Evanstonian Lori Rotenberk has sent us a letter suggesting this spring would be a good time for folks to turn over a new leaf in their lawn care habits. We’d like to know what you think of her suggestion that — among other things — lawn care companies should be banned.

Dear Editor:

It’s that time of year in Evanston. Spring. And with it comes the low humming sound that has nothing to do with nature. Or the so adored yoga held dear along the North Shore. Rather, it’s the sound of dozens of leaf blowers — sometimes as many as thirty — puffing away along a two-block stretch of the ever so “green” Evanston. Add to the noise the deep, dark clouds of dust and debris. The acrid smell of the gasoline used to fuel these monsters as well as the giant gas lawn mowers. Cap it all of with a shot of chemical weed and insect killer and what do we have? A community that purports to be environmentally aware if not active. See them jumping into giant SUV’s to head to the farmer’s market?

Recent reports in everything from Mother Jones to The New York Times and the environmental-conscious Grist and TreeHugger continue to report how dangerous home-use insecticides are on pregnant mothers, kids, animals — everything. Yet the Evanston City government along with a multitude of residents turn their backs on the issues. What exactly do you think is being blown around out there season after season? Why does the city allow this while other communities nationally have long established ordinances and laws that not only ban lawn care crews, gas and electric leaf blowers, chemicals but also the noise that comes with them. Evanston lags sorely behind the times, a surprising tidbit given the “green” facade by a town that likes to go around painting the downtown purple. That alone should tell you plenty.  Ours is a beautiful community and we’re so fortunate to live along a vast lake with an abundance of trees. But who can hear the birds nesting in them?  It’s time everyone quit pretending and the city council get down and dirty on environmental pollution issues caused right in our own backyards.

Shame, shame.

— Lori Rotenberk

Join the Conversation


  1. Peoples’ Republic of Evanston

    Even though the letter's author appears to adhere to many left-winged extremist organizations, the letter was well written, almost poetic.

    But when she protests that she cannot hear the birds nesting in the trees, I think, for her and maybe others, the birds are nesting somewhere else.

  2. Yet another anti-business

    Yet another anti-business, over-regulating North Shore liberal.  Keep your laws off my lawn!

  3. Lawn care companies

    Ms Rotenback has just described my block in North Evanston.  At least 4 days per week extremely loud lawn companies are present on my very short block with very small yards.  I am surprised by the fact that my neighbors cannot do their own lawnwork.  No one on our block is elderly or handicapped and as I said these are very small lots.  There have been several times already this season that I cannot park close to my own home when I arrive in late afternoon because two lawn companies with enormous trucks pulling brand new giant trailers are taking up all the parking with their equipment. Another annoying issue is that they blow our neighbors dead leaves on to our property and don't even seem to notice.  It is also surprising that with all of this fancy equipment it still takes them hours to complete the job and get out of there.  One other very sad observation is that these companies often seem to be family run businesses that employee their very young male children to help who instead of spending their time with peers are spending hours being explosed to this constant noise, fumes, toxins… etc.  When they stop for a break they usually leave their empty bottles and food wrappers on the curb.


    I would vote to ban lawn care companies without hesitation. 

    1. Really?

      Really, it takes them hours to do a lawn?  I don't think so, I think you're stretching a bit, or maybe a lot. 

      I have a really large yard, I have 3 seperate r.e. tax pins to cover this property. When my lawn care company comes in it takes about 20 minutes for this really big lawn (except for the initial spring clean up). 

      Never once have I seen any lawn care company leave trash laying around in my neighborhood. They always clean up all the small bits of trash around the place and leave my yard way cleaner, every time. As do the hardworking crews at every one of my neighbors homes. Can't imagine too many homeowners paying for the cleanup service and coming home to piles of trash sitting on the curb.     

      Oh, and there's another reason why I need them to come. I have better things to do than spend an afternoon doing something that causes me extreme discomfort– I have really bad allergies.This year has been very bad just to simply walk outside yet alone trim bushes and cut grass.

      Think I'll  keep my hardworking, very responsible crew.

  4. Mowing—good exercise

    I'm amazed at the number of houses that use lawn-care companies.  With housing prices down and for many people incomes, I'd expect homeowners to be out taking care of their own lawn.  If not for the money, then for the exercise—esp. if using a manual mower—i.e. non-electric, non-gas—they are MUCH easier to use than the ones people used 40+ years ago.

    With the small size of many of the lawns I see getting lawn-care services, I amazed—'in my day' to use the usual phrase, people could do their whole yard between getting home from work and having supper.  It use to be and I'm sure of many areas outside the Chicago suburbs, people took care of their own lawns or at least hired neighborhood kids—who should appreciate the earnings unless allowences are MUCH greater than when I was in that age group.

    Think of the gas and electric saved, pollution reduced and calories burned from people who could benefit from that.

