Fall Leaf Collection: Why and How We Use Gas-Powered Tools

When it comes time to collect the leaves that fall from the over 11,000 inventoried trees that span across 100 landscaped hectares of the Vancouver campus, our Soft Landscape crew uses a mix of tools to help keep our walkways safe and our plants healthy, while contributing to the sustainability goals of the university.

Leaf collection occurs once a year in the fall. We do this for a number of key reasons:

Safety

  • Large volumes of fallen leaves pose a tripping hazard and are very slippery when wet, posing safety risks to pedestrians and vehicles alike.
  • They can also clog catch basins if left uncollected, which could result in flooding as it rains.

We remove leaves from the over 44 hectares of hard surfaced pedestrian plazas and pathways and over 34 hectares of roadways to keep the public safe.

Landscape Health

  • Enough leaves fall from our trees to negatively affect the surrounding landscape if left uncollected.
  • Large amounts of leaves could matte down on grass, which can cause fungus, mold, and disease, ultimately increasing the cost to maintain green spaces.

We remove leaves from the over 113 hectares of landscaped grounds to help us efficiently maintain its healthy state all year round.

Sustainability

  • We compost collected leaves on-campus, which we use to produce nutrient-rich soil for use in our gardens and landscaped areas.

Given the large size of our campus and the amount of leaves that we need to manage, we need to use a mix of techniques in order to perform this task efficiently and with minimal impact to those using the campus. Gas-powered leaf blowers are — at this time — one of the most efficient and effective ways to meet this need. Though they can be noisy and disruptive at times, we try to mitigate these issues by using them during selected times in the day and using variable-speed motors, allowing us to reduce noise in sensitive areas by throttling down. And because they are so effective at helping us collect leaves, we only need to use them for a small window of time during the year.

We also perform manual leaf collection, though, on its own, manual collection is inefficient, requiring a large workforce that would mean less resources available to manage other elements of campus operations, in addition to creating additional strain and risk of injury to workers. Efficient leaf collection relies on our mixing of gas-powered tools and manual techniques.

As we work towards the quick removal of leaves this fall season, you can help us clear them as quickly and efficiently as possible by temporarily closing windows facing areas being worked on and reporting blocked drains.

We are always looking for ways to innovate our techniques, and are currently piloting the use of a non-gas-powered leaf blower for some limited applications. While initial results are proving that this technology currently cannot replace gas-powered blowers due to limited efficiency and power storage, we are hopeful the industry can provide solutions that can scale to a large industrial operation such as ours.