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Hang Dry Week 2022 – fight climate change with your undies!

Picture an Aussie backyard and I’m sure a Hills Hoist springs to mind, slowly turning in the breeze with clothes and sheets flapping around, drying in the sunshine. Here we’re blessed with a climate conducive to line drying and with expensive electricity costs it just makes financial sense for us to hang clothes outside to dry. In the USA it’s a different story, with most households using a clothes dryer no matter the weather. When you consider America’s population of 579 million people, that’s a lot of electricity being used and this adds to carbon emissions, contributing to the climate change crisis.

Joe Wachunas lives in Oregon, USA and is one of the founders of Hang Dry Week, an initiative aiming to encourage people to hang dry their laundry to reduce their energy use. Hang Dry Week 2022 will be held from August 21st to 27th and anyone with laundry to do can be involved!

1) Explain Hang Dry Week in a sentence.

Hang Dry Week is a week to celebrate the forgotten art of hang drying laundry and all its energy saving, climate-crisis-fighting benefits. 

2) How long has Hang Dry Week been a thing and how did it get started?

Hang Dry Week started in 2019 when I worked at a small non-profit called Solar Oregon. We wanted to create an event to celebrate this overlooked technique that has massive energy and pollution saving potential. Having lived in Italy for a year and having seen how in the 8th largest economy in the world 97% of homes don’t own a dryer, I knew that laundry drying is essentially cultural. So we needed a cultural event to help bring it back on people’s radar screens. Now six non-profits come together and promote this event and this lost art. 

3) Over here in Australia, most homes have a clothesline or clothes airer, is it true that in the USA most households only use a dryer? Why do you think that is?

Yes the vast majority of American households (probably over 90%) only use a dryer, though most of our parents and grandparents used to hang dry their laundry. I think there are a couple of reasons why – the dryer is more convenient (some might say just slightly so) and many families like to just move their wet laundry from the washer immediately to the dryer. Electricity has also been relatively cheap in the US so people haven’t felt a lot of pinch from the massive amount of electricity used by the dryer. Yet, we haven’t ever really paid the full costs for our energy and have treated the skies as our free dumping ground. This is of course changing with the climate crisis. Hang Drying laundry has also been outlawed by many community homeowner associations which treat the sight of laundry as an eyesore (rather than a tourist attraction like they do in Italy). 

With the climate crisis this is a chance for Americans to revisit this low cost, low barrier to entry access to solar energy and emulate what the rest of the world does. 

4) What are the benefits of hang drying clothing compared to using a dryer?

There are so many – 

  • Energy savings – 7-10% of American electricity usage goes towards our dryers. Why not hang dry and use that electricity to power our clean cars and all electric homes?
  • Carbon emissions – Hang drying offers a real and immediate way to lower CO2 emissions today.
  • Financial savings – Depending on the cost of electricity in any one state, families can save $100-$300 per year by hang drying (in Australia it’s as much as $530 per year!)
  • Line dried laundry smell – Hang drying clothes produces an amazing smell equivalent to perfumes. A study in Denmark found that this only happens when clothes are dried outdoors. 
  • Resilience – hang drying teaches people resilience as the drying power of the sun (or indoor room) can still be harnessed if the power is out

5) Do you have any laundry hacks you swear by?

I wrote an article with 13 tips for hang drying but two of my favourite are:

  1. Give your clothes a brisk shake before drying them – helps them not be as crunchy
  2. Try drying indoors in the winter just find a spot near a heater that’s out of the way

6) Have you heard of stainless steel clothes pegs?

I hadn’t heard of stainless steel clothespins. Seems like a great idea to increase the longevity of hang drying technology. My one worry is the embodied carbon (CO2 emitted in the process of making an object) of stainless steel versus wood. It would be great if you could get a carbon neutral steel or offset the carbon emitted in their production. This is all probably very minor though compared to the energy saved by hang drying so great work in encouraging this!

Note: As well as donating to AUSMAP, Best Pegs also makes an annual donation to Greening Australia who deliver large-scale landscape restoration across Australia, covering thousands of hectares of land and protecting hundreds of species of native plants and wildlife. This is our attempt to offset the carbon emitted in the production of our stainless steel pegs.

7) What are your goals for Hang Dry Week this year?

As a small, volunteer run effort we have modest goals at Hang Dry. Our goal is longevity – to year after year, patiently remind our community of this activity. Here are some of our internal goals for this year, many of them we’ve already accomplished!

  • Get 50 new people on Instagram to follow https://www.instagram.com/hangdryweek/
  • Have 50 people post pictures celebrating hang drying their laundry
  • Do one webinar on efficient heat pump dryers (set for August 24)
  • Write one article on the smell of hang dried laundry (coming out in CleanTechnica during Hang Dry Week)
  • Connect with two additional organisations

8) How can people get involved? Is it open to all countries?

It’s absolutely open to all countries. I think these graphics from our Instagram guru Barb Burwell sum it up best.

9) Where can people find out more?

Our website Hangdry.org 

Or follow #hangdryweek on Instagram!

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