A few weeks ago, I asked my husband to buy a retractable clothesline to set up in our backyard. I wanted to see if 1) it would dry clothes easily and 2) if I would actually enjoy using it. Both turned out to be true. If it's hot and/or windy, clothes dry in about 30 minutes--faster than my dryer could do it. And, I enjoy the sensation of being outside, hanging clothes and being in my garden. My kids (so far) love the novelty of the clothesline and are always eager to help me hang clothes up or take them down.
Of course, there are all the other benefits: saving money, saving energy and the disinfecting effect of the sun.
My husband must have noticed how well the sunshine dried the clothes, because this week, a contractor is coming to install a solar water heating system. By the end of July, we will have a panel that collects heat on our roof from the sun and will provide us with hot water heating about 2/3 of the time. Because of generous state and federal tax credits and incentives, about 55 percent of the system will be paid for--we will only be out of pocket about $3,400. The system will pay for itself (I've been told) in about 5 years. It may even pay off faster, since we have three pre-adolescent children who have yet to go through the frequent and long-lasting shower years.
The City of Portland, the Energy Trust of Oregon and Solar Oregon have teamed up to put on the Solar Now campaign, which provides workshops, information and expert advice for businesses and homes going solar. Apparently, Oregon is a good state for solar energy, even on the rainy west side. Solar Now is an attempt to jump-start solar energy in the state at a critical time.
One solar hot water system and one clothesline aren't a big deal, I know. But many people doing small things can make a big difference. Wal-Mart's figured this out and California has too. Now, with the Solar Now campaign, maybe Oregon will too.