Is Fresh Air “Drying Up” as a Drying Alternative?

by Heather Rothbauer-Wanish

It seems like almost a signal to the seasons. Spring arrives, followed by the heated sun rays of summer; clothes are hung on clotheslines to soak up the air and wonderfully long daylight hours.

Not only does hanging clothes outside save the electricity that would have been used by the dryer, the clothes come back into the house smelling freshly-scented and have the ‘crispness’ of being dried outside. However, legislation is being proposed in many areas that would ban the use of clotheslines. From the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal, this issue has become a popular discussion of basic rights and environmental-friendliness.

According to an article in the New York Times, clothes dryers use at least six percent of all household electricity consumption. The Wall Street Journal, citing the same percentage, stated that this ranks dryers third in energy use, only behind refrigerators and lighting. The high energy use, and high electrical costs of dryers, has led people to hang clothes outside for drying purposes. However, not everyone wants to see others’ laundry from their window; this is especially true in association-governed communities.

Drying for Freedom ( follows the actual case of feuding neighbors in Miss., where the police say one man shot and killed another last year because he was tired of telling the man to stop hanging his laundry outside.

The sharp growth of these types of communities brings additional regulations. Frank Rathbun, spokesman for the Community Associations Institute, stated that there are approximately 60 million people living in about 300,000 association-governed communities. Some states, including Wisconsin, limit homeowners associations’ ability to restrict the installation of solar systems; however, many times it is unclear if clotheslines fall into this category.

Chippewa Valley resident Tiffany Coggins, owner of Green Girl Inc., is passionate about the environment and has started her business as a way to share environmentally-friendly tips and ideas. Coggins feels strongly that people should have the right to hang clothes outside. “I would hope that people would work to reverse existing bans. I also hope people will fight to keep new bans from coming into existence. People should have the ability to hang clothes in their own yards to better the environment and save money,” Coggins said.

Katy Martin, originally from Altoona and now a resident of rural Chippewa Falls, shared Coggins’ thoughts. “When I was young, single, and seeking my first house, I really liked a particular house in a certain area of town. However, I did not buy for one reason: you could not have a clothesline in your own yard,” she explained.

Coggins reflected on the larger picture of the environment. “I think that we need to put the environment much higher on our priority list. Something as superficial as being offended by looking at some other person’s laundry hanging outside seems silly when you look at the environmental big picture,” she explained.

Carrie Heath, a Chippewa Falls resident, hangs all her laundry outside on every possible day that she can. She also recognizes the impact on the earth. “Not only is it free to use the sun and wind to dry your clothing, but there is no wasteful byproduct. The sun is a natural antibacterial as well; towels and sheets that are hung in the sun are so much cleaner,” Heath said.

When residents choose to hang laundry outdoors in an association-governed neighborhood that has strict guidelines, there can be legal action. One such case in Bend, Oregon has led to numerous complaints by neighbors regarding viewing others’ laundry, as well as written warning letters to the person who has chosen to violate these covenants.

According to Coggins, there are options to consider if someone does not want to view the laundry of a neighbor. “If people are disturbed by the aesthetics of looking at hanging laundry, then maybe they should put in extra plants for landscaping to block views to their neighbors’ yards,” she commented. “There would be many benefits to adding landscaping, including additional removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,” Coggins added.

Emily Kuhn also enjoys the benefits of helping the earth while drying clothes outdoors. “I am excited to be able to hang my laundry from our clothesline this summer; it’s so much more energy-efficient than using the dryer,” Kuhn commented. However, Kuhn also addressed the need for discreteness. “I will admit that I’d never put a clothesline where anyone but the nearest neighbors could see it — and only the ones who can view our backyard, for that matter,” Kuhn said.

People have been using the sun and wind to dry laundry since the beginning of time. While the appearance of clotheslines has become more of an issue in recent years, people in the Chippewa Valley are struggling with reconciling appearance versus the betterment of the earth. Hanging laundry has been a time-honored tradition for many families, and Coggins hopes it will continue to be a practice well into the future. “Hanging laundry outside reminds people of their parents and grandparents. It gives them a feeling of nostalgia,” she concluded.

