Project Laundry 

Who knew that laundry would be considered a salacious act. I have always hung my laundry out because it is a habit that I grew up with, and I love the way that the clothes and sheets smell. Years ago, my husband’s cousin was visiting from Houston, where they live in a gated community. His daughters did not know what our clothesline was for, as hanging laundry was banned in their community. (For that matter, they were shocked by our detached one car garage.) I heard about this “right to dry” group on the news the other night. Kind of sad that you have to sue to be able to conserve resources. How would I dry my legions of socks?

Groups Advocate ‘Right to Dry’ Laundry

Clotheslines Are the Latest Green Initiative to Save Energy

Jacques said that a majority of association members supported the ban — 4 to 1 — which represents how most residents feel about it. There are 300,000 homeowner associations in the U.S. Clothesline supporters estimate that as many as 30 million Americans are not allowed to hang out their laundry.

However, clothesline supporters have begun to ban together to change the established rules. They hope that states will give their associations the right to allow their residents to dry outdoors.

Alexander Lee, a 33-year-old environmental lawyer in Concord, began Project Laundry List, to empower those who want to hang out their laundry. So far, Florida, Utah and Colorado have developed laws supporting citizens’ right to dry. Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maryland, North Carolina, Oregon and California are considering laws.

But Lee and others who are passionate about energy conservation have continued to advocate and fight for their right.

Government statistics say that 5.8 percent of residential electricity comes from dryer use, but Lee claims that that number does not encompass 17 percent of people who use gas dryers. Instead, he said, it is more representative to look at the median family household, which spends about a quarter of their electricity bill on dryer costs alone.

“It’s a tremendous amount of energy,” Lee said. “It’s several power plants that we could shut down if everybody were to make the switch.”

Project Laundry List has initiated action on the local level, attempting to spark change from the bottom up.

“I’m trying to point out to folks that we can take matters into our own hands and we don’t have to wait for the leaders to lead,” Lee said.

Mimi and Steven White in Rye have taken a step toward this goal, attempting to use art to change people’s behaviors, their perceptions and make an environmental statement. Mimi White, a member of the town’s energy committee, linked up local artists with fellow laundry-hanging citizens to paint their clotheslines.

In November, the artists will hold an exhibit in Portsmouth, N.H., displaying clothesline art.

“I think if people come and see these clotheslines, even if they haven’t painted them, even if they haven’t hung their laundry out, they might begin to think, ‘Look how beautiful,'” Mimi White said.