Why are we backward, when we should be moving forward?

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting story of a woman in trouble for hanging her laundry on a clothesline -- in violation of the rules of her subdivision:

The regulations of the subdivision in which Ms. Taylor lives effectively prohibit outdoor clotheslines. In a move that has torn apart this otherwise tranquil community, the development's managers have threatened legal action. To the developer and many residents, clotheslines evoke the urban blight they sought to avoid by settling in the Oregon mountains.

"This bombards the senses," interior designer Joan Grundeman says of her neighbor's clothesline. "It can't possibly increase property values and make people think this is a nice neighborhood."

Ah. But esthetic considerations are an old, doomed narrative. It's the environment which rules now, and the outmoded bourgeois sentiments must be swept away (regardless of whether people agreed to them or not):
Ms. Taylor and her supporters argue that clotheslines are one way to fight climate change, using the sun and wind instead of electricity. "Days like this, I can do multiple loads, and within two hours, it's done," said Ms. Taylor. "It smells good, and it feels different than when it comes out of the dryer."

The battle of Awbrey Butte is an unanticipated consequence of increasing environmental consciousness, pitting the burgeoning right-to-dry movement against community standards across the country.

The clothesline was once a ubiquitous part of the residential landscape. But as postwar Americans embraced labor-saving appliances, clotheslines came to be associated with people who couldn't afford a dryer. Now they are a rarity, purged from the suburban landscape by legally enforceable development restrictions.

Naturally, the environmentalists are on this woman's side, as are the statistics.
Clothes dryers account for 6% of total electricity consumed by U.S. households, third behind refrigerators and lighting, according to the Residential Energy Consumption Survey by the federal Energy Information Administration. It costs the typical household $80 a year to run a standard electric dryer, according to a calculation by E Source Cos., in Boulder, Colo., which advises businesses on reducing energy consumption.
Plus, the laundry hanging in the breeze adds a quaint, Thirld-Worldish touch, dontcha think?

Why stop with clotheslines? Wouldn't an old fashioned washtub in the front yard also be better for the environment? Fetching water from a well with a bucket is probably a good idea too, because you use less that way.

And don't forget! Rain barrels should be used to collect water, in the most visible place possible, to best encourage backward neighbors to do the same!

As to laundry soap, I'm sure the soap industry is guilty of horrid environmental monstrosities, and I think it might be time to return to making soap the old fashioned way. Just collect the grease, get some lye, and boil it in the front yard!

The recipe's easy, and all you need is an outdoor boiling tub, like this:


If we all work together to build a better future, the environment might be saved.

And instead of going to the wasteful supermarket, chickens could be raised at home, and maybe a little varmint hunting in the front yard could add supplemental protein.

The more I look at this here environmentalism stuff, the more I like what I see.

I'm also thinking about the insane regulations requiring these stupid and wasteful lawns which have to be mowed regularly. Grass is an introduced, hateful, water-loving, wasteful species, causing lawnmowers driven by environmentally wasteful aliens to spew out greenhouse gases, right? As I've noted before, lawns should be banned!

So what on earth are they doing throwing this poor woman in jail?

OREM - Betty Perry pleaded innocent Tuesday to charges she failed to water her lawn and resisted arrest when an officer attempted to cite her.
Perry appeared in 4th District Court in Orem to enter her plea in a case prominent Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred described as a gross injustice.
"Today, law enforcement in Orem has enshrined itself as the laughing stock of our country by prosecuting a 70-year-old great-grandmother for allegedly not watering her lawn," Allred said. "This ill-conceived action ensures Orem's law enforcement authorities first place in the [Guinness World Records] for stupidity."
Perry's next appearance will be on Oct. 11 for a pre-trial conference.
In July, Perry was cited by Officer James Flygare of the police's Neighborhood Preservation Unit for failing to water her lawn. Perry refused to give her name to the officer and, when Flygare tried to stop her from going back inside her house, she reportedly tripped and injured her nose.
She was arrested and taken to police station but released shortly afterwards.
An investigation by the state Department of Public Safety cleared Flygare of any wrongdoing, and city officials pressed charges against Perry on the landscape violation, a class C misdemeanor, and interfering with a police officer, a class B misdemeanor.
Allred, a high-profile Los Angeles attorney who has represented the family of Nicole Brown Simpson, O.J. Simpson's murdered wife, said she was there to provide support for Perry, whose criminal defense is being handled by M. Paige Benjamin, a Provo attorney.
I don't understand. How can anyone be accused of a crime when they're saving the environment?

Obviously, we have our priorities backwards, when we need to be moving forward.

Why are all these environment-haters fighting progress?

MORE: In retrospect, I think it's obvious that these people were the original progenitors of today's environmentalist missionaries:


I used to watch their show as a kid, but no one knew that they were way ahead of their time.

We should have listened to them, but we are all in debt to the Clampetts.

A small carbon footprint for a family, a giant leap forward for humanity!

MORE: Weeeeeh doggies! My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for bravely giving succor to unlikely environmentalists! Welcome all!

