‘You’re not with it if you’re not air drying your clothes!’

The clothesline hangs in Civic Center Park. If you have a yard, members of CYES will install a retractable clothesline as a sunny-day alternative to a tumble dryer.

A clothesline hangs in Civic Center Park. If you have a yard, members of CYES will install a retractable clothesline as a sunny-day alternative to a tumble dryer. Photo: Julia Hannafin

On Wednesday a gigantic clothesline dangled over Berkeley’s Civic Center Park. T-shirts, sweaters, jeans, and all kinds of clothing swayed in the wind as members of Rising Sun Energy Center‘s California Youth Energy Services (CYES) program proudly explained the work they’ve been doing to make Berkeley’s community more sustainable.

“Really what this is is a call to action,” said Jodi Pincus, executive director of the Berkeley-based Rising Sun Energy Center. “You may be asking, how does [climate change] relate to air drying my clothes? Clothes dryers are the second largest energy hog appliance in the home, and CO2 emissions from a single household can amount to nearly 23,000 pounds of CO2 per year. It is up to us to do something.”

CYES (Californa Youth Energy Services) employees and supporters gather in Civic Center Park Wednesday, July 19th.

RSEC employees and supporters gather in Civic Center Park Wednesday, July 17. Photo: Julia Hannafin

The “Air Dry For the Environment” event on July 17 included short speeches from Pincus, RSEC’s Outreach Manager Christina Chan, Berkeley Vice Mayor Linda Maio, Councilman Laurie Capitelli, and two of CYES’s youth employees.

CYES aims to tackle two issues through its program: youth employment and resident efficiency. CYES hires and trains local youth ages 15 to 22 as Energy Specialists, providing jobs in the green economy to young people who really need them. CYES’s Energy Specialists offers Green House Calls to renters and homeowners, providing an efficiency assessment, installation of energy and water saving products and personalized recommendations to help residents save energy where they can.

If you have a yard, members of CYES will install a retractable clothesline as a sunny-day alternative to a tumble dryer.

The best part is, these house calls are free. Any PG&E customer in Berkeley, Antioch, Dublin, Emeryville, Fremond, Hayward, Oakland, Pleasanton, Richmond, Union City, and Marin County is eligible.

“I keep coming back because I’m excited to see the program grow,” said one youth employee who had been with CYES for three years. “But I want us to get further than the Bay Area, because the further we go, the smaller our carbon footprint will become.”

“Doing this job, we get to educate a variety of communities, people that come from all kinds of backgrounds,” added another youth employee. “We get to educate all of them about little changes they can make in their own homes to help the greater environment.”

“Somehow or another we have to make it, ‘You’re not with it if you’re not air drying your clothes!'” said Vice Mayor Linda Maio. “Let’s get with it, and let’s air dry.”

To sign up for a free Green House Call visit RSEC online.

Julia Hannafin is a summer intern at Berkeleyside and a student at Columbia University studying creative writing and American studies. She writes for the music blog The Metropolitan Jolt.

Berkeleyside publishes many articles every day. To see all our stories in chronological order, and read ones you may have missed, check out our All the News grid.

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  • guest

    Some condo associations and apartments have rules against clothes lines. Such restrictions should be illegal.

  • EricPanzer

    I live in an apartment and wish I could have a clothesline—there’s no space for one outside and doing one out the window wouldn’t be feasible. I grew up in a suburb where backyards were plenty large for a clothesline, but having one would have been viewed as quaint or perhaps even downright weird. I didn’t get to experience line drying until I visited a friend who lived in the suburbs of London, whereupon I discovered that line-dryed clothes smell amazing.I’ve considered putting a line up inside my apartment, but I must confess that I don’t really want my living room to look like this.

  • b-caf

    I remember using stiff, wrinkled, line-dried towels as a kid. No thanks. Plus, I think dryers that use natural gas aren’t energy hogs on the same scale as electric.