What Does Your CO2 Footprint Look Like?

by Abby Czeskleba

These days, it’s difficult to turn on the television without hearing a story about the adverse effects of global warming. Of course, newspapers are no exception. We read new studies and findings about global warming all the time. Meteorologists even use global warming to explain strange seasonal weather patterns. While there’s more than one theory about the cause of global warming, a majority will agree that it is caused by our carbon dioxide emissions. With the whole human race to blame, it’s hard to understand how we as individuals contribute to this problem on a daily basis. If we don’t understand our contribution to global warming, how are we ever going to change? Becoming more aware of the problem will help us all to cut down on the amount of carbon dioxide emissions and teach us how to conserve energy.

America: Leading the Way

Since 1980, residential housing nationwide has increased by 78.6 billion square feet or 2,820 square miles — an area almost three times the size of Rhode Island. A typical American house is an energy guzzler that produces a surprising amount of greenhouse gas. In the last 25 years, the average size of a single-family house — and consequently the amount of space that must be heated, cooled, and lit — has increased from 1,740 square feet to 2,330 square feet. As of 2005, the United States was the largest single emitter of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide makes up more than 80 percent of greenhouse gases that cause global warming. The United States now adds 21 percent more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere annually than in 1990, almost all of it from fossil fuels. Additionally, TVs, computers, stereos, and other electronic devices account for roughly ten percent of all residential electricity in the United States. Sixty percent of that electricity is consumed while the devices are not in use. That amounts to more than 56 million tons of CO2 emitted annually.

You Do the Math

Generating a kilowatt-hour of electricity in the United States (about what an iron uses in an hour) produces 1.64 pounds of carbon dioxide. So the typical household uses enough electricity to add more than 2,000 pounds a month of CO2 to the atmosphere. Most household appliances, except for stoves and dryers, don’t have exhaust pipes. Power plants produce a steady stream of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. For example, a standard refrigerator uses roughly 1,239 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. As a result, 2,032 pounds of carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere. Experts on greenhouse-gas emissions say that every time your car burns a gallon of gasoline, you are putting more than 25 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as well as a smaller amount of methane, nitrous oxide, and various other toxic gases. A single gallon of gasoline weighs only about 6 pounds. Additionally, a new SUV is typically driven 15,000 miles the first year, burns 882 gallons of gas, and produces 22,050 pounds of CO2; whereas a typical midsize car is driven 12,000 miles annually, burns 494 gallons of gas, and produces 12,350 pounds of CO2 .

Solutions for a Better Tomorrow

The good news is that roughly 33 percent of the American production of all greenhouse gases, or the equivalent of 17,422 pounds of CO2 per person, comes from sources under our direct control — for instance, our cars and houses. Cutting that number by half may not entail much pain or inconvenience because we have a tendency to be wasteful with our energy.

There are a number of simple steps we can take to decrease the amount of CO2 we use on a daily basis. The next time you have a barbecue, cook your burgers with propane gas — you’ll only use 5.6 pounds of CO2 per hour as opposed to 11 pounds of CO2 with charcoal briquettes. You can also ask your energy company about switching to a supplier that uses electricity from windmills, small hydroelectric plants, and methane landfills. This small step can remove close to 20,000 pounds of your family’s annual pollution. If you can’t switch your energy supplier, you can add insulation to your house to help cut down on heating and air conditioning bills.

