“If my husband has a right to have guns in the house, I have a right to hang laundry,” says Carin Froehlich.
Drying clothes outside on a clothesline is an image of a simpler time, not to mention a standard recommendation on lists of ways to reduce the carbon footprint at home. It’s one of those decisions that seems like a no-brainer to do something good for the Earth- can anyone really have a problem with it? Perkasie, Pennsylvania, is one of many neighborhoods that do.
Carin Froelich is a Perkasie resident who hangs her laundry to dry outside and views it as a way to reduce her energy usage- but she does it knowing that it bothers her neighbors and town officials. She got a call from a town official who asked her to stop drying clothes in the sun. She says she has received anonymous notes from neighbors:
“They said it made the place look like trailer trash.They said they didn’t want to look at my ‘unmentionables.’”
Across the country, in fact, around 60 million Americans live with housing associations in condominiums and townhouse communities that have some sort of restriction on line drying clothes. So called “no-hanging rules” are often part of developers’ regulations that also ban sheds or commercial vehicles, says Carl Weiner, lawyer for dozens of homeowner associations around Philadelphia.
In essence, it’s an aesthetic issue- it seems neighborhood organizations don’t want people seeing their neighbors’ laundry. Is this a major issue? It’s big enough that some states are making laws against it. Florida, Utah, Maine, Vermont, Colorado, and Hawaii have all passed laws to restrict local authorities from denying residents use of clotheslines. In other words, these states think people should be able to line dry their clothes if they want to, neighborhood association or not.
There is even an 510 (c)(3) organization based in New Hampshire advocating for people like Froelich- it’s called Project Laundry List. Their mission statement is:
“Project Laundry List is making air-drying and cold-water washing laundry acceptable and desirable as simple and effective ways to save energy.”
Project Laundry List’s executive director, Alexander Lee, argues that dryer use accounts for 6% of domestic energy use, and that shifting to line drying can both save money and reduce carbon emissions.
As we continue to look for ways to save energy and live more sustainably, this battle shows that the paradigm shift is not just in industry and politics, but in our backyard.