  5. This town is lazy

    of all of the things that surprised me about htis town when I moved here was how lazy the home owners are. I think I can count on one hand the number of people who I've seen mowing their own lawns, shoveling their walks, etc. Everyone wants the ugly perfectly manicured chem lawns, but they don't know what the little rope is for on top of the lawn mower engine. Heck, they can't even rake their own leaves in the fall.

    Get off your bums and actually put some work into your property and community – you'll probably enjoy it.

    1. Hard vs smart worker

      Most homeowners aren't lazy, they simply place a higher value to their time than you do. In this busy life I have way more important things to do than cut grass. I have a busy active family, run several business with lots of employees. And since you mention community, I donate lots of time to various community organizations.

      It isn't laziness, it's  intelligence. My time is worth way more than what I pay the crew and therefore it would be extremely stupid of me to waste time cutting grass.In fact, time is my most precious and most limited resource. So you choose to spend your time cutting grass, good for you. I have better things to do and believe me it's got nothing to do with laziness.

  6. Leave them alone

    Why does Lori Rotenberk and some of the posters on here hate small businesses and immigrants? Make no mistake. That's what they're doing. The majority, if not all, of the lawn care companies I've seen and used in Evanston are immigrant owned small businesses. Leave them alone and leave those of us who chose to use their great service alone. And get a life!

  7. Let them work

    Lori should mind her own business. Whether I want to start up my own lawn mower or pay someone to mow my lawn and support someone else with the money I earned from my hard work, that is my concern. As long as the lawn care companies are operating within the limits of the law, let them work. 

  8. Powerful letter

    When I moved to Evanston I thought I would finally be moving to the progressive paradise i had always dreamed of.  Even when I paid 20 times my annual salary to afford a house, I thought it would be worth it.  Even when my negative amortization balloon mortgage blew up and I my house went into foreclosure, I thought it would be worth it.  I now live day to day wondering when I will be forcibly removed from my home.  It would be worth it if Evanston was what I dreamed it would be. 

    But it is not….

    When I saw my neighbors driving non-hybrid cars, and using power mowers on their lawns… killing our mother earth…well, I can admit as a man, and I am not ashamed to say, that I wept just like the indian in that littering commercial.

    When I read Lori's letter I wept again, but this time with tears of joy and hope.  Thank you, Lori for you powerful letter.  You should know that even if your letter does not result in changing our laws it lifts the spirits of some.

  9. Oh for goodness sake… stop whining

    I live in Evanston. Own a house. Never owned a lawnmower or leafblower or powered snowthrower. Never will. I pay for a nice guy and his family to take care of things I have no interest whatsoever in doing. Please… is it possible for people like this clown to stay out of my personal business? Probably not in the nanny city that Evanston has become.

  10. Blah, Blah, Blah, cry me a river

    I really want to meet the one person in the world that is so earth conscious that they don't waste anything, they use a scissors to cut their grass, they help they neighbor, they use LED light bulbs, they recycle everything. Come on, we cannot ban everything to save Mother Earth but every one can do a little to help. I want to visit Lori and make sure she is doing EVERYTHING she can to save the planet because I guarantee you, she is not.

    Time to worry about more important things in life and you can't do that while you're hugging a tree. .

  11. Lighten Up Please

    Good Gosh… I am astonished at some of the responses I am reading here. 

    Could everybody please lighten up?  Lori is expressing her own opinion and suggesting a path to greener lawns and better health.  I commend her for making those choices.  But I recognize that they are not for everybody.

    Offering different perspectives to these kinds of dialoges is productive to a social conversation… but not when mostly Anonymous people are attacking a contributor.  That just stiffles creativity and ideas.

    Please try to edit out the vinegar.

    Respectfully submitted, Brian G. Becharas


    1. Brian it’s not just her opinion

      Brian, I disagree, Lori is not expressing her opinion; she is expressing her opinion and calling for the city to enact laws to force citizens of Evanston to conform to her desires. There is a huge difference between the two, and that is why there is the outrage towards her letter. I may have the opinion that fat people should not be allowed to eat anything but salads, but I don’t call for governments to enact laws forbidding fat people from buying and eating nothing but salads. I understand people are free to make their own chooses and I should not inflict my view and beliefs on them.


  12. Hypocrisy is thick here

    Mrs. Rotenberk,

    I drive a SUV and I enjoy going to the farmers market.  I feel no need to apologize for that. I assume you think there is an irony in that, but I’m not sure where?

    I use Scott’s lawn products and rent a leaf blow twice year, I’m not ashamed.

    Every day the “Not In My Backyard Evanston” get’s funnier and funnier.  The hypocrisy here is so thick you could almost cut it.

    Mrs. Rotenberk, I think that in The Republic of Evanston people should have the freedom to live their lives without being judged, criticized or regulated.  It would be nice to live in a place where how you choose to take care of your own lawn is your own business. 

    I just roll my eyes at the thought that others here think they know how to live my life better than I live my own.  By the way, I take personal responsibility in everything I do and prefer not to live in a nanny state.

