassuring confines of your bubble, you might be interested to learn that many landscapers prefer gas leaf blowers because they do not run out of power quickly like battery powered blowers and they also do not require the impractical use of cords that comes with electric blowers. But no, says the logic of this group “Quiet Princeton”, your peace and quiet (read: your ability to silence the inconvenient presence of normal people working to look after your perfect world) will always be paramount. And do not even start to tell me about the environmental reasons for this ordinance, when the very existence of all the vast million dollar plus homes of this town generate levels of carbon dioxide that dwarf whatever insignificant amount is generated by landscape workers. This from the same group that has lately taken to proclaiming loudly about the horror of those of us who serve you in town wanting access to street parking. A sickening and shameful display of privilege.

    1. @Princeton Worker
      Interesting insight into your thinking. You seem to assume the “them and us” model is a valid position to take.
      According to you; people who reside and work in Princeton, pay its enormous taxes and help create the environs of the town have no moral right to take a position on this issue; where as YOU by virtue of working as a landscaper have more rights to opine about it, even though you live somewhere else. It is you who has the “sickening and shameful display” of prejudice.
      Your point in defense of gas leaf blowers is that they are easier to work with. That’s it…no concessions at all to the problems of noise or air pollution and its severe health implications. Making a comparison between the carbon footprint of “million dollar plus homes” and gas leaf blowers is a false equivalency. These houses were built decades ago and many are continually upgraded to improve their carbon footprint. The houses make what they make, leaf blowers are optional and just add to the whole burden.
      What happened years ago before leaf blowers arrived? Lawns were raked and much of the leaf litter was left, allowing for a healthy ecosystem that left insects and microflora to overwinter. Now they are indiscriminately blown within an inch of life for tidiness.
      Quiet Princeton are offering funding to replace GLBs with electric ones. What could be fairer than that. Also landscapers were involved in the decision making process over months and were in favour of changing.
      Of course, the other option is not to employ landscapers at all. After reading your comment (where you even go on to name someone directly) I’m starting to prefer that option…

  11. I’ll add that it is rich that the author of this editorial is married to a man, Chris Hedges, who has built a reputation for solid, consistent left critique of American political life. And yet here we see the workings of the milieu in which he and his intimates travel – a world in which in one breath they talk about the importance of opposing fascism and protecting the most vulnerable, and then in the next engage in a form of NIMBYism whose close cousins are racism and classism. Good to know where people really stand.

  12. Ugh! breaking the law by using a leaf blower. Having to go to court! I thought this was parody but it is for real. I’m embarrassed to live in such an insular town that goes against the people who work so hard to keep Princeton beautiful. Our landscape company is run by a fantastic family and they help us out all of the time. I cannot believe you are going to harass them with a code enforcement officer. Where are the screams about social justice to unfairly harass the “brown” communities? Utter ineptitude.

  13. “But Hedges is a bit of a contradiction. He lives in Princeton, N.J., amid the progeny of American’s most privileged and academia’s biggest minds and egos. These people even have clubs for eating.

    “I live in the heart of the beast,” Hedges said. “It may as well be a gated community. You don’t want to talk to anyone who lives here. It’s full of upper-middle-class prejudice.”

    There are “constant” food drives in Princeton, Hedges said, but as a neighbor up the street told him, “We have to send them food, or they’ll come here.”

    Hedges says that he uses Princeton’s riches — the university library, the theater, stores like Labyrinth Books, and easy train access to New York City — to fortify his fight for those less fortunate.

    To that end, Hedges was one of a group of activists who earlier this year sued President Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta over the National Defense Authorization Act, which grants presidential authority for indefinite detention without habeas corpus.

    In May, a judge ruled that provision of the act is unconstitutional.

    “I thought, ‘Why am I doing this?’ Where are the law professors? The law-school deans?’ ” Hedges said. “They’re at Harvard having lunch, and who are they having lunch with? Goldman Sachs.”

  14. The focus on policing people (especially people who, as Princeton Worker pointed out, may be disadvantaged due to their income or citizenship status) is what really disturbs me. It’s not inherently a bad thing to want to get rid of gas leaf blowers, but I would much rather see the leaders of this movement writing op-eds in support of fundraising for electric leaf blowers (since they do have a fund for this purpose, why not take the space to advertise that?), or of paying landscaping workers more since their work will now be more difficult. But instead their priority is making sure people face consequences.

    Princeton residents seem to think the only way to fight climate change is to restrict workers by banning gas leaf blowers and fighting tooth and nail against town employees parking on the streets. Why not use your wealth and privilege to advocate for better public transit? That would be infinitely more effective and also avoid sending the message that workers’ opinions matter less than yours and they should do everything you say.

  15. I have read your responses to my comments. I would like to point out that I am not a landscaper, but I do support an “us and them” logic in service of class war. Also Chris Hedges can claim to support the oppressed from within the belly of the beast without actually doing so. However, I would like to let you all now that I have reversed my position: gas leaf blowers are an evil that must be eradicated because they threaten the habitat of the shrew. The shrew is a natural ally to the working class, but also cute and tiny, and must be defended.

  16. Growing a single cannabis plant is equivalent to burning a tank of gas. Where’s the outrage? But let’s ban leafblowers that are used a few months of the year

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