Veritas Viridis – 4 – Airing Our Laundry

We often encounter “soft” barriers to adopting sustainable practices, such as cultural and social conventions, habits and attitudes about convenience. On a recent visit to the Maritimes we couldn’t help but notice the contrast between migrant agricultural worker camps with lines of laundry flapping gaily in the on-shore breeze and the neat but laundry-less landscape of long-term residents. We think that the notion of drying clothes on a line being a sign of poverty is just plain out-of-date.

Tucking in at night, who hasn’t delighted in the fresh scent of bed-sheets brought in from the line? The similarity between festive flags and colourful laundry dancing in the wind is obvious to many, and in our travels we frequently admire conscious or unconscious artistic statements of colour- and size-coordinated washing arranged intently in a long row on the clothes-line. You may notice how many film scenes feature clothes drying on the line, playing with shadows, hide-and-seek, sexual innuendo, luxuriant draping and layering, veil and colour. Outdoor clothes-drying is a beautiful thing. And it’s not just a summer strategy. Working with the Cree on an eco-lodge project, we were surprised to see laundry hanging stiffly on the line in sub-zero winter – clothes can freeze-dry just fine!

Drying laundry on a line can save a household $100 or up to 5% of your total energy bill a year, and the natural fresh scent comes without irritating chemicals. Sunlight can disinfect (and bleach) clothes. Line-drying protects clothes from the abuse of tumble dryers that can shred fabric, tear apart seams and swallow buttons. It’s fun and a healthy physical activity hanging up clothes – for some it is even a form of relaxation. And yes, it can demonstrate to others your commitment to reducing your environmental footprint.

Clothes-drying is a sustainable design issue, with some creative precedents. When renowned Barcelona architect Antonio Gaudi remodelled the Casa Batllo apartment building in 1904, he thoughtfully covered a portion of the roof with open parabolic arches with adjustable louvres to direct airflow for drying laundry quickly. On residential projects, blueandyellow makes it easy by design to transfer washing from the laundry machine to the drying line. We orient the building and the line for good solar exposure and access to breezes, and, yes, if it’s still important, to shield it from the neighbours’ view. We think it’s good policy to air our laundry.


About Peter Clark

An international leader in sustainable development and green design, Peter Clark brings a wealth of experience in resort, institutional and commercial development, renovations, property management and operations in Canada and Mexico.

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