"Clothesline", a dirty word in American suburbs
American environmentalists are fighting for their right to hang out their washing in the garden. In many states the practice remains illegal, and for one man, it cost him his life. Read more...
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American environmentalists are fighting for their right to hang out their washing in the garden. In many states the practice remains illegal, and for one man, it cost him his life.
The Mississippi resident was murdered by his neighbour after he refused to take down his washing line. The killer told police that he was "sick of seeing the line from his window". Since the incident, which happened in July 2008, the washing line problem has become a major debate in the US. It not only concerns victims of irrational neighbours, but environmentalists too, who say that using a washing line instead of a dryer cuts your consumption of electricity by six percent.
Neighbourhood associations however, see it as a matter of pleasing the eye. Who wants to see clothes drying in the wind?
Nevertheless, Florida, Utah, and then Colorado, Hawaii and Vermont, all adopted a law in 2008 which protects the right to use a washing line. It might soon be introduced in Maryland, North Carolina, Oregon and Virginia too.
Meanwhile, there's a legal association called the Laundry Line Project which has devoted itself to inter-neighbour battles over washing lines. In May next year, British filmmaker Steven Lake will release a documentary on the subject. Below, the trailer.
“There are however, people who will use a hybrid car, but don't want to give up their dryer”
Laura Shafer runs a custom clothesline company. She's also used clothesline as a photography subject.
I started full-time air drying when I got divorced in 1994. I got the washer, my husband got the dryer. So I had no choice. Instead of being angry, I started looking at the laundry as abstract canvases. I found it beautiful: I liked what I saw.
I now install clotheslines with my husband. I try to explain that it is a pleasant and relaxing chore, that it cuts the electricity bill, reduces our carbon footprint and that the clothes last longer. It can also be a form of exercise!
I know that for a whole generation, it represents poverty. Once when I was installing a clothesline in a retirement home, one woman threatened to stage a sit-in and call the press. Fortunately, opinion is changing. There are however, people who will use a hybrid car, but don't want to give up their dryer..."
Photos by Laura Shafer:
"Here in America, clotheslines are associated with being poor”
Kristen Crossis is a photographer and a piano teacher. She runs www.thefrugalgirl.com, a blog about economising on house chores.
I've been air drying since 2007 after our electric company raised the rates by something like 80%. I was desperate to do something to reduce our bill. I like the fact that my clothes don't shrink or fade or get powder on them. I like the way my sheets smell when they dry outdoors too. And it does save resources.
Here in America, clotheslines are associated with being poor, and so often, neighbourhoods that want to look more upscale prohibit clotheslines. Those kinds of neighbourhoods also have rules about what colour you can paint your hose, what kind of bushes you can have, what modifications you can make to your house, and so on. It's all about making things look uniform and neat, and keeping property values up.
In my area, only people who are really green, really frugal, or poor use a clothesline. In a more progressive state, like Oregon, line-drying is more common, though. Americans tend to be SO busy, they feel they don't have time to line-dry. I used to think it was hard until I tried it."