SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


By Elaine and Steve O'Brien


April 10, 2009

Dear Editor,

Using a clothesline instead of a dryer would save huge amounts of energy. But it is against the law for Americans to line dry their laundry!

Clotheslines were once a natural part of our nation's landscape. But as postwar baby-boomers embraced labor-saving appliances in the 1950s, clotheslines came to be seen as 'flags of poverty," linked with people who couldn't afford a dryer.

Since the 1970's clotheslines have been banned by development restrictions in most U.S. states. According to Project Laundry List, 60 million people live in 300,000 "association governed" communities nationwide, most of which restrict outdoor drying. Condominium and homeowners' groups say they have the right to ban practices that drag down property values, and clotheslines top the list.

How does it stack up energy-wise?

  • There were 90 million clothes dryers in the US in 2005, the latest count by the Assoc.of Home Appliance Manufacturers.
  • Dryers account for 6 percent of total home electricity.
  • Nationwide dryers consume 66 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, equivalent to burning 34 million tons of coal.
  • If Americans line dried their clothes for just half a year, it would save 3.3% of the U.S. output of carbon dioxide.

Clothesline advocates in several states have launched "Right to Dry" movements.

"It is ridiculous to be so worried about looking at your neighbors' underwear that you would prevent them from conserving energy," said Vermont Sen.Dick McCormack.

So many of us tend to look toward federal and state governments to make laws that reduce energy waste, and to manufacturers to make better products.

It falls to each of us to change our behaviors to reduce energy usage in our daily lives. One of the simplest solutions is right in our own back yard.

Elaine and Steve O'Brien
Kodiak, AK

Received April 07, 2009 - Published April 10, 2009


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