Saturday, June 16, 2007

Environmental Laundry

We put up a clothes line. It's one of those simple things you can do to save the planet.

We've had rain almost every day since.

If one of us stayed at home, we could exploit the dry parts of the day. Unfortunately, we both have to leave the house for at least part of almost every day.

Natural methods rely on unpredictable forces. If we lived in a desert, we could dry clothes all the time, but we would have no water with which to wash them.

The trick to exploiting natural energy has always been control and storage. That's why fire was such a cool thing. Once we figured out how to burn things, we simply had to try burning as many different things as possible to see what we could get out of them.

Wood is solar energy that has been stored for a few years. Coal is solar energy that has been stored for a few million years. So is oil. Since the source material for petroleum is thought to contain some animal components as well, it could be said to contain the force of life itself.

Releasing this energy has drawbacks that are now well documented. In addition to the pollution that comes from burning any of these fuels, we can also romp through the reserves in far less time than it took to create them. Unlike a natural cycle, this one has no renewal phase.

If we tried to make petroleum out of the greasy remains of the living organisms that die every day, we would have to pour massive amounts of external energy into the process to speed it up. Energy is, in this instance, compressed time.

Running the environmentally contemptible electric dryer, I compress the work of half a day's sunshine into an hour. If the dryer worked better, it would take even less time. Like everything else in this house, it is just a tired, aging slacker.

A damp rug, recovering from an attack of cat pee, hangs over the clothes line, while the electric dryer hums and rumbles in the basement. This aging slacker has to put forth some of his own energy to get to work. It's still somewhat renewable.


Anonymous said...

The key, I think, is compromise. I would like to ride my bike exclusively, but I have a health issue that makes me have to take the car maybe once a week. It can't be helped, but I'm still doing better than taking the car all the time. Use the line when you can and the dryer when you must. It's till better than mindlessly using the dryer all the time. By the way, a drying rack set up in the basement can get you by for a bit as well.


Imagine from the org

Anonymous said...

In our old house, I strung a series of clotheslines in the carport. I could use it year round, but in Seattle only thin things would dry reasinably quickly in the winter. OUr new house has an amazing, 100-year old, seven line clothelines in the basement. I can cimagine the maid hanging a wjole families' worth of sheets and towels each Monday afternoon. My goal is two loads of laundry for every one dryer load. I miss the great smell that comes form outdoor drying, but it's still a great thing.


cafiend said...

Rosie! Type slower!

We do have drying racks in the basement for the large number of items we dry that way all the time. The basement overhead is too low to hang anything very large, and sees too much traffic to accommodate a permanent large clothesline array. And the garage is full of kayaks. Unheated, it would only do in the warm months anyway. But we're due to rearrange the basement perhaps around the bikes, backpacks, cat litter, basses and cellos we can set aside a corridor. Only big stuff like bedsheets would be awkward.

cadydidwhat said...

"Like everything else in this house, it is just a tired, aging slacker."

Oh, the hearty guffaw I received from *THAT* line.

And the rest of the post is, as usual, thoughtful and artfully expressed. Clothes lines are great when you can use them to their full potential. :)