Carbon Dioxide Emissions for the Average U.S. Household
Figures are based on national averages for a 2,000- to 2,500-square-foot house.
Space Heating:
• 54,900 ft3 of natural gas
• 6,643 lbs of CO2
Lighting and Appliances:
• 8,998 kilowatt-hours of electricity
• 14, 757 lbs of CO2
Air Conditioning:
• 2,785 kilowatt-hours of electricity
• 4,566 lbs of CO2
Water Heating:
• 19,700 ft3 of natural gas
• 2,384 lbs of CO2
Source: U. S. Department of Energy, 2001 Residential

Other fun ways to save energy include replacing parts of your lawn with ground cover to decrease the amount of mowing. While mowing the lawn is a great workout, lawn mowers (especially power mowers) produce more carbon dioxide per mile than any car. At work, you can decrease your energy use by using a flat-screen computer monitor. Flat-screens use 50 to 70 percent less energy than older models.

CO2 Emissions & Household Appliances (pounds of CO2 emitted per year):
Television: 196-525 (depending on size of TV)
Dishwasher: 840
Stove: 1,600
Washer: 197
Dryer: 1,770
Microwave: 343
Computer: 430
VCR/DVD player: 90-115
Cell phone: 15
Landline phone: 43
Ceiling fan: 82
Radio/CD player: 74

Perhaps one of the easiest solutions is to install a dozen compact fluorescent light bulbs around your house. This quick and easy step can eliminate 550 pounds of CO2 each year. Perhaps more importantly, the light bulbs would pay back their cost after using them for just three months. The government estimates that if every American home replaced just one light bulb with a florescent light bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 2.5 million homes for a year and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of nearly 800,000 cars. As a means of encouraging people to use more energy efficient lighting, Energy Star is offering coupons for discounts on florescent light bulbs. For more information, visit and click on “Take the Energy Star Change a Light Pledge.”

Finally, you can help decrease the level of CO2 emissions by driving a hybrid or “green” car. Such environmentally friendly cars include the Honda: Insight, Civic Hybrid, Toyota: Prius, Scion XA, Echo, and VW Jetta Diesel. For more information about hybrid cars, visit for comparison information about different car models.

Regardless of whether you change one light bulb or buy a new car, the important part is that you are making a conscious decision to help the environment and shrink your CO2 footprint.

Local Lumber

by Paul Fischer

My Great Uncle Walter was an experienced woodworker, and the first to show me the magic of transforming a rough board with a planer: three razor knives spinning 10,000 rpms to reveal wood grain with fancy names like bird’s eye, blister, curl, dimple, fiddleback, flame, ghost, quilted, spalted, fleck, and ray.

Growing right here in west central Wisconsin are more than 20 species of Northwoods trees such as Maple, Red & White Oak, Ash, Cherry, Black Walnut, Butternut, and Red & White Pine. One could likely get the idea to make something with wood, whether you’re experienced like my great uncle or a novice just starting out. Whatever project you might dream up, acquiring the lumber from a local source can be an adventure, not to mention considerably more affordable.

You might be surprised at how many sawmills there are in the region. You can find them online, or ask the local lumberyards in smaller towns. For the last 12 years I have been using local lumber from multiple sawyers and sawmills. I have met a man who had built a portable sawmill on a 20” I-beam, complete with hydraulic controls. In another case, an older gentleman was sawing wood with a 100-year old iron circular saw mill. His small grey-haired wife quickly and easily threw the newly sawn boards in big piles. I know of a skilled and thoughtful sawyer who charges a very reasonable hourly rate to cut your timber into any dimensions you desire. He also cuts trees into beams and boards to make timber frame homes from local wood. As you tap into local resources, you, too, will surely make many unique and interesting discoveries.

Non-standard lumber cuts can be very artful indeed! I had the great fortune of making a long sideboard bookcase for a customer with Maple that had been horse-logged from their own land. When the boards were milled, some holes drilled for Maple syrup taps were present, and we used them creatively.

I mentioned the affordability of local lumber. Not long ago, after seeing an ad in a local classified, I purchased several 22’ Red Pine trees for $10 each. They were sawn into 6’ x 6’ beams, and I built a large porch with them. Red Pine trees grow pretty straight, and are available from landowners if you inquire.

A portable sawmill and sawyer can be hired. The equipment can be pulled to the site where some trees have been felled, and then sawn into boards. I know one sawyer who charges an hourly rate; but it seems that most bill per board foot. Once wood is milled into boards, it needs to dry to a favorable moisture content to ensure stability.

