US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Clothesline rebels

By Kristen Hannum | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Alexander Lee and other Project Laundry List members don't believe that an energy guzzler like a clothes dryer plays any role in being a good neighbor. They're fighting for the right for all Americans to dry laundry outdoors--including those living in home-owners associations and under other covenants that forbid it. "It's about not trusting your neighbor to do the right thing," says Lee, a parishioner at Sacred Heart in Concord, New Hampshire.

A few states, including Colorado, Utah, and Florida, have laws protecting people's right to line dry their clothes, but the majority don't. Several states have introduced legislation that has failed. Homeowners association lobbyists claim clotheslines bring down property values, that sheets flapping in the breeze are unsightly and indicate someone too poor to own a dryer.

College students have been among the most enthusiastic supporters of Project Laundry List--including a group at Alleghany College of Maryland who hung out 350 pieces of underwear during the Copenhagen Climate Talks last December.

Dryers use about 6 percent of U.S. residential electrical energy--and that doesn't include gas dryers, laundromats or institutional dryers used in hotels, colleges, or hospitals. But clothesline advocates say their support for line drying is about more than saving energy. Hanging clothes out on a nice day proves a simple pleasure, clothes last longer when they avoid the dryer, and clothes dried outside have a fresh smell that can't be matched by any chemical additive.

Lee says that using clotheslines, keeping car tires properly inflated, and eating two fewer meat-based meals a week are three "low-hanging fruit" actions that are easy to take yet yield significant reductions in energy usage. He urges parishes to set a goal for clothesline pledges.