Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Hung out to Dry: Energy, Clothes Dryers and Who's Really Modern

So maybe we all should hang up our clothes to dry, and stop using clothes dryers? Louis-Gilles Francoeur of Le Devoir had a good story last Thursday on the movement to remove barriers to clothes lines and clothes racks. Regulations against them in some municipalities, housing developments and apartment complexes stand in the way of switching to low-tech methods of clothes drying. Such strictures should be abolished, say environmentalists.

Le Corbusier famously raged against the residents of his first high rises who hung their clothes to dry on balconies. Spoiled the whole look, he said, but of course he had not provided for any other way to dry clothes, a practical detail of great importance in ordinary life. The only place where his style of building has really succeeded—Singapore—residents hang their clothes on long poles out windows the way flags are flown in some places.

The amount of electricity or gas to run a dryer is not inconsiderable. One study of the energy balance of clothing by University of Cambridgeresearchers actually says that polyester is more environmentally friendly than cotton mainly because polyester dries so much faster. But how you dry your clothes is only a small part of our spriraling energy consumption.

“As one municipal spokesman said rather cynically,” Francoeur writes, ‘it’s not a dryer that is going to tip the energy balance in those big, unnecessarily overheated houses in spread-out neighborhoods that are far too often bought in order to show off how rich you are rather than because you need the space. It’s not a policy on clothes lines that’s needed but a way of progressively taxing consumption of electricity, gas and petroleum products.“ Needless to say the spokesman didn’t want to be identified,” Francoeur concludes.

Right on. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll go hang up our wash in the basement. Not that I'm being expressly ecolo (as they say around here.) It's just that when we bought this house eons ago it only had 60 ampères, far too low for an electric dryer. When we finally got around to boosting it--to 200 amps--two years ago the electrician laughed and accused me of being "not at all modern." I had no ready answer for him then, although I did admit to being too lazy to change. But now I see I was really ahead of the wave, rather than behind it.

Photo: Pulley clotheslines extending to a pole at the end of the garden are found all over the island of Montreal. Fine for summer, a little cold for winter,


C. B. Whittemore said...

Mary, un grand merci pour votre commentaire sur mon blog et bon courage pour vos recherches de lifestyle centres. J'ai hate de lire votre nouveau livre.

Mary Soderstrom said...

Et merci aussi !

Avez-vous lu « Au bonheur des dames » de Zola? Très intéressant, très actuel même si le livre était publié il y 125 ans.