For most Americans today, line drying clothes carries a strong, undesired stigma of poverty. Many homeowners associations and cities restrict (or even ban) the use of clotheslines in planned communities. Dryers, on the other hand, constitute the second biggest energy hog in our homes, after the refrigerator, and are found in 92% of US households. It hasnâ€™t always been so, and several companies, including Leviâ€™s and Right2Dry.org, are trying to raise awareness about this nonsense, all the way to the White House. Read on to see how a click of the mouse can help.
Line Drying in the US
Up until World War II, clotheslines were ubiquitous in this country and indeed the world. But as labor-saving appliances sprung up nationwide and coal-generated electricity was cheap, only very poor people who could not afford a dryer continued to hang their clothes outdoors, hence the poverty stigma of line drying and the status symbol of the electric (or gas) dryer.Â But nowadays, in the land of the free, there are about 300,000 association governed communities that, for the most part, restrict outdoor clothes hanging, and sometimes even indoors. Some people have filed complaints against neighbors who had hung their clothes outside, and in one tragic instance, the dispute over clotheslines even led to a manâ€™s death in Verona, MS. In Los Angeles, the first condo building to have received the US Green Building Councilâ€™s gold LEED rating ironically forbids line-drying.
The right to dry movement, heralded by Project Laundry List, has been campaigning since 1997 to change Americansâ€™ negative attitudes towards clotheslines and helped create a National Hanging Out Day, held every year on April 19th. Some states, including Florida, Utah and Maine, have started lifting the ban on line drying, but we are very far from a nationwide acceptance.Â To our knowledge, there is no other country in the world that has such a hostile and ban-happy attitude towards line drying. Even in a country like England, where rain and humidity are common meteorological facts, line drying is a normal and widespread part of everyday life.
Why Line Dry Your Clothes
There are many benefits to hanging your clothes on a line to dry. For one, it saves you money: the sun and the air are free and the cost of a couple of lines, clothespins and extra hangers is minimal, while purchasing a dryer, operating it (about $85 annually) and maintaining it costs quite a chunk of money. Just as there are calculators to calculate your carbon footprint, Project Laundry List has a calculator that helps you calculate how much money you spend on washing and drying, and how much you can save by greening your laundry habits.
Also, line drying reduces fabric wear and tear, makes the laundry smells fresh without any added chemicals, and may dry much more quickly. Beyond these immediate financial benefits, line drying is the most environmentally-friendly way of drying your clothes, as it causes zero greenhouse gas emissions. A typical gas dryer, on the other hand, emits an average of 4.4 lbs of CO2 per load.
You can simply hook up a permanent nylon clothesline, a retractable clothesline (not made with PVC/ vinyl), or spend a few bucks on a quality portable umbrella clothing dryer. For indoor and outdoor use, a foldable drying rack such as Ikeaâ€™s Antonius or Moermanâ€™s Clothes Dryer is an excellent item to own.
If you have never dried your clothes on a line before, click here for a few tips on successful line-drying. While many people fix the â€œstiff clothesâ€ problem by drying them in the dryer for 10 minutes (either before or after line drying), weâ€™d like to suggest instead a truly eco-friendly approach:
Changing Our Minds
When the sun can dry clothes faster than dryers and at no financial and environmental costs and when global warming is a reality, it seems absurd to let social standards and aesthetic tastes run the show. Right2dry.orgâ€™s campaign strategy is to urge the First Family of the United States to set the example on the lawn of the White House, so millions of people in this country can once again freely line their clothes outside. You can help set it in motion by signing their petition to promote line drying and asking the White House to hang their clothes outdoors for a symbolic picture.Â A healthy discussion will hopefully lead to the lifting of all bans in all states, so anybody can freely line dry. Another way to start a dialogue on this issue is to view British filmmaker Stephen Lakeâ€™s independent documentary Drying For Freedom, to be released later this year. The documentary aims to investigate the history behind the clothesline ban and the increasing demand for dryers.Â
Last, but not least, worldwide known clothing company Levi Strauss & CO has launched a Care To Air Design Challenge, rewarding the most stylish, effective and sustainable clothesline design (or other innovative air drying solutions) with $10,000 in prizes. Contestants have until July 31st 2010 to enter the contest, as do voters to express their preferences.
Line-drying our clothes is one of the many little, yet significant, gestures we can all do to protect the environment. If you haven't done so already, give it a try and help raise awareness about this issue by talking to your friends and family members.
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