BSF Brings Sustainability to Laundry Room

Jan. 26, 2012

bsfBelieve it or not, something as simple as doing laundry can have a negative impact on the environment.  Washers and dryers use precious water and energy with every time a person presses start.  Two Brandeis students, Philip Lu ‘11 and Katharine Glanbock ‘14 are implementing a new initiative with the help of the Brandeis Sustainability Fund (BSF) to bring sustainability into Brandeis’ laundry rooms.

Lu and Glanbock came up with the idea to provide drying racks to students and applied to the BSF this past fall.  Lu commented, “The benefits of our project are numerous. We wanted our project to act as a tool to educate students on more sustainable living. We now have an alternative to electric drying that will pass savings on to students and lower energy consumption.”  Drying racks will be installed in laundry rooms on campus and will also be available to borrow.

While choosing to use a drying rack instead of an electric dryer is a great step towards more sustainable laundry, there are many other actions we can take to reduce the negative environmental effects of cleaning our clothes.  

Using cold wash settings can save energy by reducing the amount of energy the washer must expend to heat the water. According to TreeHugger, “washing every load on the hot/warm cycle for a year is equivalent to burning about 182 gallons of gasoline in a car,” or driving about 3500 miles.  Since 80-90% of the energy used in washing your clothes is to heat the water, every cold wash cycle makes a difference.  

Buying high efficiency (HE) washers also cut down on the amount of energy consumed with each load of laundry.  HE washers use less water which not only saves precious water but also requires the washer to expend less energy on heating the water.  Though HE washers may be more expensive to purchase than a traditional washer, money spent initially will be saved in electric and water bills. The laundry machines at Brandeis have been converted to HE washes by MacGray.

The last component to sustainable laundry is choosing environmentally friendly detergents.  Eco-friendly detergents do not contain the harsh chemicals of traditional detergents which can pollute water streams or cause health concerns.  Popular eco-brands include Green Works and Seventh Generation.  Sustainable dryer sheets can also be purchased or to save money, use a tennis ball.