Vermonters Free to Air Their Clean Laundry

Lyman Orton aligns “Right to Dry” law with inclusive, thrifty small-town character

For Immediate Release
June 15, 2009

Middlebury, VT — Vermonters have long been known for their frugality, independence and common sense. More recently, residents have garnered a reputation for environmental consciousness and sustainability. All of these values have come to the fore in the “Right to Dry” provision recently passed by the Vermont legislature and spearheaded by Orton Family Foundation founder Lyman Orton.

Lyman_RighttoDry_232x288.jpgLyman Orton speaks on behalf of
the “Right to Dry” campaign at the
Statehouse in Montpelier, VT.

Thanks to the new law, all residents in the State now have the right to dry their laundry on a clothesline—a right that, until last month, was prohibited by some condominium associations and housing complexes. Considering the significant energy consumption of a domestic dryer—which can account for more than 15 percent of a household’s energy bill—this simple measure has the potential to make a big impact.

Orton, who is also proprietor of the Vermont Country Store, joined supporters on the Statehouse lawn in Montpelier June 4th to celebrate the victory. “There is nothing more consistent with [a Vermonter’s] heritage of practicality, frugality and common sense than hanging laundry on a clothesline and allowing nature to dry it with zero use of energy,” Orton said in his testimony to the legislature.
But beyond the energy savings at stake, Orton believes the use of a clothesline also speaks to how we, as Vermonters, choose to live and what kind of society we want to be a part of. “It’s about our heritage, our culture and our social interaction,” said Orton. “We pride ourselves on small town character,” he said. “We don’t live exclusively; we live inclusively, and that means airing our clean and dirty laundry.”

Orton collaborated with Project Laundry List to organize the celebration at the Statehouse. The organization’s Founder and Executive Director, Alexander Lee, who has supported the issue since 1995, said opposition seems to be rooted in concerns that line-drying laundry reduces property values. While Lee admits outside drying could pose problems for people with allergies or large families, he sees this legislation as a definitive milestone in the nationwide campaign. “We call on every American to support this basic right to dry,” said Lee, “and we’re excited that Vermont is playing a critical role.”

Orton summed up Vermonters’ support of their “right to dry” in an editorial in the Vermont Country Store’s fall 2008 catalog: “Do my ‘tighty whities’ hanging on the line really shock and embarrass anyone? Well, certainly not in Vermont!”

The Orton Family Foundation, based in Middlebury, Vermont, and Denver, Colorado, seeks to help small cities and towns discover and describe their heart and soul—the collective attributes that make communities unique—and build on those attributes in planning toward a vibrant, enduring future.

For More Information Contact:
John Barstow, Director of Communications
The Orton Family Foundation
PO Box 111
Middlebury, VT 05753