For Goodness Rake!

Download the Video Teaching Guide PDF/Word

MAIN TOPICS OF VIDEO:  The environmental and social consequences of leaf blowers.

Episode11 copy

Discussion Questions:

Frame:

  1. What are some actions that you take around your home that you believe have an impact on the environment?
  2. Is there an action taken by a neighbor/roommate/parent that you know has a negative impact on the environment?  How?
  3. What is exhaust and how does it impact both human and environmental health?
  4. Have you ever been around a leaf blower?  If so, what did you experience?
  5. How can a leaf blower impact the environment/community?

Focus:

  1. How did the homeowner use the Blotron 9000?
  2. How did the Blotron 9000 affect the people in the community?
  3. How did the Blotron 9000 affect the environment?
  4. What did the Green Ninja do to help mitigate the damage caused by the homeowner’s use of the Blotron 9000? (Look for at least 3 actions)

Follow-up:

  1. What actions do you take in your personal life that might have a greater environmental or community impact than you initially thought?
  2. Create a list of the benefits gained by switching from the leaf blower to a rake.  Next, think of a modification you can make in your personal life that might give you one of those benefits.
  3. How are the green spaces in your life cared for?  Is there any room for alternative methods of care?

ANSWERS TO DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

Frame:

  1. Sample answers may include:  washing clothes (uses a lot of water and can deposit phosphates into the water supply), running the air conditioner or heater, watering the lawn in the middle of the day when evaporation is higher, taking long, hot showers, using electricity.
  2. Same as above
  3. Exhaust is both the gases and particulate matter that results from an engine (such as the one powering the leaf blower).  It can cause respiratory problems in humans and negatively impact photosynthesis in plants.  It can release gases that contribute to climate change, such as carbon monoxide.
  4. Sample answer:  Leaf blowers are often used on my street.  They are loud and the user will often turn it off when a pedestrian approaches.
  5. Leaf blowers can impact the environment by contributing to air pollution, noise pollution and soil erosion.  They can blow material into places it’s not meant to be.

Focus:

  1. The Blotron 9000 leaf blower was used to move one errant leaf, while the homeowner spoke of being the king of his front yard.
  2. The Blotron 9000 leaf blower released exhaust, which is a health hazard.  It blew trash/debris from one lawn to the next.  It triggered breathing problems in a neighbor.  It knocked down children.  It caused noise pollution.
  3. The exhaust from the machine can inhibit photosynthesis in plants.  It loosened and displaced topsoil.  It uprooted a grass strip.  It knocked the leaves off of a tree.  It emitted nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which play a part in creating tropospheric (the ground level of the atmosphere) ozone, which is harmful to humans and acts as a greenhouse gas.
  4. The green Ninja untangled the girl from the grass and used the grass for grazing.  He helped the neighbor regain a clean car.  He returned the inhaler to the neighbor.  He pulled Billy out of the leaves and used the leaves as mulch to help maintain quality soil.  He turned the Blotron 9000 into a rake.

Follow-up:

  1. Sample answers may include:  letting the water run while brushing teeth, taking 15 minute showers (rather than 5 minute showers), leaving the lights on in an empty room, letting the car idle rather than turning it off, maintaining non-native species in a house landscape, driving a car a distance that can be easily walked, and others.
  2. Sample benefits of rake use over a leaf blower: Does not emit exhaust, it’s less expensive than a leaf blower, requires the user to exercise, gentler on topsoil than leaf blower. Sample actions that might produce the same benefit: Biking to destination rather than driving, reusing water bottles rather than buying single use bottles of water, using native species of plants for landscaping needs, walking/biking to school/work/activities.
  3. Green spaces can mean: indoor plants, community gardens, lawns, city parks, living roofs, and others.  Alternative care might mean: landscaping with native plants, applying organic fertilizers or no fertilizer at all, using an electric or battery powered lawn mower, using a push mower, using grazing animals for grass, watering grass once or twice a week, watering grass only in the morning or at night, and others.

ADDITIONAL TOPICS AND LEARNING EXPERIENCES:

  1. How did the Blotron 9000 arrive at the homeowner’s residence? The leaf blower came packaged in a large cardboard box with packing peanuts.  All new goods come surrounded by packaging to protect the object from damage or theft.  What should the homeowner do with the packaging?  What do YOU do with packaging?  Recycling or reusing the box and peanuts are good options. If you don’t want to reuse or store the packing peanuts, some companies, like Mailboxes, Etc. allow you to donate them.  Buying goods from second-hand stores eliminates the creation of packing waste.
  2. How did the operation of the leaf blower directly affect the air in the yard? The leaf blower emits pollutants (such as particulate matter, carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrocarbons) directly into the atmosphere while in operation. The leaf blower agitated loose soil, dirt and debris—putting all of those things into the atmosphere, where they move location and can be inhaled by people and animals.
  3. Why did the lawn come loose in strips? Natural landscaping doesn’t come in strips.  The strips indicate that the lawn is made up of sod, which can be used to control erosion.  It is also a faster way to establish a lawn.  A better approach to landscaping is to plant native grass seeds and plants that will flourish in the climate in which the homeowner lives.  There are also companies that offer “eco-sod”, which has drought resistant grasses and requires less maintenance than traditional sod.
  4. What were some lawn care solutions that the green ninja implemented? The green ninja created mulch, which helps prevent the erosion of soil and allowed a grazing animals to care for a part of the lawn. The Green Ninja turned the loose leaves into mulch the tree’s exposed roots, and moved the cow to the grass for grazing.
  5. Related to the three E’s of sustainability (Environment, Economics and Equity):  The leaf blower is a hazard to the health of the user and anyone in the immediate vicinity of use.  It causes noise pollution and can quickly displace the soil and other organic material in the yard.  The price of purchasing and maintaining a leaf blower (gas) is much higher than a rake.  Switching from a leaf blower to a rake has the potential to save the user money.

ADDITIONAL NOTES AND RESOURCES:

  1. Many cities have banned leaf blowers in residential areas, or have citizens interested in banning them. A Google search of leaf blower bans will take you to some of the newspaper coverage of these civic decisions.
  2. For data and a description of a formal scientific study about the particulate matter released by the use of leaf blowers, brooms and rakes.
  3. A website with a concise summary of the issues surrounding leaf blowers and the alternatives (of note: “GP blowers emit as much pollution in an hour as a car would if it drove 100 miles”)
  4. “According to the California Environmental Protection Agency, one hour of leaf-blower use emits more than 26 times the amount of carbon monoxide, and more than 400 times the hydrocarbon emissions, produced by driving a new car at 30 mph for one hour. However, cars made before 1975 that don’t have a catalytic converter produced three times as much CO in an hour as a leaf-blower, and about as much hydrocarbon emissions.”—Miami Herald (June 6, 2013). Read more.
  5. More information on carbon monoxide (CO)
  6. Leaf Blower Report from the Air Resources Board of California
  7. A good collection of resources and information from a community organization opposed to leaf blowers
  8. The Zero Air Pollution, Los Angeles website has compiled resources pertinent to the issue of leaf blowers.

Credit: This teacher resource has been adapted from content originally developed by Lee Pruett.