You shop at farmers markets, you subscribe to a CSA, you grow your own herbs and eat only meat and poultry raised in Sonoma County. But how do you dry your clothes? If you use a gas or electric dryer, perhaps National Hanging Out Day, today, will inspire you to wave a green flag by installing a clothes line.
National Hanging Out Day–April 19–has come to Sonoma County. Both the Country Board of Supervisors and the City Council of Sebastopol are today issuing proclamations that recognize the day and the environmental benefits of line drying.
Laura Shafer, who lives in Sebastopol and is the acting spokesperson for Project Laundry List, has been at the Sebastopol Farmers Market the last two Sundays, with a beautiful display of not only everything you need to solar-dry your laundry but also whimsical and beautiful accessories, from bamboo clothespins and adorable clothespin bags made from recycled children’s clothing to her gorgeous photographs of laundry on the line.
As gas and electric dryers became common in the 1950s, line drying slowly vanished from most parts of America. Having a dryer was a sign of prosperity and clothes lines were considered low class, an admission of poverty, a sign of inferiority. Many towns and housing tracts, including here in Sonoma County, added ordinances that prohibited the use of outdoor clothes lines. But now the reverse is happening. Ordinances are being overturned and Americans are installing clothes lines. What a wonderfully optimistic development.
Clothes lines are the most common way of drying laundry around the world and there are many benefits beyond the obvious environmental considerations. Sheets dried in the sun smell wonderfully fresh; nothing can replace that natural scent. Many clothes–anything black, anything brightly colored, anything with elastic, for example–last longer and look better when dried naturally. Almost anything can be dried by the sun, even towels; if you want that fluffy feel, toss them into the dryer for a few minutes after they’re dry and you’ll get all the fluff you want.
Laura is a dedicated advocate of line drying and you can read about her work, her products and her art at her Web site, which you’ll find here. Personally, I love her photos. One of my favorites, White Sheets of Jersey, reminds me of Cristo’s Running Fence.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic and exploring it in various ways for several years now; expect more from me sometime soon.