I noticed that a few commenters are taking me seriously. So let me make one thing perfectly clear: I support the right to keep and bear clotheslines.

And I as I was forced to point out below,

Hillary can put her hemp underwear on me when she pries my fruit-of-the-loom from my stinking corpse!

posted by Eric on 09.20.07 at 11:32 AM


Its like sex.

What some people find charming others find distasteful.

My ideal for landscaping is the prairie look. The neighbors wouldn't stand for it.

M. Simon   ·  September 20, 2007 12:16 PM

And like sex, it is being politicized. Republicans use dryers and cut their lawns!

Eric Scheie   ·  September 20, 2007 12:28 PM

There is a serious side here, which my post does not reflect. This woman has every moral right to use a clothesline, and she is arguably doing the morally superior thing by refraining from using a dryer. Now, I would allow her to be left alone to use a clothesline in the privacy of her property. But I suspect that she (especially her supporters) would not stop there. They would ultimately want to restrict my right to use a dryer.

I laugh at them now in the hope that others will laugh too, and maybe help thwart their ultimately tyrannical, NeoLuddite goal.

(The problem is, I used to laugh at the anti-smokers....)

Eric Scheie   ·  September 20, 2007 12:42 PM

Excuse me Eric, but 'clothesline' is politically incorrect, at least here in Berkeley. According to the City of Berkeley's web site, it should be called a 'Solar dryer.' It is permissible to add (clothesline) in parentheses afterwards for the benefit of the ignorant. See: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/sustainable/residents/TenNewThings.html

Chocolatier   ·  September 20, 2007 1:56 PM

Where in that article does it imply they are trying to ban your use of a dryer? That's quite a leap you made. As for the Republican/Democratis angle, I don't see it. Do you know the party affiliations of all these people? I doubt it. Satire needs to have an underlying coherence for it to work.

tgb1000   ·  September 20, 2007 3:18 PM

"Right-to-Dry" Classic!

Gregory   ·  September 20, 2007 4:03 PM


Here it's called Drying With Dignity.

Get it right next time.

OregonGuy   ·  September 20, 2007 4:27 PM

Just you wait Chocolatier. Have you really been so unobservant for the last thirty years?

Brett   ·  September 20, 2007 4:47 PM

When I was a kid we used a clothesline to dry our clothes. It's not all that it's cracked up to be. The clothes are stiff as boards after hanging out and the UV from the sun bleaches out the colors and destroys natural fabrics like cotton and silk much more quickly than clothes dryers. Clothes dryers came to the fore for a reason, you know.

Jardinero1   ·  September 20, 2007 5:09 PM

My Grandmother used to line-dry her clothes. I used to ask her why, when she also had an electric dryer in the basement. "It's less expensive," she said. Fortunately, she lived in a working-class neighborhood in St. Louis, where nobody would bat an eye at such a thing. To be sure, the clothes did come out board-stiff, and not at all soft. But it really steams me to imagine somebody telling my Grandma that she couldn't line-dry her clothes on her own property. And she didn't water her lawn, either... I imagine if she were still alive, she'd be locked up in the slammer by now.

John S.   ·  September 20, 2007 6:41 PM


What's your point here? Aside from the knee-jerk reaction to environmentally conscious actions.

Taking the example of two people who are being persecuted for saving energy and water and spinning it into some vast libruhl conspiracy to take away your Maytag is a poor argument. In reality (where I live) the environmentalists would politely ask you to purchase an energy saving clothes dryer and then help you get a rebate from the electric company. The Horror.

The straw-man argument is fun and all:

“Hillary Clinton will force you to wear hemp underwear at gunpoint!!1!”

But if you take a step back for a moment you’ll see how ridiculous it is.

Flame away,

KellyG   ·  September 20, 2007 7:00 PM

Hillary Clinton will force me to wear hemp underwear at gunpoint?

I don't recall mentioning her at all, but OK.

Hillary can put her hemp underwear on me when she pries my fruit-of-the-loom from my stinking corpse!

Eric Scheie   ·  September 20, 2007 7:22 PM

I have friends that live on Awbrey Butte, it's not Bush-country. But that's beside the point, it's just an enjoyable story.

I just love the internal mind struggle as the environmentalists vs NIMBYs duke it out. But here, as in Cape Cod, environmentalism ends at the rich liberal's horizon.

Someone   ·  September 20, 2007 7:42 PM

This is why I bought property in an old working class neighborhood on the wrong side of the tracks here in Austin. Sentiments like "it bombards the senses" don't exist here. The whole idea in the more uptight (white) neighborhoods that they are somehow entitled to ever-increasing home values is absurd, and having local authorities put legal teeth behind such notions is infuriating.

You think the landscaping on my property lowers the value of yours? Well when you sell your home and actually realize a loss, sue me. That's why God made small claims court.


peter jackson   ·  September 20, 2007 7:49 PM
This woman has every moral right to use a clothesline, and she is arguably doing the morally superior thing by refraining from using a dryer.

I don't know about morally superior, but it is fiscally superior. 6% out of the electric bill is a heck of a chunk.

I need to check my own neighborhood rules on clotheslines. I could use the money.

