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Farewell: Life on the Line



As our corner of the planet turns to mud, it is inevitable that we begin our spring dreaming. While some dream of gardens and others of outdoor activities, my daydream is the return of sun-dried clothes. I pine for my backyard clothesline all winter long. There is a kind of Zen to hanging your laundry out to dry, a quiet rhythm—bend, stretch, clip, clip, pull; bend, stretch, clip, clip, pull. And there is a different energy that comes from having your clothing infused with sunlight rather than forced hot air. It is difficult to describe, but I know I am not alone in my zeal.

Not only is hauling laundry from the dank recesses of the cellar into glorious sunshine good for the soul, it’s good for the Earth, too. While Energy Star ratings are the norm for household appliances, dryers do not carry them because all models of dryers work in the same way and use about the same amount of energy. Depending on where you live, drying six loads of laundry per week in an electric dryer can cost as much as $200 per year. But maybe that is a reasonable price to pay for convenience. So let’s instead consider the greater picture: our collective carbon footprint.

One average household washes and dries six loads per week, which can emit as much as one ton of carbon dioxide into the environment. Living in the Northeast as we do, perhaps we are only able to dry 50 percent of our clothes on a clothesline. Already we’ve saved the planet 1,000 pounds of carbon. Imagine if every house on your block, in your town, or in the Hudson Valley hung out a clothesline. That’s a lot of CO2.

As energy costs mount and the greenhouse gases have become personal, it’s nice to know we can make a measurable difference—and save money—right in our own back yard.

For more information on how air-drying your clothes can create a healthier planet and practical tips on utilizing the power of the sun, visit www.laundrylist.org.

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