Green Revolving Fund Incentivizes Tiered Laundry Pricing

With the arrival of Fall comes changes members of the Williams community look forward to all year: shades of red and orange foliage scattered across the purple valley, warm drinks that complement cooler weather, and Mountain Day, of course.  At the start of this academic year students may have noticed a change located not outdoors in the sun-dappled splendor, but in residence halls.  In each laundry room, the screens of washing machines now flash different prices for a cold, warm and hot wash.  This new laundry system, incentivized by the William’s Green Revolving Fund over the summer, hopes to encourage students to wash their clothes in cold water, saving both energy and money.

The Green Revolving Fund is a student group that identifies things on campus that can be improved and comes up with a project that saves energy or water, and hopefully money.  $20,000 a year for four years has been allocated to fund the group’s projects.

“The idea of making the laundry system more sustainable came from a brainstorming session last semester and I was interested in doing research on the subject,” said Peter Lugthart ’18, a member of the Green Revolving Fund.  He got in contact with Bob Volpi, Director of Dining Services, to present the idea of cheaper pricing for cold water.  On board with the idea, Peter and Volpi contacted Mac-Gray, the company that has facilitated laundry services at Williams the last several years.

Earlier this year the parent company of Mac-Gray was reconstructed and renegotiated some terms of their contract with Williams.  One of these changes was the addition of tiered laundry pricing to the contract.  Because the tiered pricing was included in the renegotiation, the change did not require funding from GRF.  The installation of the new laundry pricing was facilitated over the summer.

Washing 4 loads of laundry in cold water is equivalent to planting .37 acres of U.S. Forest
Washing 4 out of 5 loads of laundry in cold water could save more than 800 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions produced each year.  Figure courtesy of Cold Water Saves.

This year’s warm wash is the same price as last year’s original price of $1.50.  A cold wash is now the price of $1.25, while the price of a hot wash rose to $1.75.

By switching to a cold wash, Williams saves $0.03 per load, an amount that can add up depending on the number of cold washes used.  “It’s a way to show students that deciding to make the choice (using cold water) that saves their money is the environmentally right choice,” said Peter.

When asked whether he knows if students have switched to paying for cold washes, Peter answers that there wouldn’t be a way to measure this behavior change, though he has received mixed feedback so far.  Kate, a sophomore, noticed the laundry price changes but initially attributed the observation to moving to a new dorm building.  “I do like the prices changes though,” said Kate. “…It creates an opportunity to save energy and gives new pricing options for washing different types of clothes depending on the fabric.”

Peter emphasized that while there may be a perception that the college is not always concerned with helping student groups who want to cause change on campus, in this case the Zilkha Center and the administration are very willing to give students the proper resources.  “[The projects of the Green Revolving Fund] should make people realize that if they have a good idea that makes the campus more sustainable, they can submit it and make it happen,” said Peter.

To submit a suggestion or to learn how to get more involved with the Green Revolving Fund, contact Josemaria (jps10).


Rio Salazar ’20 is the communications intern at the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives.