With plenty of hot, sunny weather this summer, people are doing it in their backyards and on balconies.
They’re flinging their pants, shaking their tops and airing their undies. More and more people, it seems, are opting for sun-kissed clothes by letting their laundry billow in the warm breeze.
There are lots of good reasons to use a clothesline, from saving money to trimming greenhouse gas emissions from energy-hogging clothes dryers.
And then there’s the smell. There’s nothing quite like the scent of laundry whipped dry by an ocean breeze.
One year, when my kids were young, we lived in Port au Port East on the island’s west coast. To cut costs, I often dried our laundry on the line outdoors. Throughout the winter — and nearly prostrate from gale force winds — I pinned up towels and T-shirts that later came in crisp and with a heavenly scent of salty air.
Solar drying one’s laundry would seem to be a basic right, if not just downright common sense. But prohibitions against clotheslines in many municipalities (citing so-called esthetic and property value concerns) have many North Americans wringing their hands.
In B.C., for example, line-drying bans are part of bylaws governing most of the province’s condominiums, apartments, duplexes and townhomes, and affect up to a million people.
Jon Howland, a teacher and volunteer with Seattle’s Sightline Institute (a sustainability research centre) believes such bans run counter to “green” public policy initiatives. In a report written for the Institute, Howland notes the B.C. government’s aim to decrease household electricity consumption by 1,000 kilowatts per year by 2020 could be more than 90 per cent achieved were households to completely switch to hang drying.
Such ban-the-line bylaws have given rise to an advocacy movement known as the Right to Dry. Its proponents, who regard clothesline bans as environmentally backward and a breach of householder rights, have successfully persuaded six U.S. states to write legislation overruling these bans.
In Canada, Nova Scotia’s first NDP government passed An Act to Prevent Prohibitions on the Use of Clotheslines in 2010 to allow homeowners to use clotheslines, regardless of restrictive covenants.
Ontario lifted bans on clotheslines in 2008, although its law only covers homes with backyards, not apartments or condominiums.
With colourful clotheslines waving like emblems of strong traditions and healthy spirits in provincial government tourism ads, the forecast is promising for Newfoundland and Labradorians’ rights to maintain the line.
And with the official tourism website going so far as to call it art, Newfoundland and Labrador may just be leading the country with an easy-green solution to reducing personal energy consumption.
So whether you decide to hang it out for the environment, to save money or just for the age-old custom of pinning up laundry, here are a few more reasons for line drying, some tips for first-timers and facts for filing. Keep on hanging!
Freelance writer Alison Dyer frequently covers sustainability issues and hangs out in St. John’s and Hants Harbour, Trinity Bay. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.