Clothes dryers are an incredibly inefficient use of electricity. The typical dryer uses in the neighborhood of 5 kWhs of electricity, even energy efficient dryers use at best around 2 kWhs during their dry cycle. (To put that in some perspective, that’s the same amount of energy as a 100 watt incandescent bulb uses in 20 hours – or in the case of my 9 watt LED light bulbs, 220 hours!) In fact, running a clothes dryer uses more energy than any other appliance in a typical American household. That’s a lot of energy just to spin some hot air around.
These days, what with cloth diapering Cheeks McGee, I’m doing a load of laundry about every other day – 4 loads a week, we’ll say. And living in an apartment, we pay $1.50 for each cycle. Which means that if we were drying all of those loads, it would tack an additional $24 onto our expenses each month. That’s $312 a year.
So in the interest of saving energy and money, we hang dry our clothes. As I’ve written about before, in the summer heat and sun, our laundry is dry within a few hours. Now that the winter has firmly decided it’s here, we continue to hang dry our laundry, but now we hang it indoors. The shared basement laundry room in our apartment complex already had clothes lines, but in the past we’ve used a folding drying rack, the backs of chairs, the shower curtain rod, and basically anywhere else we could possibly hang a piece of clothing. It does take more than 3 hours for our laundry to be dry, but never longer than 24 hours. I bet aside from sweatshirts, most of it would be dry by morning if they hung over night. And running your clothing through the spin cycle can be really hard on it, so by hang drying we get more life out of our clothing as well.
Yes, we have to think ahead more than 2 hours if we want to wear something that is currently dirty. But right now, with the frequency we are doing laundry, that hasn’t been an issue. And in a clothing emergency, the dryer is still right there.
I am so excited to own property. I am excited both to indulge my house decorating dreams, and also to invest in a living space that is focused on efficiency and sustainability. I have been excited for this prospect for years, but it hasn’t been in the cards yet. Husby and I are hoping to make an investment in this direction in the next year, but for the past 3 we’ve been happily apartment living. And we’ve been seizing on every opportunity to decrease our negative impact on the earth and increase our positive impact in our small rental space.
While living in a rental unit there are obviously quite a few limitations to our control over our environment. We don’t get a say in how our apartment is heated, or how the water is heated, the quality of the insulation or of our windows, or what materials are used to make improvements or replacements. With limited ability to make an impact in so many of the heavy hitting areas of our living space, we try to so what we can in all of the areas we can control, hoping that the accumulations of our smaller actions will add up.
One of the great features of our apartment we basically lucked into because of what was available at the time. We have fabulous southern and western exposure, and living on the top floor (out of 4) puts us higher than the neighboring buildings. Our windows and high position allow us to take advantage of wonderful sunlight, reducing our reliance on electricity for lighting. In the winter our large windows allow us to take advantage of heat from the sun. This reduces our need to supplement our heat via gas fireplace in an otherwise rather chilly apartment. In the summer our high position means that we get a pretty decent cross-breeze through open windows, keeping our home a bit cooler than it might otherwise be.
We have been making many other “green” lifestyle choices as renters. We put plastic on our windows in the winter, we unplug unused electronics, we recycle as much as we can, we compost, we support renewable energy, use homemade cleaning solutions, spend our grocery money on organic produce and sustainable, humanely raised meat, buy dry goods in bulk, and reuse often.
I hope to write about many of these topics more in depth in the next few weeks. I think there are never enough resources out there for people interested in improving their impact. Husby and I are always looking for more ways to align our lifestyle with our values and morals, so I’m happy to share what we do with others that feel the same way.