Using local lumber may require some new tools and the acquisition of new skills – things which should pay for themselves in short order. Knowing exactly where the boards for a project come from is akin to knowing where your food comes from, and goes a long way toward making you feel more connected with your environment and the people in it.

Paul Fischer is a Woodworker who designs Shaker, Arts & Crafts, and Scandinavian inspired projects of all types. He maintains a collection of reclaimed and local lumber in his shop, next door to the 1924 brick schoolhouse that he’s remodeling. Learn more at

Could You Go A Whole Year Buying Nothing New?

November 26 and 27, 2010: Buy Nothing Day (BND) is an international day of protest against consumerism

Every Holiday season Karen Heimdahal used to love to join the throngs of people hitting the stores and sales for that perfect present. But a few years ago, a light bulb went off and she drastically changed her shopping habits. It happened when the financial counselor for Lutheran Social Services of MN saw an increasing number of clients at her job who were paying LARGE credit card bills, accruing lots of debt, and not seeing anything for it. So she turned the lens on her own life. “My first thought was ‘well, I don’t need to do that, I don’t buy much stuff anyway.’ But then I realized that was an excuse.”

So her and her husband, Andy, joined Compact, a growing social movement to buy nothing new for 1 or more years, and haven’t looked back yet. The Compact, named after revolutionaries who sailed the Mayflower, started in 2004 with a San Francisco dinner party that decided they were going to organize themselves and dedicate their lives to one year of living more simply. They pledged not to buy anything new (almost) for an entire year. The only new products allowed were food and bare necessities for health and safety (think toilet paper, medicine, brake fluid and underwear). That year, their idea made big waves. Publications from Yoga Times to Martha Stewart’s Body + Soul to the London Times picked up on the story, and even Oprah’s producers called. The media attention almost created a backlash against the movement, to which original Compactor Shawn Rosenmoss replied, “I think it upsets people because it seems like we’re making a value judgment about them, when we’re simply trying to bring less…into our house.” In one year, the group attracted 1,800 people to their Yahoo! group and spawned SubCompact cells operating across the country.

“The Compact” Yahoo Group lists these items as their aims:

  • To go beyond recycling in trying to counteract the negative lobal environmental and socioeconomic impacts of disposable consumer culture and to support local businesses, farms, etc. — a step that, we hope, inherits the revolutionary impulse of the Mayflower Compact. To reduce clutter and waste in our homes (as in trash Compact-er).

To simplify our lives (as in Calm-pact) the group follows two principles:

  1. Don’t buy new products of any kind (from stores, web sites, etc.).
  2. Borrow, barter, or buy used. Exceptions, such as medicine, utilitarian services, and underwear are detailed on The Compact’s blog.

“I wasn’t sure she was going to be able to follow through,” said Karen’s husband, Andy. “In this consumer-driven society it seemed like a nearly impossible task.” It hasn’t been easy, but Karen’s dedication has impressed her friends and family. Some have said because of Karen and Andy’s commitment, they themselves have changed the way they buy – like saying no to plastic bags or thinking twice before buying something they really wanted rather than needed. Karen also says it’s taught her more patience and how to slow down, which she likes.

Sure the patience and persistence of finding great gifts takes a little more planning and creativity, but it’s completely worth it. “New to you” shows your loved ones they really are worth the effort.

Today, the group’s blog has links for nearly every state in the country, where you can join a local Compact movement or start your own. “We didn’t do this to save the world. We did this to improve the quality of our own lives,” says John Perry, another original Compactor. And that spirit of less is more still lives on, quite heartily, too. Books, films, and blogs documenting a year of buying nothing new have sprung up like weeds in a spring garden all across the globe. Think you’re up for the challenge? You can check out the 2010 yahoo group and find out lots more. Most assuredly, another yahoo group will be created for 2011 Compactors. Wouldn’t that be quite the New Year’s Resolution?

