People We Love: Filmmaker Steven Lake

Here, British flick-maker Steven Lake dishes on his recently released film, “Drying for Freedom” (trailer below), an international documentary that looks at bans on carbon-reducing clotheslines, the global boom in electric dryer sales, and the concerning emissions issues with electric clothes dryers today.

Lake took a carbon-neutral journey around the world to film “Drying for Freedom”—his globetrotting took him everywhere from Mumbai (where electric dryer sales are booming) to Verona, Mississippi, where an investigation is underway in a highly unique clothesline murder case. He dug into the today’s new eco battlefield, where communities and individuals are banned from drying their clothes naturally outdoors, a simple  act that cuts carbon emissions (and reduces energy bills) dramatically.

steven lake drying for freedom

Filmmaker Steven Lake at the Verona, MS, Police Department, which is investigating a clothesline-related murder.


Green Cleaning Magazine: There are a lot of carbon-reducing quests out there today. What inspired you to focus on creating “Drying for Freedom?”

Steven Lake: The inspiration for the film came from seeing a lot of environmental documentaries that were asking a lot from their audience. I as a viewer felt overwhelmed by the change that was required of us to turn the tides on the destruction of our planet—and to be fair there is a lot required of us—but when it comes to bringing this message to the commercial masses, I think we have to take baby steps to avoid intimidating people. Drying For Freedom looks at a tiny part of the problem—the over-use of the tumble dryer—then it slowly blooms out exploring the much bigger issue.

GCM: What was the most inspiring thing you saw when making the film?
Lake: The most inspiring thing I saw was the work being done by Alexander Lee in New Hampshire; it’s one thing to make a movie about line drying, it’s another to dedicate your entire career to promoting it. It’s this kind of commitment that can help inspire others to do better for their planet. I could tell from meeting him he hadn’t chosen the easiest career path, especially with himself being trained as a lawyer, but his choice to do the right thing was very inspiring to me.

GCM: What was the most shocking or surprising thing you discovered while making the film?
Lake: The thing that shocked me most was the way people were living in these community associations with very little sense of community—of neighborly love. It felt a little staged and fake. The neighborhoods were made to look neighborly, but they actually weren’t.

This shocked me even more than the murder case in Verona Missisippi, because it was hard for me to see, perhaps as an English man, just how people could live in these strange and restrictive communities. I don’t want to be judging of them and their community though—to each their own. It just didn’t seem like the greatest model of community, having people sign contracts that if broken could see them being reported by their neighbors and fined. The idea of community to me is people willingly cooperating with each other for the betterment of their neighborhood.

GCM: How did you make your filmmaking journey carbon neutral?
Lake: It was important to us that we didn’t just buy carbon offsets to make us feel better abut the carbon cost of the movie, so we set up a pledging system for people to tell us the reduction in their dryer usage after seeing the movie. This is an ongoing process that we hope will make us carbon neutral without just buying carbon offsets.

GCM: How do you dry your own clothing at home and on the road?
Lake: At home I have my clotheshorse, as I have no outdoors area to dry in. I just hang them up and open the window. When I am traveling on the road I have to be a bit smart about it—I plan my clothes rotations so I can do one big wash and then I find every nook and corner in a hotel room to hang my clothes from. Sometimes I just don’t have time to wait for them to dry naturaly, and rather than turning to the tumble dryer, I just have to wear dirty clothes!

GCM: How can our readers reduce their own clothes drying carbon impact?
Lake: Buy two poles, a piece of string and some clothespins. It can’t get simpler than that. If you can’t line dry outdoors buy a clotheshorse for inside and try and keep the drying space well ventilated. The most energy-efficient way of washing and drying clothes with a machine is at a laundromat; the machines are more efficient and one single machine is used by multiple people, which keeps the carbon cost of manufacturing new machines down also.

Getting Personal

According to a recent survey conducted by Seventh Generation, currently one third (27%) of people never line dry their clothing—in addition, only 22% currently wash all of their clothes in cold water. Interested in making a difference with your own laundry? These links below will help get you started:

Seventh Generation’s 7-Day Laundry Challenge

Project Laundry List

Right to Dry Campaign

Drying For Freedom – Official Trailer from White Lantern Film on Vimeo.

Erinn Morgan


After a 10-year career as an award-winning New York City-based editor launching and redesigning urban, style-driven magazines, Erinn Morgan left downtown Manhattan after September 11th, 2001, in search of a less encumbered, freelance lifestyle. A two-year-long trek around the country eventually landed her in Durango, Colo., which she now calls home.

Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, Outside, National Geographic Adventure, Bike, Skiing, Delicious Living, American Cowboy, and on

Erinn is also the author of the eco-focused book, Picture Yourself Going Green, Step-by-Step Instruction for Living a Budget-Conscious, Earth-Friendly Lifestyle in Eight Weeks or Less.

She was previously the editor-in-chief of 20/20 magazine, a special projects editor at Playboy (overseeing the launch of a new, custom magazine), and the founding editor/editor-in-chief of SoHo Style, a much-lauded, avant-garde magazine that covered the culture and style of downtown New York and its reach around the world.

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