Solar Energy on the Frontlines and Old-Fashioned Clotheslines, by Ralph Nader

Sicilian Wash Day

Image by Scott Barron via Flickr

Dandelion Salad

by Ralph Nader
The Nader Page, Oct. 7, 2021
January 4, 2022

Solar energy comes to Earthlings in many ways. Ancient Persians used passive solar architecture. East Africans about the same time funneled cool ocean wind through tunnels to cool themselves.

Now at long last, solar energy is outpacing new fossil fuel and nuclear facilities on price, environmental safety, and speed of installation.

One use of solar that has not received enough attention is drying clothes with clotheslines or clothes racks. Before global warming and our climate crisis became a public concern, some local governments banned backyard clotheslines as community eyesores. Fortunately, 20 states have passed “Right to Dry Laws” that allow people to use this simple low-tech and appropriate technology to reduce fuel consumption.

A big booster of hang-drying your laundry is environmentalist Joe Wachunas from Portland, Oregon. Twenty years ago, while traveling as an exchange student in Italy, he learned that only three percent of Italian households owned a dryer. Italians, he noticed, dried their clothes on clotheslines, high-rise balconies, or in open windows catching sun and cross breezes.

Wachunas has competed against dryers, taking only eight minutes longer to hang up a load of clothes than it takes to load a dryer, (not to mention a trip to and from a laundromat). Also, by line-drying, he estimates a savings of $600 a year per family, and your air-dried materials will last longer and shrink less.

As you might think, the great majority of people in the US use a clothes dryer. About 80 percent of Americans use dryers that gobble up more electricity in a household than other appliances (except for refrigerators). These folks will find moving to clean and green drying has many benefits.

Last March, Mary Marlowe Leverette wrote a piece on the Top 10 Reasons to Line Dry Laundry. You can save money, promote energy conservation, give your clothes more freshness, less wear and tear, increase your physical activity, help whiten and disinfect laundry, [and] reduce fire risks (clothes dryer fires number around 15,000 structure fires, 15 deaths, and 400 injuries annually in the U.S. with property losses estimated at $99 million).

There is also the intangible value of peacefulness and harmony with nature when you spend some ten minutes to enjoy the weather. When the weather does not permit, indoor line drying increases humidity in a home during dry winter weather.

Finally, you feel you are making a small difference to protect the environment and set an example in your neighborhood or apartment building. Who knows what good things can spontaneously emerge while chatting with the neighbor or having backyard conversations, uninterrupted by iPhone distractions. The venerable clothesline makes common sense.

Also consider rejecting the crazy leaf blower (See: Shut off the leaf blowers and restore peace to suburbia, by Peter Bahouth) and the noisy gas powered lawn mower – two contributions to pollution and obesity in America. Maybe a gaze at a fluttering clothesline in the sun will persuade some users of these belching technologies on small lawns to pick up a rake and start using the old fuel-free push lawn mower. Such personal choices often lead people to become advocates for broader solar systems.

Rivulets, brooks, and streams make possible the mighty Mississippi River. Billions of people can do their part to usher in the use of more of the sun to help save the Earth from the man-made climate crisis/catastrophe.

From the archives:

Seasonal Insomniacs In Times of Climate Chaos, by Rivera Sun

The Road To A Climate Hell Of >4 Degrees C Is Littered With Untruths, by Andrew Glikson + Greta Thunberg: COP26 Is A Failure

Abby Martin and Paul Jay: Afghanistan, 9/11 and Climate Change, Part 2 + Current Climate Extremes Double at 2 Degrees Warming and Quadruple at 3

Earth Burns and the Capitalist World Talks, by Pete Dolack

No Blow Movement Grows, by Shepherd Bliss

Time to ban this health threat: Leaf blowers, by Shepherd Bliss

In Praise of Fallen Leaves – Let Them Be! by Shepherd Bliss

6 thoughts on “Solar Energy on the Frontlines and Old-Fashioned Clotheslines, by Ralph Nader

  1. This reminds me of decades ago when I was at a party and remarked that I only used a solar dryer. I instantly got everyone’s attention and they all wanted to hear all about it. The look of disappointment on their faces when I said yes, I use a clothesline! Pretty priceless, actually. And I was drying cloth diapers, too, another thing people had a hard time believing.

  2. As far as I can tell, clothes lines are still in common use here in Australia (Admittedly we do have better weather than many parts of the US or Europe).
    The ‘Hills Hoist’ is one of Australia’s icons:
    Solar clothes drying just makes good sense and your clothes last longer, albeit a tad more faded.
    Leaf blowers !! Don’t get me started.
    Thanks Ralph.

    • Thanks for the info on the Hills Hoist.

      I love drying my clothes outside in the garden and would never use an electric dryer again. In the Winter and/or wet weather, I dry them indoors and it adds humidity which is good in the Wintertime.

      So agree with you and Ralph on leaf blowers!

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