With the current emphasis on living green, I want to encourage those who dare to unplug their dryers on September 19th, 2009, take a basket of clothes outside in the sun, and hang their laundry to air dry. I have happy memories of hanging clothes with my mother. I was born in the 50’s. Before my family owned a dryer, I helped hang a basket of clothes on the clothesline many mornings before my school bus came. I was in charge of bath cloths, dishcloths or any thing sufficiently short enough to not drag the ground on the line strung lower just for me. I was a big helper, and I knew it. Some of the dried clothes would be stiff enough to stand up on their own, but they smelled so yummy, full of sunshine and fresh air. Occasionally a windy day would provide my dog with a thrilling game of catch-the-flapping-clothes, which would result in a piece or two of laundry being torn or ruined beyond repair. Rain could either be a welcome second rinse or we might find the clothes beaten off the line, lying on the ground. But mostly we would bring in fresh smelling laundry ready for folding.
Hanging clothes was necessary then and worth it now. Now is the time to become Eco-Chic. On the website http://www.greenlivingtips.com, “eco-chic” is defined as a “combination of trendiness and environment.
“It is fashion with a social conscience.”
“Dryers [power consumption] are second only to refrigerators in most households and can consume up to 6% of a home’s total energy cost,” states Christine Woodside in her December 2, 2007 New York Times article. This adds up to hundreds of dollars each year per home. While many factors contribute to the cost per load of operating a dryer (such as the age and efficiency of the dryer, diligent maintenance of lint screen and vent, and removing buildup of softeners on the lint screen, which impede the flow of air) the sunshine is free.
The average amount of sunshine in St. Petersburg, Florida as sited on the website http://www.asct.com/2009petersburg claims an average of 361 days of sunshine a year, for the last 75 years. According to http://www.guide-to-disney.com, Central Florida averages 42 minutes of sunshine each hour, and 7-10 hours of sunshine each day from winter to summer. That is enough sunshine for much of our laundry drying needs.
Unplugging the dryer is not just good for our carbon footprint. Hanging our clothes in the sunshine is good for our health. Non-burning sun exposure is the most effective way for the body to make vitamin D. The website http://www.sunshinevitamindcouncil.org states,” Vitamin D sufficiency, along with diet and exercise, has emerged as one of the most important preventive factors in human health. Hundreds of studies now link vitamin D deficiency with significantly higher rates of many forms of cancer‚ as well as heart disease‚ osteoporosis‚ multiple sclerosis and many other conditions and diseases.” This website further states that, “few foods naturally contain or are fortified with supplemental vitamin D. For example, an 8-ounce glass of whole milk is fortified with 100 IU (international units) of vitamin D – just 10 percent of what the most conservative vitamin D researchers now say we need daily. In contrast, sun exposure to the skin makes thousands of units of vitamin D naturally in a relatively short period of time.” According to this council, we all want to spend at least a few non-sun-burning minutes outside each week.
Not all neighborhoods welcome the sight of laundry hanging in the breeze. In fact many neighborhoods have restrictions on the visibility of laundry. In the New York Times article by Christine Woodside in December 2007, “the power of a laundry line to enrage neighbors was documented in a well-known legal case involving a couple in Rye, N.Y. In 1956, Dr. Webster Stover and his wife strung six lines of tattered clothes in their front yard to protest rising property taxes and left them up for five years. By 1961, the city passed a ban on laundry lines in front and side yards, which is still in effect. Dr. Webster paid a fine and went to jail for 11 days; he appealed to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case.”
“Some people see clothes hanging in the yard as a sign of poverty”, says Alexander Lee, executive director of Project Laundry List, a group based in Concord, N.H. that advocates the “right to dry” clothes outside. There is a prevailing opinion that hanging laundry is unrefined and detrimental to property values. Most homeowner associations forbid any apparatus for the purpose of hanging clothes. We need a paradigm shift in our thinking. So, I propose that we make September 19th National Hang a Basket of Clothes Day. Convince your neighbors to join you. Hanging clothes outdoors is a responsible, economic and a healthy solution to living in 2009. Be the first in your neighborhood to be eco-chic.