Category Archives: pricing

Drying Clothes on a Clothesline

 

Hanging Clothes on the Line

My towels hanging on the line
My towels hanging on the line

About two months ago I decided to spring for a clothesline.I wondered why we continued to use the old dryer in our rental when it has been so hot in the summer heat outside it felt like stepping into a dryer. Surprisingly, at one of those big home improvement stores I was able to find an inexpensive umbrella-style clothesline that was easy to install along with extra clothes pins. My mother used to hang clothes out on the line when I was growing up, so a few tips somehow stayed with me all these years. I will share with you a few reasons why you should try it, and a few tips on successful line drying.

Why Hang Clothes on the Line?

1. Energy savings. The sun is free and the dryer is a hog. I’ve found that in the 1 ½- 2 hours it took our dryer to dry a big load of towels, a warm sunny day dried them in the same amount of time.

2. Easy. Is it really easy to hang things on the line? It is. Truly. I find it relaxing and it only takes a few minutes to hang an entire load. A few free minutes of outdoor time can be relaxing. The way they look as they blow on the line is beautiful. I like to sneak between the damp clothes for a moment and pretend I am in a fort where no energy bill can get me.

3. Revolutionary. Instead of buying the newest, energy star product (hey, I love energy star appliances) this technique is ancient, free, and makes a statement that you don’t need to rely on energy to do everything.

4. Smell. Clothes on the line smell amazing. The way they look as they blow in the wind, and the fresh, clean, beautiful feeling is unmatchable. I dried my bed sheets and quilt on the line today and can’t wait to get in to my fresh, nice bed.

 

Tips on Line Hanging Success

1. Pin the clothes, towels, etc. with a tiny about of overhang on the line so you don’t get clothespins marks.

2. Most items of clothing hang better “upside down”, like pants, (hang them by the ankles instead of the waistband) or shirts (so you don’t get weird little marks on your shoulders from where the clothespins were). If you decide to hang your undergarments on the line, you can hang them on the inside so the neighbors don’t see.

3. Check the weather forecast. Enough said.

4. Hang things with space between them for air, and hang all things without an overlap so they dry faster.

5.Some things get kinda “crunchy” on the line, like towels. I feel like they give me extra exfoliation after my shower, and are super absorbent. If you don’t want the extra texture, some vinegar in the rise cycle is said to help alleviate the crunch and won’t smell after the clothes are dry. I have found that if you watch them, and take them down as soon as they dry, the likelihood of crunch is lower. Also, on a breezy day there is less likely to be roughness.

6. Some of the best and easiest things to hang on the line are towels and sheets. Even reducing a few loads of laundry a month is still so significant.

7. Check your homeowner’s association about whether or not they allow clotheslines. Ours (I kid you not) allow us to hang on a clothesline every day but Sunday (no, this isn’t the town from Footloose or a strange Puritan recreation village; that’s just what it says.) If you don’t have a yard, there are lots of indoor ways to hang clothes, too. From indoor clotheslines to foldaway racks. The benefit of hanging clothes indoors in the winter is that is also boosts the humidity in the house when it can get so dry.

 

I have really enjoyed the Zen-like activity of hanging clothes on the line. I also enjoy finding an activity that can cut down on utility costs, connect me to the past, and also become a statement of how I choose to use my energy. Instead of shoveling my wash into the dryer, I spend a few minutes outside, more observant of my surroundings. It forces me to pay attention to the wind, the air, the weather, and it rewards me with fresh smelling laundry that was dried for free.

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Clean Energy Stalled?

IEA Tracking Clean Energy Progress 2013“… the average unit of energy produced today is basically as dirty as it was 20 years ago,” says the International Energy Agency (IEA),

IEA released an annual report, Tracking Clean Energy Progress 2013. The 154-page report recommendations stress “that the true cost of energy must be reflected in consumer prices, through carbon pricing and the phase-out of fossil-fuel subsidies. Technologies like electric vehicles, wind and solar will need support for several years more, but policies should be flexible and transparent. More stringent and broader energy performance standards, building codes and fuel economy standards can drive energy efficiency.”

IEA asserts that stark messages emerge:

  • progress has not been fast enough
  • large market failures are preventing clean energy solutions from being taken up
  • considerable energy-efficiency potential remains untapped
  • policies need to better address the energy system as a whole
  • energy-related research, development and demonstration need to accelerate

The silver lining is that the uses of solar photovoltaic, wind, and advanced vehicle technologies (especially hybrid-electric and electric vehicles) are growing. Still, very few regions have comprehensive fuel economy measures in place, says IEA. Also, while the U.S. uses less coal than before, other countries use more.

