Monday, November 26, 2007

On Laundry and "Going Green"

As Kermit the Frog sang years ago, "It's not Easy Being Green." Today, being green, in the environmental sense, is in, but like those celebrities who lend their names to the anti-global warming cause but drive their SUV's to the corner store, I have a problem when it comes to my own comfort and convenience.

I was reminded of how much I depend on my environmentally threatening devices when I read two articles in the December 3 issue of Time, "The Right to Dry," by Elizabeth Schemme, and "It's Inconvenient Being Green," by Lisa Takeuchi Cullen. According to Cullen, "Environmental consciousness is no konger just another lifestyle choice . . . . it has been upgraded to a moral imperative, and this has produced a diagnosable conditioin called eco-anxiety." I'm too laid back for that.

The issue Schemme focuses on is one that interests me because it involves us all: laundry. Unless we can afford to leave it up to the servants or professionals, we all have to wash some clothes. And today, the convenience of automatic washers and dryers often must be balanced with the environmentally sound but aesthtically unattractive outdoor clothesline. Homeowners' associations often ban outdoor drying of laundry, so it has become a human rights issue as well as an environmenatal one.

Some activists point out that clothes dryers use up 6% of total electricity and emit up to a ton of CO2 each year per household. But outdoor clotheslines have long been considered evidence of poverty and destroyers of property values. I remember being appalled by the laundry displays in less-developed countries (see the ultimate outdoor laundry in Mumbai [Bombay], India, above.)

Those who grew up on farms (as I did) or in small towns often remember sweet-smelling, right-off-the clothesline garments fondly, but not me. To me, hanging clothes out on the line was a chore, just another of my mother's tedious responsibilities. She embraced the automatic washer and dryer as soon as they became available, and I've never hung laundry outside in my adult life, as far as I remember.

Admittedly, I have lived in a large city for many years, and outdoor clothes drying has never been an option. But when I read about Mary Lou Sayer, an over-85 resident of a Concord, NH, retirement village and her efforts to abolish the community's clothesline ban, I'm tempted to ask how I, as a senior myself, would respond in a similar situtuation. I'm afraid that in my case, convenience and aesthetics would win out over concern for the environment. I can't imagine hanging laundry outside after all these years. No, it's not easy being green!

Copyright 2007 by Marlys Marshall Styne
Photo by the author, 2005

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Environmental activism does make for some interesting choices. As I was reading this I did think fondly of the sweet smell of clothes fresh off the line but that was during the summer. I also remembered not so fondly the freezing fingers of the winter experience and nothing hurts worse than wet, frozen fingers. Convenience be blasted, I draw the line at pain. I also had another image in my head by the end. When I go outside after a rain, more often than not, I find my car covered with the dirt and grime that came down with the rain. And I definitely don't want to be wearing that crud which I would be if I could somehow set up a clothes line on my postage sized patio outside my rented townhouse.