Fighting for the Right to Dry

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Most people are in favor of saving energy. Dryers account for about 15% of domestic energy. So why do some communities get so upset when one of their neighbors chooses to not use a dryer?

It comes down to property values. The public display of laundry on a clothesline makes a home—and by extension, the surrounding residential development, neighborhood, and town—appear poor. Or so the thinking goes.

Many residential communities have banned clotheslines, alongside practices such as keeping one’s garbage cans on the side of the house. At the same time, there’s a corresponding movement encouraging people to give up their dryers, or at the very least, to make the clotheslines stigma disappear and protect the rights of those who want to hang their laundry (clean, not dirty) in public. A woman in Concord, Mass., for example, is petitioning the local government to ensure that people are able to let Mother Nature dry their clothes, and “right to dry” legislation has passed in Vermont and Maine.

Nationally, the Project Laundry List is pushing for similar legislation, and has a list of ten reasons why you should “hang out,” including:

Save money (more than $25/month off electric bills for many households)

Clothes last longer (where do you think lint comes from?)

Conserve energy and the environment

It is fun! And can be an outdoor experience that is meditative and community-building

OK, so some of these reasons may be more legit than others. Not everyone can or must use clotheslines, but it would be nice if everyone had the option to do so.

What’s next in the right-to-dry movement? A documentary that they’re calling “Drying for Freedom.” Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Freedom to Dry? Less dramatic, I suppose. Anyway, this is the trailer:

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