  • Mari

    Great! Clothes driers are a pet peeve of mine. No one with a slither of environmental conscience could possibly use one on summer CA days like these. At least it’s a diminishing spiral. The more emissions from driers raise our temps. and dries our air, the more effective clothes lines become.

  • Iris

    I’ve always viewed clothes dryers as unnecessary. Why waste money and energy on something that the air does for free – wether outdoors or indoors. If one doesn’t have an outdoor space for clothes lines, there are drying racks available that hold a machine load of laundry and don’t take up much space. With a little inventiveness anyone can do it. Yes, it’s a little bit more time consuming, and in some instances it might not be feasible, but I’m so glad to hear about the actions of CYES and others to raise awareness and motivation about air drying your clothes. A big applause to them.

  • 4eenie

    Iron your towels and they are soft and comfy!

  • iris fleur

    Last time I hung my clothes out they stank so badly I had to rewash them. Too shady & foggy in the hills.

  • Dan

    Gas is cheap enough that there isn’t much incentive for people to make the switch (except for guilt)

  • Nina J. Hodgson

    The rest of the world finds a way. I was told that in Belgrade, the top storey of apartments is covered but open on the sides and contains lines which the entire building uses for drying. It’s not rocket science, folks.

  • guest

    takes much longer to air dry than to machine dry

  • guest

    “Vice Mayor Linda Maio”

    What does Maio know about vice? Obviously this was a political appointment.

  • Bernardo J. Rodríguez Q

    Thanks Julia!

  • Tizzielish

    I live on the top, sixth, floor of a downtown apartment building. My apartment overlooks the interior courtyard, which is very underutilized. There’s no reason the building couldn’t put up some clothes lines. There is also no reason we could do like I used to see in old ny tv shows and movies; rolling clotheslines strung from one side of the building courtyard to the other.

    There is also a large rooftop that is also grossly underutilized. No reason not to put up clothelines, altho I imagine some hours would need to limit clothesdrying so folks who want to use the space to socialize would not have clothes all over.

    New buildings should be required to include a generous amount of clothesline access.

    But I avoid using the clothes dryer by hanging most of my clothes on hangars, then hagning them over my tub on the shower rod — a good, well installed one. I also use a hanging rack but that doesn’t hold much. I can hand a whole lot of clothes on my shower rod, and also hang hangars on the ends of bookshelves, the backs of chairs, cupboard doors.

    It is a bit more work. Just tossing wet clothes into a dryer seems easier than hanging them all on hangars while wet — but I hang everything on hangars when they are dry anyway.

    So. . apartment dwellers can dry clothes inside their apartments. It’s a choice. And not really more work. If anything, it’s less works. My clothes are less wrinkled when they dry hanging on hangars.

  • Tizzielish

    seriously? the earth’s health is not worth a stiff towel? once the towel touches moistures, doesn’t it soften up? Yikes. Pampered princess complex? It’s just a towel. And just th eone environment so far.

  • Tizzielish

    not that much longer. If one plans one’s life chores, like if you need a certain clothing item on a certain day, you don’t wash it two hours before you have to head out the door. We can all take self responsibility and act like adults!

  • Tizzielish

    I guess sustainability isn’t an incentive for you.

  • bgal4

    Can’t live without a clothes line. One of the first things we put in when we brought this dilapidated house. My husband washed and hung the cloth diapers before going to work. The sun acts as a disinfectant too.

  • guest
  • Charles_Siegel

    It is interesting that there is such a big difference between the comments on this article and the comments on articles about city planning to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    This article has gotten mostly favorable comments and no angry comments (though a couple of negative ones).

    Articles about city planning inevitably get angry comments.

    The article about new parking policies in downtown, which will make it more convenient for customers to find parking, got a comment saying that you will never force people out of their cars, and I will never come to downtown because there is no parking.

    The article about Acheson Commons even got a comment from a Tea Party type, who wrote that smart growth is part of the Agenda 21 conspiracy to deprive America of its sovereignty.

