TED Conversations

Hans Rosling

Director, Gapminder Foundation


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What are your thoughts and questions on "the magic washing machine"?

I will be answering questions on my new TED talk today at 11.30 -1.30 pm EST.
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  • Mar 24 2011: Your glib, though more than half-serious, comment about the steel industry and the chemical industry at the end makes a good point, but you know, as I know, that they are problematic industries especially when their steel and chemicals are used for the activities of the rich (as defined in your show). It is critical that this debate not be reduced to a battle the well-meaning, na├»ve Luddite students versus the captains of progress--"Live Better Electrically" (GE); "Better Living Through Chemicals"; etc. These old mottoes purposely mis-characterized the dilemma that we face in order to sell product.

    I would really like to work with you for a couple months to develop a TED Talk or some other forum for getting people engaged in this conversation about priorities, perhaps at the Aspen Institute, to explain why people should have washing machines and why they should not have tumble dryers. I am writing a book called More Time to Hang: Greening America's Dirty Laundry. Your assistance in assembling compelling stats would be invaluable.

    There is evidence that using your hands in reward-driven work is stimulating to the receptors in the brain that fight depression. Using the body in light work is actually good for it. (This desk jockey can attest to the stiffness of his limbs and weakness of his major muscle groups because he he ironically spends too much time staring into this machine.) By using a dryer, clothes wear out faster and your rob yourself of needed sunlight, which, if the clothes are hanging outside, can actually disinfect and kill dust mites. The stats about dryer-caused house fires are astounding. (Has anybody studied the GHG emissions of structure fires?)
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      Mar 24 2011: I live in Japan, and I've written about that very thing-- how unnecessary (most of the time) dryers are. They are expensive to run, in hot weather can actually take *longer* to dry clothes, and they shrink sleeves and pantlegs in addition (as you note) to generally wearing out your clothes. It's the washer that is the real time and labor saver-- not the dryer. Especially the spin cycle-- have you ever wrung water out of jeans? Without the spin cycle they take an eternity to dry. I've seen this topic discussed on personal finance sites as well-- with American commenters all worried about what the neighbors would think about laundry drying outside, and Europeans and Asians scratching their heads over the weird Americans wasting electricity when thing dry just fine outside. As I noted in my blog post ( http://yokohamayomama.blogspot.com/2011/02/on-design-laundry-hangers.html) on my beloved Japanese laundry hangers, when the weather is nice, hanging the laundry out to dry is one of the more pleasant household chores. Honestly, in states like California which have experienced severe energy crunches, I don't understand why outdoor drying lines aren't more prevalent (or even mandatory).

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