This post is part of Blog Action Day, a day of environmental discussion and participation by bloggers around the world.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane?
No, it’s our laundry. Our humble jeans, shirts and towels hanging on a $9.99 clothes horse, saving us a bit of money and helping to fight global warming.
Did you know that dryers use five to ten percent of residential electricity in the United States? That cutting the number of times you use your dryer by just one load a week reduces CO2 emissions by 200 pounds a year? Hard to know what that means in the global scheme of things but every little bit helps, right?
Dave and I were both raised in South Africa, where the hot, mostly dry climate means that the vast majority of people dry ALL their laundry outdoors in the sunshine on washing lines. Our childhood memories are of folding crisp, bone-dry towels, of chasing our siblings through lines of flapping bedsheets and of learning to hang t-shirts so that they didn’t dry all pulled at the peg marks.
Living on the west coast of Canada for twelve years, we had no option but to dry our clothes in the dryer. Yeah, they come out soft and easy to fold, but they always smelled a bit stale to me. We bought our first clothes horse shortly after we got married, mostly for delicates. But when we returned to college in our late twenties, we started using it to save money on the coin-op laundries in the string of apartment buildings we lived in. We always had a load of laundry hanging in our bedroom or sunning next to the living room window.
When we moved to San Diego, we looked forward to getting an outdoor washing line. Pretty naive on our part! We had no idea how important appearances are here. That having a neighborhood free of the blemish of underwear hanging on a line is more important that using the drying power that nature intended.
In our current townhouse complex, there are no communal wash lines and our courtyard, while big enough, is not conducive to stringing up a wash line. It would have to run right across the area where we entertain, though I have toyed with the idea of a retractable line.
So we are back to using a clothes horse. Which I must say works really well. We use it for most loads, only using the dryer for our kingsize sheets or when we have many loads that we need done in a hurry. We also use the dryer to soften up towels and t-shirts before folding.
And yes, the next home we buy will have a REAL washing line — with crisp sheets hanging, a peg bag and lines of undies flapping in the breeze! I can dream, can’t I?
Note: For great information and resources on hanging your laundry out to dry in the US, see Project Laundry List’s website. Also, read this great article recently published in the NY Times on the challenges one woman faced trying to string a washing line in her very proper neighborhood.