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.

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 ;)