Laundry Liberation: Fighting for the Right to Hang Your Clothes Out to Dry

Fighting for a hybrid in every garage is cake compared to the battle to allow an outdoor clothesline in every yard. Still,  advocacy groups like Project Laundry List are urging a return to the days before newfangled cleaning machines drained our electric bills and resources – a time when nobody flinched at the sight of a big bra or jockey shorts flapping in the wind.

Why do these soldiers refuse to fold?

The advocacy group New American Dream calculates that if every American home switched to cold water for four out of five loads, together we can save $6.7 billion per year and keep nearly 50 million tons of carbon out of the atmosphere – the equivalent of removing 10 million cars from the road.

If only 40% of those households also line dried their clothes, the annual carbon savings would more than double.

Founded by Alexander Lee of Condord, NH, Project Laundry List has established a website that tracks states with ordinances banning outdoor clotheslines, such as Oregon. You can watch a compelling CBS video on the site of a feature Bill Geist did about a Bend woman engaging in civil disobedience in her subdivision by fighting for her right to conserve energy.

Nationwide, some 300,000 communities with home owner associations restrict outdoor laundry hanging, according to the Community Associations Institute.

Lee and others argue it is ridiculous to have to fight to hang clothes in your own backyard, and has spurred a national movement of likeminded enviromentalists. He has gone so far as to suggest the Obama White House reinstate clotheslines on the lawn as it once had in the early 1900s. You can vote for this as well, on the site.

Lee and his Laundry List have weight behind them with board advisors that include famed forward thinker,  Dr. Helen Caldicott and Dick McCormack, a former Vermont State Senator who re-introduced the Right to Dry bill in 1999, which his brother had introduced almost 10 years earlier. It resulted in passage this year, making it no longer a crime to do the right thing.

Helping push the bill along in Vermont was the owner of the wholesome Vermont Country Store. Owner Lyman Orton has written editorials in his national catalog and other media to egg on  homeowners to “set up a clothesline and hang your wash out even if you live in a neighborhood or subdivision where doing so is prohibited.” He asks rhetorically, “Is it not the height of snobbery to ban hanging clothes out to dry?”

Even before Vermont lawmakers got their act together, Orton was selling clothesline products, such as sheets specifically designed to billow in the breeze.

There are many such “Laundry Heroes” identified by Project Laundry List, including actress Daryl Hannah, Vermont Governor Jim Morris and Premier Dalton McGuinty of Ontario, Canada (above), who signed a rule allowing millions in the Province of Ontario to hang dry to their heart’s content.

To review more of the group’s accomplishments, check out the site and see what you can do to further the cause. Your backyard is standing by and waiting for you to feed it a line.


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