Thursday, March 19, 2009

Giving Up Lint for Lent


My passion for repurposing dryer lint – aka “Cheapskate’s Velvet” - is a matter of public record. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMtOYL42ttY ) In fact after looking in the mirror this morning and marveling at the rate at which my hairline is receding, I’ve decided to fast-track my latest repurposing experiment involving dryer lint. Yep, I’m trying to fashion a toupee out of the stuff. The prototypes have been very encouraging: They look preposterous, which is apparently the industry standard for toupees. At least mine isn’t going to cost me anything.

Well, as I’ve written before, maybe dryer lint really isn’t free. You can even argue that ounce for ounce it’s truly a precious commodity. You see, dryer lint represents the life of your clothing being cooked and beaten out of them by an electric or gas dryer. That – and the waste of energy used by the machine – is why I’m encouraging folks to forsake their electric dryers and hang their clothes out to dry, at least during Lent. Let’s give up lint for Lent, shall we?

In my experience, gently washing your clothes in cold water and drying them on a clothesline instead of shaking-and-baking them in an electric dryer can as much as double the lifespan of many apparel items. Theoretically, that means you could cut your spending on clothing in half just by being careful about washing and line-drying them instead of using a machine. Given that the average American family spends about $1,800 a year on clothing (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cesan.nr0.htm), that $900 savings over, say, thirty years with a compounded interest rate of five percent could build you nice little nest egg of close to $70,000. And that’s before factoring in the additional savings on energy and appliance costs when you line-dry instead of use a machine.

Of course all that depends on your willingness to be a trendsetter and actually wear your clothes until they’re worn out. I heard recently that only a small percentage (I think it was less than five percent) of clothing that we throw away in the U.S. is truly “worn out.” The vast majority of the clothing that we throw away is simply something we no longer want or that no longer fits, and we don’t take the time to pass it along to someone else who will wear it.

Someday, I want to live in a world where a frayed cuff or a gravy stain on a necktie isn’t an embarrassment, but rather a point of personal pride; a public proclamation that someone is committed to getting the maximum life out of their clothing, and is too self-confident to let some snobbish fashionista shame them into wasting the Earth’s resources and their own hard earned money. Of course, if that day ever comes, a small part of me will miss the surplus dryer lint.

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posted by Jeff Yeager at 2:43 AM 8 comments

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