    Evanston is so Ironic; leaf blowers are outlawed a majority of the year because of nose pollution, however the city of Evanston drives a street cleaner past my house at 3:30 AM once a week during street cleaning season. Like I said the hypocrisy is thick here.

  13. Another choice

    Well, another choice would be to allow the lawn care crews but have them work with push mowers and rakes. Or hire kids who need summer work.

    The city could also begin thinking of keeping the chemical bug spraying companies out of town as well. Although they tell you their spray is safe, look up the names used. There are green abatement  and lawn companies that use natural things such as walnut oil, etc.

    Have you ever thought of the health problems the lawn care crew workers suffer? The company owners work them from lawn after lawn after lawn. The blowers and mowers are so they can do their job faster and who pockets the bulk of the profits? Keep the crews, but demand push mowers and rakes. And no chemical week kill or sprays. Ask a vet what it does to pets. And if it does it to pets…… All of this should be a no-brainer.

    1. Dear Lori

      I tried using walnut oil and it doesn't work very well besides being expensive. I don't use a lawn service but I'm sure that if I did ask them to use push mowers, they would ask that I provide them and charge me a lot more money for the same job. Alse, push mowers do not mulch the grass.

      I have asked a vet what chemical sprays can do to pets. The answer I got was: 90% of targeted sprays will have no adverse effect on pets and the few that do should have warnings that notify you.

      No matter how silly some of your statements sound, you have the right to say it. So keep it up. You might convince a few people to follow through with some of your believes.

      1. Pushing a mower might cause hemorrhoids

        I have been landscaping for 25 years. After five years of landscaping I had hemorrhoid surgery. My surgeon at Evanston Hospital said it was from the years of pushing the mower and lack of fiber.

        1. Blame Lori

          Green people usually cause more damagemwhen they succeed on pushing their selfish agenda through. They don 't think things through. Perfect example are the people who sue to stop clear cutting. They celebrate their victory and then 3 months later a fire destroys 10 to 30 times more forest than they saved and cost billions of dollar to fight.. They don't understand that the firebrake they prevented killed so much more.

          They don't care about the hemorrhoids they cause America.

          1. The “Green Mirage”

            I too am for renewable energy, Apple pie, and the Cubs winning the World Series in 2012.

            But let's be realistic and sensible.

            For example, take a look at the current ethanol policy in place in the United States. Sold to the public as renewable energy and a way to reduce our dependency on Middle East oil. There is considerable debate if any net energy is actually created in the U.S. Converting U.S. corn to ethanol is not as efficient as converting sugar cane to ethanol. But our politicians have imposed import duties on foreign ethanol, and provided tax credits for producing U.S. ethanol. Corn farmers love that $$$.

            And the worst impact is that almost 30% of U.S. corn produced in this great country is used for ethanol. What does that do to the price of corn? It goes higher of course, and EVERYONE pays more for cereal, meat, and all other corn based food products.

            Who bears the brunt of the higher prices? Poor people ALL OVER the world.

            That's the "Green Mirage"

            Sadly, many people suffer, who's looking out for them?

          2. Nasty discourse

            This site has really taken on an uncompromising, bitter, and caustic tone in recent months.

            It's a shame because left, right, or center I often find this site to provide informative articles on issues concerning ALL citizens of this community.

            The divisive tone and spiteful responses to opinions that differ from our own beliefs is disconcerting.

            If you don't agree with someones view, then a constructive dialogue between ADULTS is the surest way to come to a compromise that benefits everyone. Something most adults seem to lack any concept of these days.

            There's enough negative energy swirling around these days. Why don't we try something positive for a change.

            Let the piling on begin…

  14. We spent about 20 years

    We spent about 20 years mowing our lawn (and still do), raking leaves, doing Fall and Spring clean-up and involving our three children in these activities.

    We even tried using a handmower. We still compost and  mow our lawn using a gas muching mower because it does a much better job than the hand one.

    We hire someone to rake our leaves and do other clean-up tasks not because we are lazy, but because of energy, time and health considerations.

    I think Lori would receive a far better response if she educated the public instead of engaging in a tirade against them. I agree that gas mowers are annoying and poluting.  Is there a better time efficient alternative?

    We regularly talk to our lawn service and do not allow them to apply weedkillers. We are concerned not only about our own health, but that of the lawn care workers and that of our neighbors.

    1. A Breath of Fresh Air

      Dear Lori,

      I am so relieved to read your editorial.

      I agree with you 100%.   Unfortunately there really does appear to be a bit of hypocrisy as we strive to become a green community leader.  Evanston was even awarded 1st  place in the 2011 small city Mayors’ Climate Protection Awards!   Yet,  "according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a new gas powered lawn mower produces volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides emissions air pollution in one hour of operation as 11 new cars each being driven for one hour."   So why not stop using them or have the people you hire stop using them?  

      When will people realize that saving the environment does not have to be antithetical to economic progress?  If we work togehter as a community  perhaps we can not only help mitigate climate change, but also increase our capacity to thrive as human beings. 

      my 2 cents.





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