Doing More with Less

Maybe you’re not quite ready to join the Compact, but how about making a few adjustments to reduce the commercial influence/reliance in your home? We found these simple living tips from the Country Lore department at Mother Earth News and just had to share them with you.

Mosquito Control
Have a puddle, rain barrel, pond, or stock tank where mosquitoes seem to breed year after year? Stock it with goldfish, which thrive on mosquitoes and their larvae. They’ll also help control algae levels in the water. In our climate, you might want to rescue your goldfish from the water before it freezes, give them an indoor tank for the winter, and then send them out again once bugs are back in season.

Winter Squash Life
Now that you’ve got that yummy squash down in your basement or cellar, you want it to last through the winter, right? To extend its life, dip the stem in melted beeswax or paraffin. If the stem is broken off (making the squash prone to early rot), apply wax to the scar to make the veggie less likely to spoil.

Signature Seasoning
This simple recipe for herbal seasoning can replace the expensive blends you buy at the store – and makes for a great grilling gift. Mix 5 tablespoons of salt with 2 teaspoons each of the following: onion powder, garlic powder, celery seed, parsley, basil, oregano, basil, thyme and marjoram. Mix together before putting into a shaker bottle with large holes.

Repurposed Dishwasher Racks
Here’s a great alternative to the often cheap or quick-to-rust dish-drying racks: use the old dish racks from discarded dishwashers. They’re big enough to hold pots and pans and are sturdier and more corrosion resistant than what you can normally get. Drying cutlery in the silverware basket from the dishwasher is also a clever step. Find old racks at a dump or recycling centers that accept appliances. Take end caps off the metal tracks, slide the rack out, remove the wheels and voilà.

Watch the Kitchen Waste
Studies from 2009 show most people waste about 15% of the food that goes through their kitchen. To minimize the waste, use leftovers by combining them into wraps, omelets, soups, and casseroles. Make smoothies from fruit and veggies that are almost overripe. Bananas can be frozen, apples can be turned to applesauce, spinach and cabbage can be cooked up, etc. Make your own broth from meat and veggie trimmings and freeze for future use. Freeze stale bread and hard crusts for future use in bread pudding, bread crumbs, or French bread. And clean the fridge once a week so you have a more active awareness of what’s really in there.

Resources to help you on your compact journey is where you can swap books, cds, movies and video games for free! Swapping saves you money and saves the planet (member swaps: 1.7 million | member savings: $11.1 million | reduced carbon footprint: 10.0 million lbs.)
This is the San Francisco Really Really Free Market website, but there are suggestions and ideas for starting your own in your community.
Quit throwing stuff away and give it to someone who can use it instead. The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 4,852 groups with 7,584,213 members across the globe. It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns and thus keeping good stuff out of landfills. Membership is free, and everything posted must be FREE, legal and appropriate for all ages. There are all sorts of local yahoo freecycle groups. To find one nearest you, search your location on the main website (listed above) and follow the steps to joining your own local freecycle group.
Let your fingers do the thrifting!  A National Directory of charity-driven thrift stores by city, state and zip code. They have a wopping listing of 9589 stores so far and it’s growing.
This is a virtual mall of kids stuff.  From clothing to strollers to diapering it has loads to swap.  When you sign up you get zoints and you use these as your currency when you want to send off stuff to someone else who can use it. There is even a FedEx and UPS tool that lets you print prepaid and preaddressed labels.
Author and filmmaker Colin Beavan blogs about what we can do to “end our environmental crisis, make a better place to live for ourselves and everyone else, and hopefully come up with a happier way of life along the way.” And it’s not the kind of stuff that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and worthless.

Green E-Waste Options Abound

By Chris Solberg, One Source Imaging | Did you recently acquire a new computer, monitor, television, cell phone, mp3 player, printer, inkjet cartridge, toner cartridge? Is your old one sitting in the garage or cluttering up your closet?

