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Simple Solar Power

07/01/08 5:55PM By Deborah Luskin
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(HOST) It takes an active homeowner to take advantage of passive energy. Commentator Deborah Luskin and her family have recently accepted the challenge to make one, small, green change in their lives.

(LUSKIN) Over the past fifteen years, my family has succeeded in cutting our electricity bill by fifteen per cent. This was achieved mostly by replacing inefficient appliances and switching to compact fluorescent bulbs. To further reduce our carbon footprint, we now have to make behavioral changes, which is notoriously more difficult. To better our odds of success, we have chosen one simple change to which we could all commit: unplugging the clothes dryer.
I used to dismiss hanging underwear and socks as too time-consuming, and I argued that our professional attire required a dryer. Now, I'm finding surprising pleasure in hanging everything out to dry.
For one thing, becoming dependent upon the weather limits when I can hang out a wash, so instead of seeing piles of dirty laundry as a constant reproach, I'm guilt-free when it rains. Conversely, when the day dawns bright, I have an excuse to be outdoors.
My clothesline is strung between the raspberries and blueberries, where I'm surrounded by good habitat Birds serenade me as I pin t-shirts to the line.
Hanging laundry allows me a few moments to compare the forecast with reality. It helps me determine if I can wash another load or be absolved from attempting more.
Hanging laundry allows my husband and me to eliminate a small, but persistent irritation between us. When we used the dryer, my husband just put the clothes through, allowing the clean laundry to accumulate in baskets, wrinkles and all. I tried to smooth my irritation by accepting rumpled clothes in return for shared labor, but I preferred my method of folding the clothes while they were still warm. Unpinning clothes from the line eliminates this problem, because we both fold the laundry as we take it down. Now, the baskets are filled with tidy clothes, no matter who brings them in.
Hanging laundry has also had an unexpected ripple effect. The five of us are all more mindful of wearing clothes until they are truly soiled and worth the bother of washing.
We find ourselves choosing clothing made of quick-drying fabrics, and talk about replacing worn out items with drying times in mind.
Our kids have each been washing their own clothes for years. Now, committed to the clothesline, they have achieved a new level of awareness and cooperation, and they will rescue someone else's clean laundry before nightfall or in advance of oncoming rain.
Of course, hanging laundry out to dry in the summer is easy. Maintaining this level of commitment will be more difficult come winter. The challenge will be to devise a way to hang unwieldy bed sheets and plush towels indoors.
Granted, giving up the clothes dryer is a very small step in the grand scheme of things, but it's a way to start recalibrating the equation between "energy saving" appliances and the greater personal challenge of "saving energy" at home.
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