Thursday, September 27, 2007

Solar Drying: Is It Legal Where You Live?


Last week, in Bend,Oregon, a woman named Susan Taylor decided that the sunny 70 degree day was the perfect opportunity to hang her laundry out to dry. The 55 year old mother and part-time nurse, strung a clothes line to a tree in her backyard, pinned up some freshly washed flannel sheets and instantly....became an outcast and a renegade.

Apparently, her exclusive neighborhood of big, modern houses surrounded by pine trees had subdivision regulations that prohibited outdoor clotheslines. Believe it or not, the development's managers have threatened legal action. Their view is that the sight of clothes drying on lines and other surfaces evokes the very idea and vision of urban blight that they sought to eradicate by building upscale homes in the Oregon mountains.

"This bombards the senses", said interior designer Joan Grundeman of her neighbor's clothesline. "It can't possibly increase property values and makes people think this is a nice neighborhood."

Susan Taylor and her supporters believe that clothesline offer a way to fight climate change, using the sun and the wind instead of electricity. "Days like this" she says, "I can do multiple loads, and within two hours, it's done."

The "Battle of Awbrey Butte" is suddenly a fight for increasing environmental consciousness. Clothes dryers use the equivalent of 30 million tons of coal a year. This works out to 78 million metric tons of CO 2 emissions per year or a full 1.3% of US annual emissions....just for drying clothes. Clothes dryers account for 6% of total electricity consumed by US household, third behind refrigerators and lighting.

Susan Taylor had always used a clothesline before moving to the subdivision in 1996. Awbrey Butte's Covenants require that "clothes drying apparatus...shall be screened from view." Not an easy task in a community where fencing is also "discouraged" in the covenants.

The clothesline ban gave Ms. Taylor pause when she moved here, she says, but she and her husband decided they could live with it. Then, in May, she heard an environmental lawyer on the radio who "talked about this narrow window of opportunity for us to respond to global warming," Ms. Taylor recalls. "I said, 'Dang it, that's it. My clothesline is going up.' "

In honor and support of Ms. Taylor, hand something out to dry today. It might be clothing, sheets, towels....or even the airing of a quilt.

shown:
One of my patriotic quilts hanging over beautiful Opal Creek on July 4, 2007. We took a break from our workday and had a picnic lunch by the creek. I spontaneously invited our non-English speaking painters to join us. With little English on their side and no Spanish on mine, I wasn't able to ask them what they thought of a quilt hanging from the trees. I think my lunch fixings that filled the river bank gave them even more to think about. I can't help but wonder, however, what kind of stories they shared with friends, later on ;)

8 comments:

  1. Whaaaattt??!!!??? That's outrageous! I don't even have enough words to describe how vile that is.
    I've used a clothesline for 30 years, and I get cranky when I have to use the dryer. Clothes on a line are sweet smelling, old memories, and everything good.
    Sorry -- I'm sputtering. I can't believe this - I almost choked on my coffee.
    Geeesh!

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  2. A clothesline ban would be enough to make me move. I LOVE drying outside. Luckily, we live in the country so nobody can tell us where and how to dry our clothes.

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  3. I live semi rural and use my clothesline all the time. If you drive around into some of the subdivision, tho, you won't see one. I had to stop taking early morning walks because the scent of fabric softener coming from the dryer vents as I passed the houses made me wheeze. Ugh.

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  4. I'm stunned! Are you sure this is happening in "green" Oregon? That was one impression that sticks with DH and I about the state. They are very "green" oriented.

    Someone needs to check those people and see if they have been replaced by aliens.

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  5. Ok, I know the kinds of neighborhoods they are talking about. And, it's a shame. When dh and I were looking for a house there were some neighborhoods who even dictated that your lawn had to be at least 85% grass -- and what kinds of flowers you could and could not plant. Um, we didn't purchase there.

    I'd love to use a clothesline. I hate using the dryer all the time. But, I do -- because I live in a townhouse. I actually HAVE no yard (well, a small patio area but, concrete doesn't count much) and I've got shared space with lots of neighbors. Though -- it would be fun to put out a drying rack (which I do use in the basement for most of my clothing) just to see the reaction of the cranky old man who lives across the way. Since he calls the police when kids ride their bikes down our street (yep -- you read it right) I wonder what he would say to my bras and panties?!?

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  6. Ahhh, the wash day wars. I'll have to admit that years of urban conditoning have made me wary of "hanging out." However, we spent a week waiting on dryer repair this summer and I was forced to hang some emergency items on hangers from hooks around the perimeter of our covered patio. Ohh, I love the smell of line dried laundry. I've been wrapping my sheets around hangers ever since. And my undies inside of my nighties on hangers. With the garden, pool and huge trees, there is no room for a real clothes line. But if I had the space...!!! I also use an old wooden clothes rack.

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  7. When we tried to form a neighborhood association, we had the hardest time getting buy in from the neighbors - probably because they were worried about things like this. Can't hang your clothes out to dry? Ridiculous. I don't as a general rule, but I like having the right to do so.

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  8. I do and I will for everyday that I live in Japan that's for sure! I can think of an awful lot of other sights in the neighborhood that speak of urban blight! Around here it is the weeds, the rusted cars, the broken fences, the dead plants in pots. And no, I do not live in the slums (but it sounds like it doesn't it?) Very interesting post. I'll share that with some of my English students.

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Michele Bilyeu blogs "With Heart and Hands" as she journeys between Douglas, Alaska and Salem, Oregon.