Do you feel helpless about the health of the planet?
Probably, you do, if you’re reading this blog. I don’t think I need to spell out the danger we are in, environmentally. Resource depletion, extinction rates, climate change… the environment is in the news a lot lately, but rarely is the news good. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
Here is a piece of advice: do one small thing.
Choose something, however small, and change the way you live.
Now, there are a lot of options for what that one small thing could be. But my advice, on this sunny day in New England? If you live anywhere that you have access to a yard outside, install a clothes line, and begin to use it. Do it because it’s practical, and human beings like the feeling of being practical. And do it because it’s fun…unlike, say, turning your thermostat down to 45 degrees in the dead of winter.
And do it because it actually makes a difference.
All by itself, you will be saving 5% or more of your electricity usage. That’s 5% less contribution to global warming from your personal domicile–in one fell swoop. Nice payoff, for a hunk of rope and some clothespins.
I know. Some of you live where this is not possible, or where it is difficult. Apartment and condominium living can be tough this way, it is true. (Though there are those who are working to make it easier–and it is worth noting that it’s the norm in many countries in Europe, for city dwellers as well as those in the countryside.)
But if you live in the country, or in a suburb, or even where you have access to a balcony or porch, and you are not line-drying your clothing, you are missing out.
I am sitting in front of my computer just now… but ten minutes ago, I was taking down line dried sheets.
Do you remember that smell, from your childhood? Or are you one of the unfortunate ones, who grew up after the craze for “convenience” made Americans think of clothes driers as necessities? If so, you have my condolences. Or if, like me, you’re one of those lucky ones who gets to go out under a clear blue sky, watch the birds, hear the wind, and sleep on sheets and pillowcases that smell like morning and green grass and joy… well! Aren’t we lucky?
Even in winter, I hang the sheets outside. I’m an addict; I admit it. Having learned how delicious and sensual this small pleasure is, I cannot do without it any more.
Today, however, I celebrate spring, not with a maypole, but with three full loads of laundry flapping in the wind.
Gone are the short days of winter, when I had to hang all but my sheets inside on racks to dry. Now all of my laundry is softened–yes, softened! Don’t listen to the propagandists out there who will tell you otherwise–by being tumbled gently in the breeze.
And I have done something–one small, concrete thing–to protect the planet I love.
Yeah, it’s not going to single-handedly avert climate change.
Though if we were able–just think of it!–to cut our carbon emissions nationally by 5%, that would be cause for feasting and celebration, wouldn’t it? So why not celebrate the small changes that are entirely within our power? Why not do something concrete, physical, and–wait for it–actually pleasant and enjoyable, and make that small amount of difference?
It’s a hell of a lot more fun than sitting around inside, waiting for the world to end–or even just for the buzzer on the drier to sound.
And no: it isn’t more time consuming than your drier–at least, not in terms of time you spend at it. The clothes are not noticeably stiffer when dried outside. And if hung with care, clothes wrinkle less and are easier to fold. I haven’t lost a sock since I began line drying–it’s so easy to hang them up in pairs.
It’s not hard. It’s not expensive. And–believe it or not–it’s not drudgery, but a chance to be outside, in the wind and air, and to know you’re making a small contribution today.
Go for it. Seriously. Take back the wind. And while you’re at it, take back the sun, the sky, and the scent of line-dried sheets and towels.