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Published: Sep 24, 2015 4 min read
Housing development near Dublin, California
Jamie Kripke—Getty Images

Californians are famously concerned about the environment. Just look at the cars people drive, which tend to be far greener and more fuel-efficient—and more likely to run on electricity rather than gas—than in other parts of the country.

For a while, nearly half of all Teslas were purchased in California, and the state's best-selling auto model was the Toyota Prius. Four out of the top 10 U.S. markets for sales of the Nissan Leaf are in California, too. California's notoriously high gas prices only explain part of the reason why drivers in the state prefer vehicles that cause less impact on the environment. These cars are also popular because drivers care about the environment. The importance of both going green and saving money are also at the heart of why lawns and pools are disappearing in drought-plagued California.

Yet for decades in parts of California, one of the greenest, simplest practices common throughout human history has been banned. We're talking about hanging your clothes out to dry on a clothesline. California's gated communities, mobile home parks, condos, and assisted-living retirement neighborhoods alike have all been known to ban clotheslines, the Los Angeles Times has reported.

Many homeowner associations ban clotheslines largely because of the idea that they're unsightly and hurt property values. Over the years, the assumption that clotheslines are ugly has been challenged, and a "Right to Dry" movement has spread throughout the U.S. Activists argue that using Mother Nature rather than the household dryer to dry one's clothes saves money and is good for the environment because it conserves electricity and energy. It makes clothes last longer too. One filmmaker even produced a movie about the issue, the 2012 documentary "Drying for Freedom."

States such as Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Maine, and Vermont have recently passed legislation that ban municipalities and neighborhood associations from banning clotheslines. And now it looks like California will be joining their ranks.

Earlier this year, Assembly Bill 1448 was introduced into the California legislature requiring "a landlord to permit a tenant to utilize a clothesline or drying rack," and making any provision "void and unenforceable" if it "prohibits or unreasonably restricts the use of a clothesline or a drying rack." The bill passed in the state senate, and it's now awaiting the signature of Gov. Jerry Brown.

“It’s not that people will stop using the dryer," Nicole Capretz, executive director of Climate Action Campaign, a San Diego nonprofit, told the San Diego Union-Tribune regarding the forthcoming change in the law. "It’s that people have a choice to stop using the dryer and reduce their carbon footprint and save money.”

People won't necessarily be allowed to dry clothes wherever they please, though. The bill stipulates that homeowners associations can still ban clotheslines that interfere with property maintenance, or that are in communal (rather than private, fenced-in) areas. Also, as you might guess, clotheslines are supposed to be in backyards, not the front.

Mind you, the clothesline isn't the only thing that's prohibited in some front yards. Communities around the U.S. also been known to ban couches, vegetable gardens, free book libraries, garden gnomes, and too many yard sales from homeowners' front yards. Look for the movement guaranteeing the right to place garden gnomes wherever homeowners want to pick up steam soon.

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