Today, a heated debate is being carried out in the street, in city council chambers and the boardrooms of property developers. Does it concern stem cell research, the U.S. presence in Iraq or even proposed caps to CEO salaries? The topic of this debate is as mundane as it gets. It has to do with clotheslines and airing your clean laundry.
With the increased public awareness of the carbon footprint of an average family, many people have returned to their grandparents’ practice of hanging their laundry to dry. Environmental groups have spawned a growing grass roots movement that actively promotes line drying out of doors. Proponents of the clothesline make a solid case that electric dryers are associated with more CO2 generation than any other appliance in the American home. Furthermore, line dryers say that the electricity required to tumble dry the laundry of an entire nation is an unnecessary expenditure of a limited resource that should be reserved for vital applications. On the other side of the clothesline, neighbourhood associations, home-owners and small business proprietors argue that the sight of wet socks dancing in the breeze has already affected the value of their properties. In fact, home-owners claim that attempts to sell their homes have failed as a result of the aesthetic effect of wet laundry cluttering their subdivisions.
At a time when home-owners are under considerable stress, the clothesline debate has caused rifts in communities. Meanwhile, six U.S. states and at least one Canadian province have legislated to override local bans on outdoor lines that were once enforced through home-owner associations and developers’ covenants. Interestingly, Europeans—who are often viewed as the vanguard of the green movement—don’t seem to have this problem. According to laundrylist.org, less than 4% of Italian homes have a dryer, compared to 92% in the United States.
While the debate rages on, those of us with the legal right to hang our laundry—but not our neighbours—out to dry, continue to search for a way to get the laundry done without provoking a riot in the street.
Whatever side of the clothesline you’re on, indoor lines are an effective way to save money while reducing your carbon footprint.
nytimes.com—Debate Follows Bills to Remove Clotheslines Bans
mei.gov.on.ca—Changes to Clothesline Regulation