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The right to dry

It feels good to be checking off little jobs, even if they are little. This week Hubby had half of DIY date night off, pleading tiredness and general overwork. Since all I wanted to do was a few paint touch-ups around the place, I didn’t mind.

And anyway, Hubby’s brilliant mind is on bigger things. While my to-do list is kind of girlie – Which wallpaper to buy? And should we lay tile or wood? – his is all about gray water harvesting and solar electric.
It pains him, as it does so many people here, that we’re enjoying 300 days of sunshine a year and not all using solar power in some way, and saving more water.

But we two are like so many, with green intentions but not much green in the bank.
So with this in mind we’re running a cover story in Sunday’s At Home on things you can do to ‘green’ your home in a weekend.

I have David Kleinman to thank for inspiring the piece. He wrote in to the newspaper detailing all the energy-saving things he’d done to his standard frame and stucco home over the last two decades. Yes, there have been the high-ticket items, like a solar water heater and an upgraded swamp cooler. But some of the steps he took are simple, like using a solar oven and putting up an outside clothes line.

Don’t get me started on clothes lines. Being British, Hubby and I grew up with them. Getting gloriously caught up in a drooping line of laundry and having your mother shake her fist at you was as much a part of childhood in Britain as sweet cups of tea and Wellington boots.

Luckily, though, where we live in Tucson we don’t have a Homeowners’ Association telling us we can’t hang out our clothes to dry because it looks so unappealing. How bizarre is that? It makes no sense to me that in a place where clothes dry in minutes outside, so much energy is going to waste on dryers. Not only that, there’s something about seeing pegged clothes and sheets on a line that makes me happy. When the wind catches the washing, it’s like art.

I covered the tenth anniversary of Civano a couple of weeks ago in At Home, a building project of which Tucsonans should be proud. It’s an experiment in “new urbanism,” encouraging community and saving energy. And guess what? Their HOA bans outside clothes lines – in this, what was originally called Tucson’s Solar Village.

I’m told that it’s all because of a set of HOA rules hurried in – literally copied and pasted from another subdivision in California. And now the rules are set, and changing them would require 100% support of residents.

That’s the case in many subdivisions around the country, says Alexander Lee of Project Laundry List, which encourages outside clothes drying and cold water washing. Colorado, Hawaii, Maine and Vermont are among the states to have passed “right to dry” laws trying to prohibit HOAs from banning clothes lines. But it’s a slow, grueling process, with each law different and many associations still not aware of the changes.
And anyway, says Lee, 80% of the US population don’t live in community associations. “And for the most part, they are not hanging out their clothes.”

Like I say, don’t get me started. Hubby and I are thinking we might even launch a clothes line campaign here in Tucson. Anyone interested? E-mail me at if you are.
And now I’ll get off my soapbox. There’s laundry to do.

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