Neo-traditional architecture, tree-lined streets, and quaint corner stores have become staples in traditional neighborhood developments designed to invoke the nostalgia of simpler times. But there's one old school feature these towns have been just as happy to do without: the clothesline, which, by neighborhood-design–police standards, is an eyesore.

Ah, but with mounting concerns over greenhouse emissions and energy conservation, this low-tech technique could be poised for a comeback. At least that's the hope among proponents of the “Right to Dry” movement, a growing cadre of citizens advocating al fresco air-drying as a sustainable alternative to electric dryers. Grassroots activists have commanded attention of late by staging protests in local jurisdictions and promoting state legislation that would overrule local HOA bans on clotheslines.

“How we do laundry is a big deal, because we all do it,” notes Alexander Lee, executive director of Project Laundry List, a nonprofit advocacy group that recently began enlisting college students via Facebook to help further the cause. Six percent to 10 percent of residential electric consumption is attributable to the dryer, he observes, with the average household spending more than $100 per year to dry its clothes.

Legislative proposals to lift clothesline bans have been floated in North Carolina, Florida, Utah, and Vermont. And they could be coming to a community near you.