You can dive into the specifics with visualization tools on the IEA site.

How does this affect consumers? IEA encourages governments to reflect the true cost of energy in consumer prices. Without a doubt this would mean higher prices. Still, shouldn’t the true cost of things be reflected in the price tags?

My takeaway from the report is that governments need to start doing more towards lowering carbon emissions. And consumers need to accept — or better yet demand — change. Are you willing to pay more and use less to help delay global warming? Are you willing to tell your government to move faster on clean energy initiatives?

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Going Once, Going Twice … Sold to the Highest Polluter! Carbon Credits in California

Los Angeles has for decades been plagued with poor air quality, a result of its particular geographic circumstances, weather, and rapid population growth. Other California areas have also experienced reduction in air quality. With much controversy, California recently held an auction of greenhouse gas pollution credits. The auction represents the first of its type in the U.S. and is an attempt to establish the economic value of pollution by selling what are known in the industry as “carbon allowances.” The effort falls under California’s cap-and-trade system that establishes a ceiling for the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, and lowers each year. Those that emit such gasses at high levels in the state must have permits, or “allowances” that give companies permission for those emissions.

The idea is not new – the European Union Emissions Trading System  was set up in 2005 and now involves 11,000 power stations and industrial plants in 30 countries. According to the European Commission, In 2020 emissions will be 21% lower than in 2005. However, the system is running into opposition from other countries as the EU tries to tax non-EU international airlines for carbon emissions, so much so that the EU just postponed implementation of the scheme.

As expected, there is disagreement over whether these emission trading systems are the best way to reduce pollution. Some assert that it is high time society defines economic costs of pollution while others claim it is nothing but another unreasonable tax on businesses. According to the San Jose Mercury, the rules affect 360 business operating in 600 facilities; large establishments including oil refineries, power plants, food processors, and factories.

The state, through the California Air Resources Board sold all of the 23.1 million pollution credits, at $10.09 per ton, 9 cents above the minimum price.

Graphic Source: KQED

What does all this mean for the average California consumer or any consumer in other states (or anywhere)? If California were a country it would be one of the world’s ten largest economies; so what it does has affects on the entire U.S., if not the world. Clearly, companies in the state that emit the most pollutants have to consider the costs of that pollution. But is the price right? How does society place a price on harmful emissions? Will the system have its intended consequences of encouraging the state’s largest polluters to reduce their emissions or will the result simply be the same amount of pollution with higher prices from the pollution credits passed to consumers? Time will tell, yet the effort is laudable. To be sustainable and for our actions to have the least affect on the earth, our economies must incorporate the true costs of pollution. The challenge is doing so fairly and in a way that results in intended consequences. California’s effort could be a model for the rest of the U.S. if it works. Or it could send us back to the drawing board. Either way, at least the golden state is taking action and trying something.

UPDATE on May 23, 2013: California Carbon Price Hits Record High

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Benefits of Buying Local: Our Weekend Away

Ron and I went on a weekend away in Harrisonburg, Virginia after original plans went askew. Although we did not plan it this way, we sure did a lot of local buying on our mini weekend getaway. We stayed at a privately owned cabin (The Dry River Cabin http://www.vrbo.com/391297 ) and instead of talking with a woman behind the counter of a corporately owned hotel, we were greeted by the owner of the cabin, who had already gotten the fire in the fireplace started, and wanted to make sure we had a nice weekend. It was also so much cheaper than some hotel somewhere… or rather, the hotel would could have gotten for the price of the cabin would not be the type of hotel we’d WANT to relax in. Our cabin was comfy, one of a kind, and just the beginning of supporting local spending.

Our cabin had a full kitchen, and so we headed off to the farmer’s market to get a few things (http://harrisonburgfarmersmarket.com/ ). We were both surprised that in January, in Virginia, the farmer’s market was bustling with good stuff. Locally made raw-milk cheeses (my favorite), vegan lentil soup, and all those good earthy vegetables like radish, carrots, potatoes, and onions abound. I love Farmers Markets because you can ask questions (“What’s a kohlrabi? How do you cook it?”) straight to the farmers and producers. These farmers were bundled up on this frosty day, but there was loads of different things to buy, and everyone seemed to be in a great mood. Sometimes living in the Washington D.C. Area can get a person a little entitled, believing their particular area is where progress of the nation is, but I’ve got to say- their farmer’s market in January sure beat anything local in my area! After picking up the cheese, and soup, we also took home some sprouted grain bread, a sinful pecan bar, free range eggs, blackberry jam, potatoes, carrots, and onions. By buying these things locally, we were able to give the money straight to the producer of the goods, and getting the food local means fresher, healthier, and better food. Plus, it’s just plain old more fun than the grocery store. The local restaurant co-op that we only had the pleasure of one meal at had many items on the menu from local farms, plus a great vegetarian menu that made us both wish we could have had more meals there (http://littlegrillcollective.com/ ). A restaurant co-op means those who work in the restaurant own it, and the giant tip jar on the counter means the money is shared with everyone.