    Yet there are two major differences between these issues:

    — Hanging out the laundry makes life a bit less convenient, but smart growth would make live easier and more convenient in the long run (though it would require some changes of habit that could be inconvenient in the long run).
    — Hanging out the laundry addresses a relative small source of emissions, while smart growth addresses the largest source of emissions in the state of California.

    I can only guess that there is a difference in response because smart growth is necessarily a political decision while hanging out the laundry is a personal decision. No one worries that there will be political decisions that make it harder for them to use their dryer, so they don’t bother complaining about it.

  • guest

    The arguments alleging that “smart growth” is “green” or even very “smart” are unconvincing. The idea of a clothes line is a simple choice for a person The planning decisions smell like someone pulling the wool over the public’s eyes.

  • Charles_Siegel

    “smell like someone pulling the wool over the public’s eyes”

    Note what I said about angry responses and conspiracy theories.

    Mr. guest, do you hang out your laundry, or do you use a dryer? I suspect that what you actually mean is that hanging out the laundry is a personal decision, which you don’t worry about because no one is going to force you to do it. If you actually do hang out your laundry, that would prove my suspicion wrong.

  • John

    Doesn’t even have to be a “sunny day” alternative… living in deepest rural France taught me that clothes lines work even on cloudy days! A breeze is key. I use my clothesline in Oakland year round, in all weather!

  • guest

    I think you’ve missed my point, @Charles_Siegel:disqus

    The argument that line drying can reduce emissions in common circumstances is very clear and convincing.

    The arguments that “smart growth” public policies are wise (environmentally and otherwise) are fairly clear yet to many of us are very unconvincing. People look for hidden agendas behind “smart growth” because the public arguments put forward by smart growth advocates seem so obviously bogus.

  • guest

    So clotheslines are marketed as cool now by hipster doofi. Okay, fine. Bond with your grandmothers over the beauty of a clothesline. FWIW I use one year-round, except in Dec/Jan — too cold/damp — when I string stuff up in the basement on lines. I’m too cheap to use the dryer.

  • Plastik Von Poohbag

    Having been obliged to line-dry my clothes in my living room for the past 5 years, I will be only too glad to take an evil gas dryer in working condition off of the hands of anyone who finds it too Ideologically Unsound for his conscience.

    Otherwise, perhaps electric washers should be dispensed with as well among Berkeley’s Leisure-Class Trustfundariat.

  • Charles_Siegel

    Senator Inhofe thinks that the arguments confirming global warming are obviously bogus. But environmentalists generally think that the arguments confirming global warming and supporting smart growth are clearly valid.

    If it is so obviously bogus, why is smart growth supported by every major environmental group that has a position on the issue?

    Inhofe thinks all the climate scientists are engineering a hoax, but he doesn’t explain why they would do that. Maybe you can explain why environmental groups like the Sierra Club would engineer this hoax about smart growth.

  • guest

    My impression from Berkeleyside is that you often fall back on the authority of “environmentalists generally” agreeing on vague things like “smart growth” even when you are trying to advocate for very specific public policies. Surely you don’t expect that to be persuasive.

    Now you are attacking a straw-man about the Sierra Club engineering a hoax and insinuating that anyone who is critical of so called smart growth policies is no better than Inhofe on climate change.

    What a bunch of hooey.

  • Charles_Siegel

    So why does the Sierra Club back smart growth, if it is true (as you say in slightly tortured prose) that:

    The arguments that “smart growth” public policies are wise
    (environmentally and otherwise) are fairly clear yet to many of us are
    very unconvincing.

    I did not talk about any specific public policies in this thread. Look up at my initial comment, and you will see that is was about smart growth in general, just as your first reply was about smart growth in general.

    In addition to mentioning the Sierra Club, I said:

    “But if it is so obviously bogus as you say, why is smart growth
    supported by every major environmental group that has a position on the

    You could falsify that statement by finding one major environmental group that is against smart growth. If you don’t falsify it, then I have to assume that am right to say that environmentalists generally support smart growth.

