Fight to Legalize Clotheslines Sweeps the US


Photo via Flickr

Running a clothes drier sucks up 6% of a household's energy usage. So, as Americans across the country sought to save money and conserve electricity, many turned to clotheslines--only to discover that they weren't allowed in their communities. In fact, hanging clotheslines was against the rules in so many communities nationwide that state governments are being forced to step in and make it against the law to ban them. And states like Vermont and Utah have already succeeded. But the fight for the right to hang clotheslines is just getting started.Some 60 million Americans live in private communities--the majority of which don't allow their residents to hang clotheslines. And why not? Because they "erode property rights" and "undermine the autonomy of private communities," according to real estate groups and private community associations. Because as an alleged indicator of poverty, clotheslines lower property values.

Case in point, via the NY Times:

"It's already hard enough to sell a house in this economy," said Frank Rathbun, a spokesman for the national Community Associations Institute, "And when it comes to clotheslines, it should be up to each community association, not state lawmakers, to set rules, much like it is with rules involving parking, architectural guidelines or pets."
The problem is, he might be right about that first one--even today, some people are truly prejudiced against those that would save energy and the environment by doing something as innocuous as hanging their clothes up to dry. In Mississippi, a case is pending where one man allegedly shot and killed another because he got sick of telling him to keep his laundry indoors. Beautiful houses in Virginia don't sell if they overlook homes with clotheslines.


Does this disgust you?

But it's high time for the clothesline misconception to change--and most state governments agree. Not only is it a matter of individual rights, but every citizen that uses a clothesline shaves 6-7% off their energy consumption (and electricity bills). It's good for the environment, and good for the economy.

And it's why the list of states that have passed laws overriding the outdated laws of community associations is growing: Utah, Florida, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine and Vermont have all drawn a line in the sand and restored the resident's right to act in an environmentally conscious way by drying laundry on a clothesline. Maryland, North Carolina, Oregon and Virginia have similar bills pending.

With the growing awareness we have of the importance of saving energy, perhaps the idea that clotheslines are a sign of poverty will begin to fade (not that it was ever warranted--clothesline users have been the shrewd ones all along, after all). And here you have an odd thing--government working to preserve the individual's right to dry his clothes however he'd like on his own property. Though I can't help but find it a bit odd that such a right would ever need to be preserved.

More on the Clotheslines Ban
Ontario Bans Bans on Clotheslines
Drying for Freedom, a Film About Clotheslines
Nice Solar Panels. Now Where's the Clothes Line ?

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