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I’m doing laundry today, and feeling a twinge of guilt each time I shut the dryer door and press the button to start the wet clothes tumbling. You can count on an Alabama summer to provide blast-furnace heat each day — heat that will dry those soggy jeans almost as fast as you can hang them out — but it’s awfully easy to find reasons to default to the convenience of my electric dryer. I know better, of course. Hanging my clothes outside is a simple way to shrink my household environmental footprint. Dryers gobble up a considerable amount of electricity — more watts per hour than washers, water heaters, air conditioners or dishwashers — but a clothesline doesn’t use any at all. I think about the oily mess unfolding on the Gulf coast beaches 30 miles south of my house, a disaster that resulted at least in part from our huge national appetite for energy, and I resolve to do better.

Levi Strauss & Co. is getting in on the energy-saving act through a contest called Care to Air. They’re seeking ideas that will improve or replace the clothesline, and anyone can participate. Air drying ideas will be accepted until July 31, and winners will be announced in August. In addition to the satisfaction of helping to cut energy use, five finalists will win $500. A panel of judges will award prizes ranging from $4,500 to $1,000 for first, second and crowd favorite (that last category will be decided by online votes). Levi’s new clothing care tags urge their customers to only use cold water for laundering, to line dry and to donate old jeans to Goodwill.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the hardware store for some clothesline.

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