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Marita Prandoni

Marita Prandoni photo courtesy of Marita PrandoniMarita Prandoni has a passion for exploring different cultures and worldviews. She draws inspiration from her family, tutoring extraordinary youth, meeting unexpected heroes and from the stunning natural beauty of her home turf in and around Santa Fe, NM.

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Air-Drying Laundry Does Both Earth and Wallet Good
Friday, 18 October 2013 00:00  |  Written by Marita Prandoni | Blog Entry

Laundry Line photo by Kyle Garrity When I went to pick up my daughter from her friend’s this summer, I noticed fresh laundry pinned to an extension cord strung across the family’s back patio. The friend’s mother apologized, saying the dryer was broken. I probably run my dryer fewer than five hours a year, I bragged. Why beat up your clothes in a hot, noisy machine for an hour when nature can do the job gently in half an hour?

In some places in the world, the air is so dirty that your clothes would be sooty if you hung them outdoors. But in dry, sunny New Mexico, hanging out your laundry is a privilege. Long ago I bought a folding, freestanding rack that accommodates a full load. In warm weather I place it on the porch and in winter where it’s sunniest—the living room. Indoors, it serves to humidify the house. If neighbors or guests think it’s bourgeois, tough!

According to the California Energy Commission, a clothes dryer costs approximately $1,530 to operate over its lifespan of about 18 years, or about $85 annually. The only household appliance that surpasses it in energy use is the refrigerator. An estimated $5 billion is spent in the US annually just to dry clothes.

Besides energy and cost savings, hanging out your clothes extends their wear. Natural sunlight is an effective deodorant and sanitizer. And that scratchy feel of air-dried towels makes them work like a loofa. (It only lasts the first use). Nothing feels fresher than slipping between crisp, line-dried sheets.

When our nation was founded, thrift and frugality were considered virtues. Over the course of our history, we arrived at the misguided notion that consuming more energy and hoarding material goods raises our social status. At some point, ordinary activities like air-drying laundry and breast-feeding became passé. Banning such self-evident practices makes about as much sense as ancient Chinese foot-binding. Fortunately for the health of our planet and babies, it has not taken us centuries to come to our senses.

Thanks to the nonprofit Project Laundry List, there are tools to fight against neighborhood ordinances that ban clotheslines. After a 10-year lobby, they succeeded in convincing the Vermont legislature to enact a “right-to-dry” law. They encourage civic disobedience in other states where neighborhood associations have banned line drying. In 2009 they completed a Clotheslines Across America Tour during which they created a map showing all the places around the country where folks have sent in photos of their clotheslines. And British filmmaker Steven Lake has produced Drying for Freedom, a documentary that tracks our society’s bizarre aversion to clotheslines and dispels the myth that living electrically has translated into more freedom.

Drying laundry alfresco saves money and is an easy way to become an activist in the fight against global warming. And in my experience, it takes no time to gain an affinity for those stiff, scratchy towels. So in the motto of Project Laundry List, “Come hang out.”

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Comments (1)add
Written by Ben , October 21, 2009
I'm a big fan of air drying laundry. It just makes sense. There is a new rack called the EcoDry rack. It attaches to windows or other non-porous surfaces and then folds up when not in use. I live in a studio apartment and don't have a lot of space so I like that I can get it off the floor and don't have to mount anything permanent. It easily holds a full load as well. The website is www.windowdry.com
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Eco Tip

Unplug appliances when not in use. Your electronics—computers, TVs, phone chargers—use energy even when they're turned off. Stand-by power can account for as much as 20% of home energy use. Save both energy and money by unplugging your devices, or put them on a power strip that you can turn off when they are not in use.  More tips...

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