  • the Laundry Shoppe

    If you use an eco-friendly or natural laundry detergent you should not experience stiff laundry. Conventional laundry detergents leave detergent residue on your clothing which when dry causes the stiffness. When you wash laundry with an eco-friendly detergent that is clean rinsing then dried laundry, via a clothes line or clothes dryer, is naturally soft. Also adding vinegar into the rinse cycle, works really great for towels, will add softness. This isn’t just “green-talk” but based on the chemical properties of the natural detergents vs. conventional detergents. Another reason to utilize an outdoor or indoor clothes line is preserve your clothing fibers. Dryers can dull fabric color and cause unnatural wear. The same complaint can be said of your conventional detergents. Going green, can save you green!

  • guest

    “So why does the Sierra Club back smart growth,”

    To sell magazines and raise money? To influence electoral politics under the tax shelter and social facade of a charity? Who knows? They don’t make a convincing case and that’s enough for me.

  • iris

    It’s amazing how fast some things dry on a hot or on a windy day. Faster than a dryer!

  • rhuberry

    Maybe not clothes washers, but certainly dishwashers are a relatively unnecessary appliance. Hand washing the dishes is easy, doesn’t take much more (if any) time than prerinsing dishes and loading a dishwasher. I’m always amused that when the city environmental types advocate for making homes more “green”, they talk about people buying more energy efficient appliances like dishwashers. I say why not ban dishwashers altogether. And I do, and always have, hung my laundry outside to dry, year round.

  • Dennis McCormick

    Julia, need a new retractable clothesline. House calls in Wellesley?

  • curiousjorge

    we use eco friendly detergent and not had any luck avoiding the stiff towel phenomenon. I did find that hanging them up to dry, and then putting them in the drier for fluffing worked. but I find it kind of amazing that no one has pointed out how much more time consuming it is to hang clothes to dry. I air dry about half of our laundry, mainly to protect delicates and synthetics that can’t take the heat. But air-drying everything? Not a viable option for anyone who works full time…

  • Julia Hannafin

    Ahh I wish it were a national program! :) Maybe one day.

  • guest

    Individual consumer use of electricity represents a tiny, tiny fraction of overall energy use in the U.S. So this is an entirely stupid, symbolic act. Typical Berkeley bullshit. Right up there with biking, recycling, and self-ritious bloviating. Tokenism at it’s worst. Right up with the fools that think that the occasional bike commute is going to make a difference. You want to really change the world? Pick the right issues.

  • Berkeley

    Thats’ right, Charles. Despite the rhetoric, almost no one actually dries their clothes on a line. That’s what I hate about all this kind of discussion. Almost no one actually bikes to work. Almost no one air dries their clothes. Lots of talk, but, in the end, people do what is convenient and in their own interests. Stand by ANY street in Berkeley in rush hour and count the number of cars versus bikes. Google map any neighborhood in Berkeley and count the clothes lines. It’s all a bunch of bullshit talk, combined with self-righteous rhetoric. What pisses me off about this town is the utter hypocrisy on display. 99% typical American behavior combined with massive pretentiousness.

  • Tisshat

    Thanks for lecturing the rest of us, yet again, on how we should organize our lives. Acting like an adult means making our own decisions, without people like you telling us to return to your 18th Century utopia. Shut up and make your own decisions, Tizz. Plan your own chores, dry your own cloths, grow your own food, make your own clothes, and leave the rest of us alone.

  • eriksf

    This statement is ridiculous. Is Berkeley perfect? No. Are their hypocrites? Yes. But it is filled with some of the most committed progressives on Earth. Many accepted practices that we call green were born here (as were organizations fighting for progressive causes like moveon.org). You may want to spend a few years in a place like Texas so you can tell the difference between people trying to do the right thing and people who don’t give a damn.