environment sustainability

Are leaf eating machines eating more than leaves?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article for my local paper’s “Going Green” page. It’s a special edition page, once a month, that features stories about eco-friendly things folks and businesses are doing (or attempting to do) that will help sustain our environment. That’s the premise anyway.

But Something Happened on the Way to Heaven.

I’m sure you’ve heard the term “whitewashing,” it’s used as a metaphor to indicate a cover up or glossing over of some particular wrong doing, scandal, or unethical practice. In some popularized cases you’ll hear of large corporations or companies whitewashing unethical policy, producing biased results from research and whatnot. But there’s another type of glossing over going on in the green industy – greenwashing,  and I think I’m guilty of it.

The article I wrote for the Going Green page is about a community’s leaf collection program that is provided for them free of charge. Neighboring communities are charged a fee for yard waste collection, it’s included in their bill from the company that collects their regular household waste. The folks living in the community with free yard waste and leaf removal  also get free composted leaf mulch to use in their gardens and landscapes. But is it really “free.” You’ve heard it said that if somethings sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Well folks, the old adage still applies: the cost of fuel and manpower for the community’s free leaf and yard waste removal most likely far outweighs any green benefit that might be had.

What is the fuel cost for such a behemoth as this?


By TC Conner

Pro hobbyist photographer, drone enthusiast, musician, husband and father.

6 replies on “Are leaf eating machines eating more than leaves?”

Now that you’ve thought more about it, will you write another, not-so-glowing article for the paper? It might help people think more critically about green and what goes on behind the scene.

Still, if some bean counters put their minds to it, there might actually be some calculable benefit to a central collection system like the behemoth offers. At least people aren’t burning the leaves to get rid of them, and there aren’t all those millions of plastic bags to contend with if the leaves are being scooped up by individuals.

Great post, TC.

W2W: I am seriously considering an article for the GG page that delves into the cost effectiveness/carbon footprint of the borough’s leaf and yard waste collection program. As a matter of fact, one of the leaf collectors (i.e., truck driver) asked me if I had any idea of the cost. He said the leaf mulching machine is a fuel consuming monster. You mentioned plastic garbage bags – unfortunately they’re starting to see household garbage being dumped at the leaf composting site, folks are putting it in with their leaves in black plastic garbage bags and borough workers must sort it out. Not a good thing!

Yes, but like most things that are for the greater good, it can cost more. If you were just comparing dollars to dollars, that’s one thing, but you’re comparing dollars to sustainability. Now, if you take into account the pollution from it… I still say it’s better to do this than not. It makes people more aware of their environment and how useful those leaves are.

Ms. Kylee, read my reply to W2W’s comment. I’m not sure if it really and truly is “better to do this than not.” It’d be interesting to do a economical cost vs. carbon footprint comparison.

“Greenwashing” is difficult sometimes to avoid!
Looking for all the hidden and in the case of the huge compositing trucks not so hidden carbon footprint takes a bit of looking and digging.
I like to use MY leaves and grass for compositing and mulching.
I know where they came from!
Hope you had a tasty Thanksgiving.
I hear Portland, Oregon is collecting food scrapes for compositing!
I bet a few Turkey carcasses will be offered up.

Ms. Sherry, I suppose we have to take the bad with the good sometimes. Or do we?

My editor asked me to do a story about our garbage collection company’s recycling program. I’ve been told it’s greenwashing too.

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