One Small Step: The Answer, My Friend
Alexander Lee Concord, New Hampshire
Founder and executive director, Project Laundry List, age 32
"When I was a child, my mother always hung out our clothes to dry. At the time I didn't think much of it, but when
I was in college, Helen Caldicott gave a speech at a peace symposium. She said one step to shut down the nuclear industry was for us all to dry our laundry on a clothesline. That really made me stop and think.
"Dryers use a lot of energy: 6 to 10 percent of residential electricity usage. Clotheslines are a great alternative. Your clothes will last longer and smell better, and you'll save money on your energy bills. The sun basically does all the work for free.
"Project Laundry List was created at Middlebury College. We launched National Hanging Out Day and asked people to 'hang your pants, stop the plants' and 'put yourself on the line.'
"I've gotten hundreds of e-mails from people all over the country saying that they're going to try putting a clothesline in their backyard. It's an easy step anyone can take. The problem is that in a lot of neighborhoods, community associations see hanging laundry as a flag of poverty, and they have banned it in public. In Columbus, Ohio, you're not allowed to hang clothing out to dry in any historic district, and there are other restrictions around the country. We're trying to pass legislation in North Carolina and Vermont that would say community association boards can't prohibit people from using clotheslines. We are also championing right-to-dry language in any national climate-change legislation.
"Taking the time to hang out your clothes is a consciousness-raising activity; it makes you rethink other parts of your life. Plus, you can save up to $85 a year in energy costs." --interview by Orli Cotel
HANG IT ALL Just line drying your clothes in the spring and summer can prevent about 700 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per household, based on Energy Information Administration averages. To keep jeans and towels from getting stiff, add a half cup of white distilled vinegar to the rinse cycle or give them a brief spin in a clothes dryer.