Tuesday, November 24, 2009

clotheslines: a green option or symbol of poverty?

A recent news article recounted the story of a woman who decided to to string up a clothesline in her backyard to hang sheets out to dry. There was only one problem, her neighborhood had a ban on outdoor clotheslines without a screen to block the view from neighbors. She fought the ordinance and soon found herself making national headlines over her battle with her home owner's association. http://www.hofstrachronicle.com/2.1155/asinine-clothesline-ban-causes-national-uproar-1.54611

What shocked Mrs. Taylor was the reasoning behind the complaints from her neighbors. Her neighbors complained because they said that they felt that her clothesline reminded them of urban slums.

Surprisingly Mrs. Taylor is not alone in her fight. People across the nation are coming up against property associations and even city or town ordinances who use aesthetics as a primary reasoning against such items. The reasoning behind such bans is always under the assumption that having a clothesline on a property equates to poverty. Sadly that reasoning is false and rather hypocritical.

Not too many years ago, most homes had a clothesline of some sort despite the income level. As electric dryers became popular more households opted for the more time efficient way of doing their laundry. While it is true that poorer urban neighborhoods had more clotheslines, one could still find them in more rural settings, and income was usually not that large a factor.

In the past couple of decades Clothes dryers have improved in dry time and energy use as technology has developed. Yet despite all the improvements to the design and energy usage, they are still second in line to energy usage after refrigerators when it comes to home appliances. All models, despite features, use about the same amount of energy and none of them qualify for Energy Star ratings. Gas models are slightly less costly to operate then electric one, at a savings between .15 to .20 a load.

Still the best way to save energy is to use less of it. Simple methods such as hybrid vehicles, solar and wind powered high efficient lighting and appliances do help keep a home's energy cost lower, but even better is to just use them less often or not at all. Keeping lights off in rooms not used can save a homeowner several dollars a month, as can turning off small appliances and electronics not in use or just having less gadgetry that requires electricity.

The battle over the clothesline should be about finding simple cost effective ways to help consumers make informed choices on how best to take care of their homes and families. It should not be about whether or not it sends an assumed message on curb appeal. What is so ironic about this battle is that it is highly likely that the very ones fighting against the humble clothesline are environmentally conscious themselves, but in this case are more concerned about how things look rather then how one is helping helping our environment by using a simple time proven method.

Everyone wants to portray a certain image, and it is understandable to have restrictions so that neighborhoods look like vibrant successful places. But if we are to truly make improvements in the way we use energy, and to embrace long proven methods if one chooses to do so, then we need to be willing to set how it may look aside. For many a clothesline as a laundry option is not feasible, but why restrict those who's lifestyle allows for such a thing?


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Sara Kessell said...

Came to this post from your comment about spammers :)

Cannot imagine why they target this one...although I personally find it an interesting article.

Never really thought about clotheslines like that. I grew up in a rural area in which clotheslines were either a sign of being a hippie or an older woman who just liked it that way. Seems strange for people to see that as a sign of poverty.