Later we stumbled upon a historical mill (http://silverlakemill.com/ )which had a gift shop with local artisan work. I brought home a rug made on a hand-loom from an 86 year old local woman who has been weaving since she was a child. The kicker is that it really wasn’t too much more expensive than its over-seas mass produced counterpart. I have to admit that I am an antique junkie and hardly a shop passed without at least a browse while we were there. The items I have in my house that always get the most comments are the antiques that I’ve found either at antique, or thrift shops. Antiques are great because they hold nostalgia, can be inexpensive depending on your fancy, create no carbon footprint as they are already produced, and its like a treasure hunt finding them. I walked in to The Pottery Barn the other day and could not believe the items that were meant to look like antiques that were more expensive than the actual antique, produced in China, and anyone could pick one up! Antique shops are independently owned, and your money goes straight to the seller. We stopped by a local winery (the third oldest in the state) (www.shentel.net/shenvine/) and it ended a perfect weekend of mindful spending.

A vacation (even a weekend away) is an opportunity to vote with your wallet. Instead of chain restaurants and grocery stores, we chose the farmers market, and individually owned restaurants and hotels. Instead of major retailers, we bought our souvenirs from local artists and antique shops. Shopping local makes sense for the economy, and it makes sense for the purchaser: many options were cheaper than their counterpart, and the money supported what we believed in. A few hundred dollars spent in corporations means little, but a few hundred dollars in to the local economy is truly tangible to the people who live there. Remember that every dollar spent is vote towards what we as consumers agree with.

 

*none of these places payed us to write about them in this article, nor is this really meant to be a commercial to any place in particular, I just included them because I enjoyed them. Local, wonderful shops with these values are everywhere, you just need to seek them out.

 

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Green Options Shouldn’t be Higher Priced than the Alternatives

Yesterday Sara and I were shopping at the grocery store and one of the things we needed was glass cleaner. Normally I grab the lowest price alternative for an item such as this. However, some labeling pulled my eyes to green alternatives. In some, vinegar is the main ingredient rather than ammonia and chemicals. There were some cleaners from “eco=friendly” companies. But for the same size the cost range was 100 percent different. The least expensive was the store generic brand copycat of the standard blue glass cleaner while the most expensive was the one from the eco-friendly company. I settled on the vinegar-based alternative of one of the leading brands. It’s cost was only 10% higher than the lowest.

But I was irritated in the store. People WANT to use green products, however studies show a much lower proportion actually BUY green alternatives. In one research study, while 40% of consumers indicated they are willing to purchase green products, only 4% of them actually do when given the choice. Well, no wonder; so many are priced higher than the alternatives — and not by a little in many cases. The same study showed 3 of 5 consumers think environmentally friendly alternatives are too expensive. You want organic? Eco-friendly? Fuel efficient? Less packaging? Pay up. It’s as if those pricing products think green is a category about which only the wealthy care.

Of course there are economics involved affecting the product lifecycle. Lower costs can lead to lower prices. Efficiencies in manufacturing the old ways are inherent. Green products might use ingredients that are more expensive. But always? I doubt it. Instead, it seems buyers accept the higher prices so those selling have no motivation to adjust. Relatively low demand for green alternatives might be driven by price differences, especially in this economy.

Back to my glass cleaner experience, perhaps using good old Windex would be fine. SC Johnson claims to now make its Windex glass cleaner with 83% fewer VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Like many companies it has a sustainability initiative that includes a process to classify ingredients based on their affects on health and the environment. Or I could make my own glass cleaner from water, vinegar, and rubbing alcohol.

Sustainability initiatives and green alternatives are meaningful. In addition, manufacturers would be wise to evaluate the longer term effects of their eco-friendly product pricing, considering that more sales and product success will result, at least in part, from a broader consumer base. As long as green alternatives cost more, people will use them less.

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