With all this clutter, you may be tempted to simply throw it out with your garbage. However, there are many easy re-use and recycling options that keep this dangerous waste out of our landfills. And unlike several years ago, many times recycling is free – or even beneficial to others!
Electronic waste (commonly called e-waste) contains many materials that threaten our water supply and other natural resources when discarded improperly.

For instance, computers may contain lead in circuit board connections, beryllium in the mother board, lithium in on-board batteries, flame retardants in the case, chromium and cadmium in plating, PVC in the cabling, and PCBs in lubricants or coolants.

In addition, computers, cell phones, and other devices contain precious metals such as gold. This material can be reclaimed and re-used, preserving the resource and lowering the need for additional mining. For instance, the EPA states that reclaiming the gold in just one cell phone keeps 120 pounds of soil, sand, and rock from having to be moved, mined, and processed.

Let’s take a look at some re-use and recycling options for some commonly discarded types of electronic waste.

Cell Phones

According to INFORM, the average adult couple has about 5 cell phones, including retired phones that are collecting dust. About 130 million phones will be retired this year, which means that (using the EPA statistic above) recycling those phones would prevent the mining and processing of 15 billion pounds of soil, sand, and rock. That’s a huge collective difference!

Cell phones can be recycled for free at most cell phone providers. Even better, many organizations collect these items and receive a small amount of money for them.

Several local elementary schools collect cell phones and printer cartridges and recycle them through One Source Imaging’s fundraising programs. Another option for cell phones is to donate them to, which is able to donate an hour of talk time to soldiers abroad for each cell phone collected. According to their site, in 2008 they provided 12 million minutes of prepaid calling cards to soldiers.

Computers & Monitors

Over 40 million used computers were discarded in 2007 (the latest year for which statistics are available), and another 107 million computers and monitors are still in storage. Of those computers disposed of, only 18% were recycled or re-used – the remainders were simply sent to the landfill.

If you upgrade frequently, call your favorite nonprofit organization and ask if they have a need for your newer or lightly used equipment. Many organizations rely on and are excited to receive these donations. If your equipment is too old to donate (like that 15-year-old hunk of junk stored in the garage), recycle it.

It used to cost a lot of money to recycle this old equipment. Now many places will accept computers and printers for free, and monitors for $10 or less. Regardless of whether you donate or recycle, it is wise to remove your personal information from the hard drive first.

Inkjet & Toner Cartridges

The most prevalent of all e-waste, these little cartridges have a huge collective impact when discarded. Over 300 million cartridges are purchased each year, and 85% are simply thrown in the garbage. Over 3-1/2 quarts of oil is needed to manufacture a laser cartridge – meaning that more oil is “thrown away” each year than the 10 million gallons the Exxon Valdez spilled in 1989!

Having your inkjet and toner cartridges refilled or remanufactured by a local provider is the friendliest option for the environment. Not only does reusing a cartridge conserve the oil otherwise needed to produce a new one, but working locally also ensures a more local recycling loop, reducing the carbon footprint of your recycling efforts.

When a used cartridge is returned to us, it is inspected for possible re-use. In general terms, if it passes the inspection, it is disassembled, cleaned, refurbished by replacing worn parts, filled with new ink or toner, and tested before being sold back to the customer. Cartridges that fail inspection can be separated into their separate components for recycling, and the plastic shell can be ground and used in other products such as park benches.

The Bottom Line

Remember, it is most effective to find new uses for your unwanted items, and then recycle them when they are no longer useful to anyone. With so many easy and inexpensive ways to reduce and re-use our e-waste, there is no need to send it to a landfill. By applying these same principles to all of our waste, together we can make a huge difference.

Chris Solberg is President of One Source Imaging, an Eau Claire business that specializes in eco-friendly re-manufactured laser and inkjet cartridges. One Source Imaging and its customers have saved 11,500 inkjet and 4,300 laser cartridges from landfills in the last 12 months. That’s 16,200 pounds of plastic and metal, and 6,500 gallons of oil conserved in just one year!