Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of August 22, 2005
Let's bring back the clothesline
Save energy by returning to traditional ways to beat the heat
By SUZANNE ELSTON
The Ontario heat wave continues. After weeks of record high temperatures and electricity consumption, the province's energy and water resources are being stretched to the breaking point.
Conservation efforts, once the trademark of the environmentally aware, have become a critical necessity.
Daily bulletins from the province's energy managers remind us that we have to either learn to conserve or face energy brownouts and blackouts (in other words, boil in the dark.)
Live better naturally
The problem is, most of us don't have a clue what to do. Abundant, cheap energy has been available for so long, our society has literally eliminated many of the institutions that once helped meet our needs without having to "live better electrically."
Take the lowly clothesline. When my parents moved to Ontario in 1964, they proudly bought a new house in one of Toronto's first "wireless" subdivisions, Bridlewood.
The family clothesline was also outlawed. While Bridlewood was only one subdivision, its ban on clotheslines marked the beginning of the end for a simple, energy efficient way to dry clothes that had previously existed for centuries. Today, a "No clothesline" clause is standard in most new subdivision contracts.
Therefore, Item 1 on the energy conservation list is to use a clothesline. Clothes dryers are one of the largest single users of electricity in the home (somewhere behind air conditioners, refrigerators and water heaters). On a hot summer day, clothes dry far faster hanging on a clothesline than they do in the dryer and they smell better, too. In addition to the direct energy saved, not using the dryer reduces the need for air conditioning.
Which leads me to Item 2. Thanks to the newest generation of laundry detergents, there is no longer any need to use hot (or even warm water) to wash clothes. Switching to cold water has not only saved energy and money in my house, but it has been another way to effectively reduce the need for air conditioning. (A large tub of hot water swishing around for 20 minutes or so can definitely heat up a room.)
Item 3: Slow-moving ceiling fans, another great institution of the by-gone era, are actually more effective at cooling the air than high-speed (hence higher energy consuming) fans. Most home improvements centres stock a variety of ceiling fans that are attractive, reasonably priced and relatively easy to install.
Blinds and shades collectively hit my list as Item 4. Sunscreen blinds can reduce the sun's heat and glare by 50 to 85 per cent, thereby dramatically reducing the need for air conditioning.
Which leads to another interesting point. In climates consistently much hotter than our own, air conditioning rarely exists.
A vote for sweat
When the weather gets hot, people slow down. If it gets too hot, people take siestas. They wear cool cotton clothing, drink lots of water and rely on slow moving fans (see Item 3) to help move the air and evaporate our body's natural defence against the heat: perspiration.
Unfortunately, like so many other natural body functions, perspiration has become vilified in our society. I'm not talking about offensive body odour here, but rather the stuff Dr. George Sheehan once referred to as "honest sweat." Sadly, the marketing geniuses at various multinational cosmetic corporations have turned this most basic of bodily functions into a million dollar sales opportunity. That is unless you choose to sweat in your health club's sauna or steam room, and then it becomes another energy consuming luxury.
Which leads to my final point. In less than a few decades, air conditioning has shifted from being a luxury item to a necessity. To quote the Doobie Brothers, "What were once vices are now habits." Everything, from our houses and cars to our workplaces, play places and shopping places, is now air-conditioned.
The result is we are no longer able to cope with heat. We need air conditioning to survive, which increases our need for electricity, thereby adding to the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, which exacerbates global warming.
For information on what Canada is doing to combat climate change, visit www.climatechange.gc.ca.
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