Growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, my family used to hang our clothes to dry in the warm California sun. We were not the only ones: most of our neighbors did the same thing, using the dryer only during the colder, rainy months. A generation later, however, attitudes towards line-drying one’s clothes had changed. Homeowner associations (HOAs) are particularly harsh towards line drying, claiming that such actions are a mark of poverty and therefore lower housing values, and quickly send nasty letters and even dish out fines to anyone who dares to dry a shirt on his or her balcony.
Now such attitudes are changing, and not just because of the crash in the housing market. The average household uses 6% of its energy from operating clothes dryers—rising energy costs and concern over dryers’ environmental effects are spurring more homeowners to dry their clothes the old fashioned way. To that end, several states are evaluating laws to consider clotheslines as the choice of the homeowner, not a lowly nuisance that a tyrannical HOA can ban.
One clothing company that is helping change consumers’ attitudes towards clotheslines is Levi Strauss. The iconic blue jeans company has started the Care Air Design Challenge, which seeks the most innovative, covetable, and sustainable air-drying solution for clothing. The winning design nets the inventor a $10,000 cash prize. Countering the claim on behalf of communities that clotheslines are unsightly, Levi Strauss is searching for an air drying solution that is stylish and eco-friendly. The challenge starts June 1, the deadline for entry is July 31, and visitors to the firm’s web site can vote until July 31.
Several reasons exist for ditching the clothes dryer for the clothesline, including:
- Just one pair of jeans consumers as much energy as powering a computer for over 550 hours.
- About 50% of a clothing item’s climate-change impact occurs after its purchase by a consumer.
- Your clothes will actually smell good, free of perfume and artificial scents.
Levi Strauss has already been a trailblazer amongst its peers in the clothing industry. The company set labor and environmental regulations for vendors before its competitors; it’s moving towards renewable energy sources at its locations; and has shown steady progress in reducing its water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
If the winning design succeeds and catches on, look for clotheslines to lose their frumpy image…and perhaps become as cool as composting and hybrid cars. Well, that may be a stretch, but the environmental benefits and energy savings of reducing the use of clothes dryers will surely add up.