Beginning next fall, the University may expand an energy-saving pilot program that forces students to use “eco-friendly” soap in campus washing machines.

Machines used in the pilot program — which was implemented in Old Campus laundry rooms this year — automatically dispense the necessary amount of phosphate-free Dropps detergent, thus preventing the machines from using excess water, Yale Student Laundry Organization Manager Brandon Rosenblatt ’08 said. Students using machines in the program are required to pay for the eco-friendly soap rather than use their own detergent. Associate Vice President for Student Financial and Administrative Services Ernst Huff said his department is currently gauging the popularity of the program and will move ahead with a campus-wide expansion if there is sufficient support among students and residential college masters.

[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”14345″ ]

“Generally I do support it, but we want to make sure that indeed this is something that students will embrace and appreciate,” Huff said. “It’s all dependent on whether we feel there is support from the residents of the colleges.”

Huff said he will know whether Yale will move forward with the expansion “way before the end of the term.” Since the machinery necessary for the program is already installed in most campus washing machines, the University will not incur any additional cost if the program is adopted, he said.

The University installed PrecisionWash, an automatic soap-dispensing technology, in several campus laundry rooms in 2004 in order to make it easier for students to do laundry, Rosenblatt said. He said it occurred to him to install the technology in all campus machines after he noticed large amounts of excess soap on the floors of laundry rooms and received frequent calls from MacGray, the company that provides PrecisionWash, telling him that machines were malfunctioning because students were putting in too much detergent.

“It turns out that this can really be a very eco-friendly, sustainable approach to doing laundry,” Rosenblatt said.

The Yale Student Laundry Organization has generally received positive or indifferent responses from students who have used the program this year, he said.

The Yale College Council will likely vote on a resolution urging campus-wide implementation of the program at its weekly meeting on Sunday and may run a poll to determine student support for the move, YCC Secretary Zach Marks ’09 said.

Council of Masters Chair Judith Krauss could not be reached for comment last night.

Krystal Flores ’10, who represents Ezra Stiles College on the YCC, said she will vote against any YCC resolution endorsing a mandatory PrecisionWash system. Forcing students to pay an additional $0.30 for soap in each load of laundry imposes an undue financial burden on them, she said.

“I think having the option of using soap that is less harmful to the environment is a very good idea,” Flores said. “But making it mandatory — I don’t agree with that. People should have the option to do what they like.”

If students do about 20 loads of laundry a year, Rosenblatt said, the extra cost of paying for Dropps detergent will add up to $6, roughly the cost of a bottle of Tide detergent.

Nick Krug ’10, who lives in Farnam, said he thinks the system in Old Campus laundry rooms generally works well. But he would prefer not to use a PrecisionWash system when he moves into Jonathan Edwards College next year, he said, because the Farnam machines often run out of soap, making them unreliable.

If the program is expanded next year, one machine in each college laundry room would be left unchanged in order to allow students with allergies to Dropps to use their own detergents, Rosenblatt said.