Thursday, March 5, 2009

Obstacles to Living Green: Illegal Clotheslines

Photo by Willow Poppy

On our recent trip to the High Point neighborhood in west Seattle, one of the folks we talked to pointed out a significant way his capacity for green living was hindered: local ordinances that forbid the use of clothes lines. It turns out that High Point, like many planned communities, cities and muncipalities across North America is a place where line drying clothes outside is banned as an unsightly nuisance to neighbors.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that close to 6% of electricity generated in the United States comes from clothes dryers.
Project Laundry List estimates that the average resident could save up to 15% on their utility bills by line drying instead of electric drying. Their website features a calculator where you can see for yourself how much money you could save by greening your laundry practices. Using the power of solar energy and wind to dry clothes seems like such a simple way to live greener in our everyday lives. Why would it ever be restricted or banned?

The restrictions may come from citywide architectural regulations or, more commonly, from Homeowner's Associations (HOA) which are charged with protecting the value of homes in planned communities and condominiums. Restrictions on line drying stem from the perception that laundry on a line is an eyesore. And that isn't the only thing that's being restricted: many HOAs forbid the use of solar panels, forbid small houses, large vegetable gardens, native gardens or require the use of lights from dusk to dawn, the use of water and/or pesticides on your yard. It seems HOAs may be acting as significant barriers for many people to improve their carbon footprints.

Luckily, slowly, governments are taking action to ensure that every citizen has the right to live green, regardless of what their HOA says. In Florida, for instance, legislation ensures the right of all of its citizens to erect solar panels on their homes and also, happily, to dry their clothes outside.

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  1. I'm stunned that drying your clothes outside is illegal in some places. I've seen some people be very disrespectful to their neighbors in this regard but I also think it can be done in a private section of your yard without trampling on the integrity of the surroundings. It does save a lot of electricity and there's nothing like the smell of fresh air on sheets.

  2. The same goes for keeping chickens - many municipalities don't allow it. But with the Age of Cheap Oil coming to a close, people are going to begin calling on their gov't/HOA to ditch these frivolous regulations, I suspect. It is high time for a realignment of priorities, is it not?