Hang a clothesline. That sounds simple enough, right? Electric clothes dryers comprise at least six percent of household energy consumption. An article in last week’s New York Times reveals that the seemingly simple clothesline isn’t necessarily without complication. Many of the roughly 60 million people living in about 300,000 private communities may find opposition to hanging and using a clothesline, with neighbors deeming clean laundry an “eyesore,” or a weakening factor for property values.

On the one hand, there’s someone like Mary Lou Sayer, quoted in the NYT article. “’I think sheets dangling in the wind are beautiful if they’re helping the environment,’ said Mary Lou Sayer, 88, who was told firmly by fellow residents at her condominium in Concord, N.H., that she could not hang her laundry outdoors after her daughter recently suggested she do so to save energy.” On the other hand there’s someone like Richard Jacques, president of the condominium’s board; he disagrees with Sayer’s perspective, and is glad for the condominium’s rules protecting his preferences. From the NYT, Richard Jacques: “Those rules are why when I look out my window I now see birds, trees and flowers, not laundry.”

In a handful of states, lawmakers are protecting clothesline hangers’ rights, mainly because of the environmental impact. Steven Lake, a British filmmaker, is releasing a documentary, entitled, Drying for Freedom, about a dispute between neighbors in Verona, Mississippi who struggled over the hanging of a clothesline. Says Lake: “It seems like such a mundane thing, hanging laundry, and yet it draws in all these questions about individual rights, private property, class, aesthetics, the environment.”

October 24th, the organization 350.org is sponsoring an international day of action (locally, Green Northampton is helping to get 350 new clotheslines in our community). 350 is the upper limit, according to many scientists, where carbon levels can go—before worse things happen to the planet.

Now, it would seem, of facing climate change, chickens are returning to roost. And not just chickens: witness the rise in trends from raising your own chickens, to vegetable gardening, farmers’ markets (including my most beloved Tuesday Market), community supported agriculture (CSA’s–and Community Sustained in Supporting Agriculture, CISA), Zip Cars, rideshare boards, solar panels, bike lanes, walking school buses, and many other simple, human-powered attempts to remedy a gigantic problem. Not chickens, nor clotheslines, nor even every citizen of the world forgoing automobiles will halt climate change (although I imagine the latter would make some impact).

Scale so often becomes part of what confuses us about making change. Does my clothesline or decreasing my carbon footprint by a certain amount by taking short showers or turning my thermostat down or driving less make an actual impact? The answer is not so simple. Your personal contribution—when measured against the vast scale of the planet’s problems, especially in a highly developed nation that uses such disproportionate amounts of the world’s resources—is insignificant. And yet, yes, you are making a difference. Answering how is really what a day like today—Climate Change Blog Action Day—is about: our thinking collectively about the small steps and the big actions, about how to press for more than clotheslines (but clotheslines, too) so that corporate power diminishes and a kind of balance—eye on common good—is restored. Is such a shift pie-in-the-sky? Again, you could argue it both ways, but it can’t hurt to try.