Univ. pilots eco-friendly detergent

Under a student-led program designed to save energy used doing laundry, by spring 2007 the majority of students on campus will purchase “eco-friendly” soap provided by the University in all Yale laundry rooms in place of their own laundry detergent.

In the PrecisionWash pilot program launched by the student-run Yale Student Laundry Organization this semester, all but one washing machine in each Old Campus laundry room automatically dispense a highly-concentrated, low-sudsing detergent made with biodegradeable substances. Brandon Rosenblatt ’08, the group’s senior manager, said the Student Laundry Organization hopes to expand the new program to all 22 on-campus laundry rooms by the start of the spring term. Supporters said the program will cut down on waste and energy use, but some students said they would rather choose their own detergent and avoid the extra 30-cents-per-load cost.

Rosenblatt said the PrecisionWash system prevents drainage problems and keeps students from wasting soap, water and energy.

“It was designed for convenience so people didn’t have to bring soap,” he said.

For students who need to use a specific detergent for allergy-related reasons, every laundry room will have one machine for which PrecisionWash is optional, Rosenblatt said.

Rosenblatt said the program was intended to address the concern that most students do not realize the washing machines currently in all campus laundry rooms do not require much detergent, leading to the problem of “over-sudsing.”

“These machines are really smart,” Rosenblatt said. “They have a censor for how much clothing you have in there, how much water you need and how much soap you put in.”

When a student puts in extra detergent, the machine compensates by using more water, he said.

“This means there is more water going through the [sewage] system for treatment, and that takes energy,” Rosenblatt said.

The PrecisionWash system is provided by the Mac-Gray Corporation and has been available in University laundry rooms since June 2004.

Rosenblatt said the project coordinators will work with the University’s Office of Sustainability to advertise the impending change. Julie Newman, director of the Office of Sustainability, could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

While some students said they support the change as environmentally friendly, others said they do not necessarily want to use the PrecisionWash option.

Student Taskforce for Environmental Partnership coordinator Alice Shyy ’08 said most laundry detergents are not ecologically friendly, and that wasting water is an important concern on campus.

“I think it’s actually a pretty wonderful thing,” Shyy said. “[It’s] giving people the ability to be as ecologically sound as possible in their laundry practices.”

Michelle Arkow ’08 said she has mixed feelings about the proposed change.

“On the one hand, it will be really convenient,” she said. “On the other hand, it is 30 cents each time you use it, which does add up.”

Arkow said she thinks denying students the option of using their own detergent regularly is inconsiderate, but not completely unreasonable.

Jeff Sun ’08 said he is skeptical of the laundry service’s decision because certain articles of clothing require special types of detergent.

“I think you should be able to decide what type of detergent you want to use,” he said.

Sun also said the 30-cent addition to the $1.25 laundry fee is expensive compared to bulk detergent and will waste students’ money by leading to awkward laundry card balances.

Rosenblatt said he hopes Yalies will open their minds to the positive environmental impact the detergent program will have.

“I know that people generally resist change, but I am hoping that if given the proper information, students will respect and support our decision,” he said.

Reducing campus energy consumption has been a major goal of the University since it announced its commitment to a 15-year strategic energy plan last October. Energy use in the residential colleges fell by 10 percent during the 2005-2006 academic year.

The profits made by on-campus laundry rooms are divided between the Yale Student Laundry Organization, Mac-Gray Laundry Services, the residential colleges and the Associated Student Agencies, an umbrella organization of businesses run by Yale students.

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