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Clothesline Sustainability

IMG_2129Growing up in Australia, almost everyone, except those who lived in apartment buildings, had a  hills hoist clothesline adoring their backyard. Most families I knew didn’t own a clothes dryer, like air conditioning these were seen as an unnecessary extravagance.

I have fond memories of running through the clean white sheets billowing in the breeze, of hanging off the Hills Hoist at my grandparents house as we swung around and around, and of helping my mum bring in the clothes at the end of a hot summer’s day.

Here in Canada, the climate, particularly in winter, is definitely less conducive to outdoor drying, but that doesn’t mean that for the rest of the year you can’t enjoy the many benefits of outdoor drying.

In fact, the Premier of Ontario recently over-ruled the many bans on clotheslines in subdivisions and condo buildings…

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CTV.ca | Ontario premier lifts outdoor-clothesline ban

There were restrictions in many subdivisions across the province, but the province’s new regulation will overrule the neighbourhood rules, which were put in place because clotheslines were considered unsightly.
Premier Dalton McGuinty said the move is also aimed at curbing the use of energy-sucking dryers, which burn up to six per cent of Ontario’s power. "There’s a whole generation of kids growing up today who think a clothesline is a wrestling move," McGuinty said during his announcement.

Energy Minister Gerry Phillips said using outdoor clotheslines instead of electric dryers can:

  • Save consumers $30 a year as dryer use would be reduced by 25 per cent
  • Cut greenhouse gas emissions, as five dryers produces about the same amount of emissions as an average-sized car
  • Reduce demand on the power grid, as dryers use about 900 kilowatt hours of electricity a year

28707167_2b16cb8841_mOther sources I’ve read quote a higher figure of $100 a year savings, but either way, this is a tangible benefit, considering we were able to set our line up for less than $40, (see photo above).

I’m not a big fan of the sickly smell of dryer sheets, some of them even give me a rash, not the sort of chemicals you really want rubbing off onto your kids’ skin throughout the day.

People complain about towels not being as soft and fluffy, but after one use, they’re usually soft again. The big benefit is with work shirts, and the natural sanitation of sunlight bleaching and disinfecting them.

Clotheslines are even featured in a recent New York Times article…

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environment-clothes dryer-clothesline-power-saving electricity – New York Times

I’m also hoping to use less energy and to reduce our monthly electric bills which hit the absurdly high level of $1,120 last summer.
That simple decision to hang a clothesline, however, catapults me into the laundry underground.
Clotheslines are banned or restricted by many of the roughly 300,000 homeowners’ associations that set rules for some 60 million people. When I called to ask, our Rolling Hills Community Association told me that my laundry had to be completely hidden in an enclosure approved by its board of directors.

Overall we love our new clothesline, it gets us outside for another chore, rather than into the basement and it’s another reminder of the great outdoors that we are a part of and need to protect.

Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

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