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  • Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

Full of hot air
June 26, 2008 - 10:42am

I want to be Alexander Lee when I grow up.

Lee is the Executive Director of Project Laundry List, an outgrowth of a project he started at Middlebury College.

In a nutshell, Lee invited Dr. Helen Caldicott to speak on campus, and got hooked on the part of her message that talked about clothes dryers as the second most energy-hungry appliances in American homes (refrigerators being #1). So, he went to law school, he ran some fundraisers, and now he's preaching the virtues of air-drying clothes to communities, homeowners associations, and anyone else who has a voice in whether clotheslines are encouraged or outlawed as "eyesores".

You see, drying your clothes on the line is so inexpensive, so energy-efficient, so easy that it's associated with the lower socio-economic classes. (See how easy it is to get your values corrupted in the name of consumption?) Planned unit developments and neighborhood associations are afraid clotheslines will drive down property values, so they outlaw them.

For our on-campus students, though, colleges and universities have an opportunity to instill a different set of values. Res hall laundry facilities have existed for a long time. At an increasing number of schools, laundry is "free" (meaning, the cost is hidden in the tuition or the room and board charges).

So, here's a thought: What if, for on-campus students, washers were free, but dryers cost hard cash? Free clotheslines (both inside and outside) could be made available. (In the winter, line-drying clothes inside adds humidity to the air, increasing comfort levels and decreasing nosebleeds.) Campus electrical consumption would likely go down. The fact that consumers (including students) have choices would be clearly exemplified. Auxiliary revenue could easily remain unchanged. What's not to like?


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