Random Numbers   ·  September 20, 2007 7:55 PM

What if someone proposed to erect windmills off Martha's Vineyard. Would the environmental eyesore outweigh the reduced use of fossil fuels for power generation? Let's ask Ted Kennedy what he thinks of drying one's laundry in public.

tim ozenne   ·  September 20, 2007 8:01 PM

That first picture isn't a boiling tub, it's a leach tub. The man is pouring water over wood ashes to extract the lye. The boiling comes in the next step.

Bruce H.   ·  September 20, 2007 9:00 PM

I can understand the cloths lines as she is in a subdivision, but not watering your lawn? This law seems to be a little intrusive for actual law. I don't think municipalities should have that kind of power.

Rick Z.   ·  September 20, 2007 9:08 PM

Doesn't time of day make a huge difference in terms of electrical demand?

Hanging close outside during the day avoids using electricity during the peak period, but using the electric dryer off-peak at night isn't quite as bad as daytime use.

edh   ·  September 20, 2007 9:10 PM


"In reality (where I live) the environmentalists would politely ask you to purchase an energy saving clothes dryer and then help you get a rebate from the electric company."

Funny, that "politely ask" bit has been already made mandatory.

Anonymous   ·  September 20, 2007 9:30 PM

I refuse to bear a clothesline, but I maintain my right to allow a clothesline to bear my clothes!

Bill Brown   ·  September 20, 2007 9:42 PM

I use a clothesline whenever I can. It's cheap, quiet, doesn't pollute and I like the fresh air smell better than dryer sheets. I also manage my lawn mostly as habitat, and direct my landscaping efforts toward my vegetable garden and fruit orchard. I'm free to do so, because I DIDN'T BUY INTO A SUBDIVISION. I'm on an old farmstead in a rural township, with no association bylaws or covenants telling me how I can dry my laundry or what color I can paint my front door. If she bought into a community with covenants and such, then she's got to live with the rules she agreed to.

Scott   ·  September 20, 2007 9:56 PM

We're using a clothesline now in our backyard in Hershey. And not just any line: a triple-string made of steel, sold through Leiman's of Ohio (who also sell to the Amish).

And, no, the clothes do not come off board-stiff. The towels do, and the sheets don't seem to mind being hung out to dry. And I haven't noticed any fading in our clothes, and I've got a family of five, and you should see the kids!

Gotta stop before I'm sounding like a commercial.

Bill Peschel   ·  September 20, 2007 10:13 PM

Scott, you're right. Co-workers used to boast about how restrictive their covenants were, to let the rest of us know we weren't ready for the big time. Then they'd rebelliously erect a basketball pole and hoop, with all the tea-party derring-do of Senior Skip Day. Finally they'd run up against something expensive, like replacement roofing or mandatory annexation, IF they stayed in the covenant suburb that long. At that point they'd suddenly become property-rights activists--after having signed away their rights. It's a predictable declension: First month, "There are DEER in our yard!" Second month: "Damn deer ate the trees again." Third: "I hit a deer." November: "You hunt deer, don't you?"

BTW, you ain't fooling me, friend. "Managing lawn as habitat" is a logical but unintended extension of "landscaping a vegetable garden." Is your electric fence solar-powered? My groundhogs don't get headstones.

comatus   ·  September 20, 2007 10:18 PM

Time of day has no effect on the amount of electricity a dryer will use. It only affects the load on the grid.

Šhard   ·  September 20, 2007 10:21 PM

Bill, it's Lehman's, in Kidron. That's quite a pull for old Dobbin, ain't it? I want to see if I've understood you correctly: you line dry your kids?

comatus   ·  September 20, 2007 10:24 PM

What Pete said. I got a house here in a working class suburb of Philly, and these home owner's associations are the work of the devil. They're so fascist.

Eric Blair   ·  September 20, 2007 11:04 PM

I've got a gas dryer... it doesn't use very much electricity.

The woman does not have the right to use a clothesline if the rules of her subdivision don't allow it. Presumably, when she bought her house, she was given a copy of the rules.

My neighborhood recently went through a clean up of violations of various deed restrictions and ordinances. The neighborhood is much more pleasant now. The rules enforced range from keeping lawns mowed to eliminating standing water (a health issue in mosquito infested Houston). Some of the rules are probably silly... but some are not. And I don't want my neighbors picking and choosing which ones they follow so I'll do my best to follow them, too. If I don't like them, I'll move.


Earnest Iconoclast   ·  September 21, 2007 5:08 PM

She does have a right to use a cloths line, just not a right to hang it outside.

I air dry a large percentage of my clothing and do it inside--have for the better part of 10-12 years in 4 cities. Never had a clothes line outside.

Billy Oblivion   ·  September 23, 2007 11:23 PM

Yeah, but Billy, if she air dries her clothing inside like you and I do (it's $1.50/load and commercial dryers are hell on fabrics), she won't get the ATTENTION she's looking for. No warm congratulations from admirers, no well-wishers in her fight against Evil Capitalist Interests.

Heather   ·  September 24, 2007 3:17 PM

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