Your clothes dryer is a huge waste of energy. So what’s the alternative?
In October 2012 I found myself on a three month European vacation. First stop was a hostel in Lisbon, Portugal. It was my first time traveling alone and my first time staying in a hostel as an adult. Looking back, it’s not clear to me why I had wanted to do the laundry after only a few days abroad, but I found myself in the kitchen of the hostel, which also doubled as the laundry room.
I loaded the washer and let it run its course. When it was finished, I took my laundry out of the washer and went to put in the dryer when I discovered that there was in fact no dryer. None. Nada. Can you believe that? I was staying at a hostel, which is like “hotel lite.” It should have had a dryer, right? Instead, in this particular case, I had to lay my wet clothes out on along the frame of the bunk bed in a room I was sharing with nearly a dozen of my “closest” friends. As you can imagine, my clothes did not dry as promptly as I would have liked. It was terribly inconvenient.
Over the course of those three months I would come to find out that most of Europe does not use dryers. There are some clothes lines, but since the weather is often chilly, most people have clothing racks in their flats to hang their clothes to dry. I really have no idea why Europeans live without clothes dryers. Is it a cost thing? Is it their culture? I don’t know. At the time I thought it was an inconvenience because I, like many of the people reading this, have easy (or relatively easy) access to a dryer. On that trip I, for the first time in my life, looked at dryers as not items of convenience but items of luxury. And if Europeans (and Moroccans) overwhelmingly go without them, then clearly this is an example of American entitlement or something.
This got me thinking. Why would a person choose to use or not use a clothes dryer? Obviously, it is super convenient to take your clothes from the washer, one bunch and a time, pivot to the left or right and place them in the dryer. Even easier if the washer and dryer are stacked1.
Generally speaking, dryers cause more harm than good. Sure, it’s easier to use a dryer than to hang clothes on a line or rack, but it also causes clothes to wear out and fade quicker. The heat from electric and gas dryers also cause stains to embed themselves, making it difficult if not impossible to get rid of them. Dryers also:
- Require maintenance (aka, break)
- Make a lot of noise
- Cost a lot of money
- Use precious resources, like natural gas and/or electricity
I would like to focus on that last bullet point for a moment. In mid-2014, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a report entitled A Call to Action for More Efficient Clothes Dryers: U.S. Consumers Missing Out on $4 Billion in Annual Savings (PDF)! What? FOUR BILLION DOLLARS is wasted in the United States on gas and electricity every single year for no other reason than we are using old, worn out, gas-guzzling, electricity-sucking clothes dryers! Who knew?
Then this got me thinking: What can I do right now to have an impact? The answer actually came pretty quickly. Behind my building are clothes lines and as it turns out, I’m the only person who uses them. According to Golden Road Brewery (breweries are the best source or accurate information, right?) there are 329 Days of Sun in Los Angeles, which means that, with little exception, I can count on enough rays to dry my clothes relatively quickly. Sure, hanging clothes to dry takes longer and is less convenient, but once I made the determination to make the switch, there was no turning back2. And I got over the mental hump when I started to shift my thinking. Instead of looking at hanging clothes as inconvenient, I shifted my thoughts to hanging clothes as efficient. Spending money on gas to heat my clothes when it’s already triple digits outside began to seem silly, wasteful and a sign of opulence.
If we can save $4 billion dollars by simply upgrading to newer equipment, think about how much energy and resources would be saved by ditching dryers altogether.
I successfully abandoned my clothes dryer. How about you?
1Looking back on this post, convenience is in fact the only reason I can figure as to why someone would use a clothing dryer, and, for those of you who have even a few of my posts know, convenience is the death of us.
2Okay, okay! I will admit that there have been a few times when I have needed my clothes dried that second and it was raining or freezing cold out, but those instances have been few and far between.
This article was originally published on Zero Waste Guy.