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Penn State: Saving Water, One Wash At A Time

It's been said that opposites attract, but those who say it usually aren't thinking of college students and laundry. That is, unless you're at Pennsylvania State University, where students and faculty have come together over a brand new series of washers that are bringing huge energy and environmental payoffs to the school's eight campuses. Fraser Grigor, Associate Director of Special Projects, generated the idea. "When it came time for our equipment to be updated six years ago, we didn't have the financial resources. So we sought out a laundry vendor, and found Caldwell-Gregory," he says. Caldwell Gregory would install their own, newer Maytags and Speed Queens, and the college would pay for utilities and receive a part of the swipe card-operated machines' revenue.

"After about five years, it was time to reexamine the contract," Grigor goes on. He concluded that, before renewing it, he'd like Caldwell Gregory to bring in front-loading washers. "I sit on the university's environmental strategy group, which looks at the university's global impact," says Grigor. "I knew the advantages of the front-loading washer from an environmental point of view." To start, the new machines would spin at 1,000 rpm--twice as fast as the old ones--meaning that the dryers also wouldn't work as hard. Even with a 32 percent% greater capacity than an average top-load washer (2.9 cubic feet total), they would save an average of 18 gallons of water per load: over 14.5 million gallons annually.

Grigor explained his idea to the Association of Residence Hall Students, presenting a proposal including the environmental benefits as well as the fact that the combined cost of a wash and dry would go from $1.60 to $1.70 at University Park (the increase would be .15 at two other campuses, and no increase at the remaining five).

"He [Grigor] asked what the students would feel about the ten-cent increase if the environmental benefits were better for Penn State, and explained that you could do more laundry in less time," says Travis Burke, head of the Association of Residence Hall Students. "Everyone was really for the idea of Penn State of being environmentally friendly." They also liked the style of the new machines: “The old machines were bulky, and these looked more modern,” says Burke. The students voted yes.

Although it would cost a considerable amount, since front-load washers cost twice as much as top-load, the contract was renewed, and 600 new Maytag commercial Neptune washers were installed at the central campus of University Park as well as satellites Altoona, Erie, Berks, Beaver, Hazleton, McKeesport and Mont Alto campuses. They are expected to save the university more than $110,000 in energy costs, and more than 50 percent in water usage, reducing total gallons per year from nearly 3.5 million to approximately 1.6 million. This is especially important when residential students total over 36,000--and college students are notorious for cramming machines to the hilt, necessitating efficiency.

To put the savings in another perspective, the water saved from using the new machines will be enough to meet the drinking needs of 40,000 students – the total enrollment of Penn State -- for over two years.

Quick Rinse - News From Around The World

Ecolab Receives Environmental Stewardship Award

AUSTRIA - An environmental stewardship award was recently given to Ecolab Inc. in Austria in recognition of the their efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of a local hospital laundry. The award is for implementing their PERformance SMART low-temperature at an Austrian hospital. The laundry program is said to reduce water and energy usage, in addition to shortening wash time.