February 15, 2010

Returning to the Clothesline

February 15, 2010
A friend and I were having a discussion the other day about energy consumption, and she pointed out that I was wasting a lot of energy by tumble drying a majority of my laundry.  I was thankful to have someone keep me accountable, and glad to return back to my roots - my mom always line dries in the summertime and running between sheets and tshirts is a favorite pastime, not to mention a great hiding spot for hide and seek.

In a climate like Santiago's with apartments designed featuring multiple terrazas, there really is ample opportunity to set up the drying rack and be putting those same clothes away by lunch time.  A quick scan of neighboring apartment buildings provides a view of clothes racks, bookshelves, and people having lunch with friends.  A continuous ribbon of daily activity from one terraza to the next.  No matter what class status you are, Chileans do a great job reducing energy consumption by line drying.  No terraza...try the bath tub, it is a great alternative!  If guests are coming for lunch or dinner just pull the shower curtain and they will never know.

In El Mercurio (Santiago newspaper) there was a small blurb about a New York Times article discussing United States legislation specifically on the issue of clotheslines.  When I reviewed the whole article it was surprising to see that many homeowners associations, neighbors, and realtors aggressively oppose clotheslines.  Why?  They are described as an eye sore and site it as an obstacle when selling a house.

Community associations are comparing line drying to having a junk yard in your driveway AND are presenting tumble dry vs line dry as a status symbol - opting to line dry communicates that you are unable to afford a dryer (lowering property values).  Just a side note that community associations also often are setting their own rules involving architectural guidelines.  Being an architect myself I find it absurd that the individuals setting guidelines within these community associations are typically not qualified architects or urban planners.

Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Vermont, Florida, and Utah have overridden these local community association rules with legislation protecting the right to hang laundry outdoors, reduce energy bills, and the ability to act in an environmentally minded way.  Did you know that typically more than half the energy spent on a garment over its lifetime goes toward its care...not toward the production (so buying only organic cotton and hemp garments doesn't make that much of a difference if you are washing with hot water and tumble drying).

There has even been a documentary slated to release in May of this year.  I like the way Steven Lake, filmmaker, describes the clothesline debate, "It seems like such a mundane thing, hanging laundry, and yet it draws in all these questions about individual rights, private property, class, aesthetics, the environment."

Really at the end of the day couldn't we all agree that clothesline drying should be personal preference, maybe just line dry those tighty whities in the house.

Check out the full NY Times article here:  The Great Clothesline Debate

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