Sunday, May 18, 2008

hang it up

since i spent part of the day air drying my laundry despite some drops of rain... and reading my middlebury magazine... a shout out to a fellow middlebury alum who is the founder of project laundry list. alexander lee is a full on air-drying advocate who helps green activists promote the "right to dry."

Alexander Lee
Concord, New Hampshire
Founder and executive director, Project Laundry List

"When I was a child, my mother always hung out our clothes to dry. At the time I didn't think much of it, but when I was in college, Helen Caldicott gave a speech at a peace symposium. She said one step to shut down the nuclear industry was for us all to dry our laundry on a clothesline. That really made me stop and think.

"Dryers use a lot of energy: 6 to 10 percent of residential electricity usage. Clotheslines are a great alternative. Your clothes will last longer and smell better, and you'll save money on your energy bills. The sun basically does all the work for free.

"Project Laundry List was created at Middlebury College. We launched National Hanging Out Day and asked people to 'hang your pants, stop the plants' and 'put yourself on the line.'

"I've gotten hundreds of e-mails from people all over the country saying that they're going to try putting a clothesline in their backyard. It's an easy step anyone can take. The problem is that in a lot of neighborhoods, community associations see hanging laundry as a flag of poverty, and they have banned it in public. In Columbus, Ohio, you're not allowed to hang clothing out to dry in any historic district, and there are other restrictions around the country. We're trying to pass legislation in North Carolina and Vermont that would say community association boards can't prohibit people from using clotheslines. We are also championing right-to-dry language in any national climate-change legislation.

"Taking the time to hang out your clothes is a consciousness-raising activity; it makes you rethink other parts of your life. Plus, you can save up to $85 a year in energy costs."

--interview by Orli Cotel


Just line drying your clothes in the spring and summer can prevent about 700 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per household, based on Energy Information Administration averages. To keep jeans and towels from getting stiff, add a half cup of white distilled vinegar to the rinse cycle or give them a brief spin in a clothes dryer.


For more tips on how to use less energy to wash and dry clothes, visit and

1 comment:

infemity said...

my mom used to hang our clothes out and i loved the smell of them after having the fresh air run through them. she recently sent me a poem that i thought was nice.

A clothes line was a news forecast
To neighbors passing by.
There were no secrets you could keep
When clothes were hung to dry.

It also was a friendly link
For neighbors always knew
If company had stopped on by
To spend a night or two.

For then you'd see the 'fancy sheets'
And towels upon the line;
You'd see the 'company table cloths'
With intricate design.

The line announced a baby's birth
To folks who lived inside
As brand new infant clothes were hung
So carefully with pride.

The ages of the children could
So readily be known
By watching how the sizes changed
You'd know how much they'd grown.

It also told when illness struck,
As extra sheets were hung;
Then nightclothes, and a bathrobe, too,
Haphazardly were strung.

It said, 'Gone on vacation now'
When lines hung limp and bare.
It told, 'We're back!' when full lines sagged
With not an inch to spare.

New folks in town were scorned upon
If wash was dingy gray,
As neighbors carefully raised their brows,
And looked the other way..

But clotheslines now are of the past
For dryers make work less.
Now what goes on inside a home
Is anybody's guess.

I really miss that way of life.
It was a friendly sign
When neighbors knew each other best
By what hung on the line!