Friday, July 22, 2011
Support Solar Energy Now: Hang Dry Laundry
Eyesore? I don't think so. Laundry out to dry in Burano, Italy.
"If 95 percent of Italians, some of earth's most fashion-conscious inhabitants, don't own a dryer, then why are Americans so adamant about tumble drying their clothes?" This was the question posed by Chelsea Hodge in a New York Times piece, "Rethinking Laundry in the 21st Century." Compare that to the approximate 80% of U.S. households that owns a dryer.
We're in the midst of a major heat wave on the East Coast, and when I get off the bus after work and pass laundry rooms in my apartment complex, I hear the sound of dryers, instead of seeing sheets, towels, and socks drying in the sun. Why? We can't hang dry our laundry due to restrictions in our lease. Why: because like the lunacy of objectors to solar panels on telephone polls, some think it's worse to look at sheets blowing in the wind than having invisible pollution they can't see blowing through the air.
Alexander Lee, when he was president of Project Laundry List, says the group is fighting the idea that clotheslines are ugly. "It's much uglier to look out the window and see rising sea levels," he remarks.
My view on hang drying laundry: it is an act of environmentalism, economic empowerment, exercise and beauty. I am tired of it being associated with poverty, like in the dark film Winter's Bone, about an impoverished family in the Ozarks.
Liberator of household drudgery? "We would work less and vacation more. In fact, we work more and vacation less than any of the countries we compare ourselves to. And we sit behind a desk and earn thousands of dollars to buy appliances."
Since I can't dry outside, I hang dry year round on a drying rack in my apartment, clothes on hangers on my shower curtain rod, and towels on the racks. Even sheets and blankets air dry. No wasting $1.50 per load in the dryer (it adds up!) or polluting our air.
I think the idea of power consumption as a "status symbol" is intriguing. At a Fourth of July picnic, a guest said what I agreed with: she's offended by people who "flaunt" it (meaning being wasteful with energy). I'm offended too.
And with all these modern conveniences, doesn't it seem like so many don't have enough "time?"
When I travel abroad, I adore the sight of laundry hanging out to dry. I think of our ignorance on the matter. What is so offensive about the sight of our neighbors trying to save money and energy? If a small act can help provide cleaner air and more money in wallets, I support it. I also ponder how detrimental it would be if everyone consumed resources at the rate Americans do.
Fondly recalling laundry out to dry, on the balconies of Barcelona.
In romantic Tangier.
In a Lisbon courtyard, with bicycles at the ready for a trip to the market.
Also, in Lisbon, I spied a laundry rainbow.
Floating over a quaint cafe in Rome.
Above the canals of Venice.
In colorful Burano, where laundry out to dry is part of the charm. Upon viewing the beauty of laundry drying in the sun, a man declared to his wife, "We're going to start hang drying our laundry at home!"
Also in Burano. What if all these people used an electric dryer instead of the sun?
In this video by American Josh Soskin living in Spain, he calls the act of hang drying "beautiful," "meditative" and "a small difference in how we live" and wonders "if these small details aren't ultimately what will make or break us in the future." I completely concur.
"The tumble dryer is the second largest energy-consuming appliance and the leading cause of house fires among appliances. There is no such sense as an Energy Star dryer; these machines are inherently inefficient, using natural gas or electricity to heat air," Lee asserts in the New York Times.
Check out Project Laundry List's Top 10 Reasons to Line Dry. Quiz yourself on "How Green is My Laundry Routine" from the Sierra Club.
A few years ago, CBS Sunday Morning's Bill Geist featured this amusing, bewildering and though-provoking piece on one woman's battle to combat global warming, one clean shirt, towel and sock at a time.
Watch CBS Videos Online
I like what Rob, a resident of Staten Island, said in the comments section of The New York Times article on Rethinking Laundry. "It's funny how so many of the 'green' things I do, like hanging clothes outside, keeping a vegetable garden, composting yard and food waste, re-using bags (paper and plastic) and walking instead of driving are the kind of things my grandparents did before anybody called it 'green'.
"Green" living to me isn't some fad or about buying some expensive product, it's about being respectful of the planet and current and future generations in my daily lifestyle. Clothes are one of the few things we consume that is a 'need', but caring for them also is a need. I reduce my impact by hang drying, avoid dry cleaning as much as possible, and wash on cold water. Project Laundry List tells us an astounding 90 percent of the energy used by a washing machine goes to just heating the water, and you could save $60 or more on your annual energy spending by washing at least four out of every five loads in cold water.
In Burano. Do you hang dry laundry?