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Washing sustainability away

Brandeis students are very busy people. It is not surprising that amid seven majors, five minors, being a part of eleven clubs, going to nine recitations per week and trying to squeeze in a few hours of sleep and a meal or two, showering does not seem like something that should have a high place on one’s list of priorities. So you would think that the administration would make something like laundry easier for students to do, just so members of the community can at least pretend to know what personal hygiene means.  

There have been many issues with the current laundry system, which DCL has been dealing with for years. Problems include people unplugging the machines to get free laundry, which would interrupt the loads in other machines. Or the swipe machines not working properly: taking money off the student’s card and then not actually starting the cycle, or starting the wrong machine. The administration has decided to make changes to the system. Finally, our prayers have been answered.

As students and administrators discussed various financial policies throughout Brandeis, one of the components that came up during discussion was indeed laundry. More specifically, at the beginning of the next academic year, students who pay for housing on campus no longer need to pay for their laundry every time they have to put a load in.

At first glance, this new policy seems like what students want. Many students are already paying tens of thousands of dollars per year and over $10,000 for housing alone. It seems counterintuitive to make students pay a dollar to wash their clothes and another dollar to dry if students already have to pay over $10,000 to live on campus. A new policy that removes the required price of laundry seems perfect. Too perfect.

Looking deep into the policy, it is clear that indeed this new policy is too good to be true. Instead of completely abolishing the price associated with laundry, administration has instead shifted the payment. This year and prior, students use WhoCash or coins to pay for laundry. After the next academic year, instead, this fee is paid for as a part of Housing and Board. So it’s not that students no longer have to pay for their own laundry, it’s that they have to pay a set amount for laundry at the very beginning. Therefore, students living on campus who would not even take advantage of the laundry machines would be forced to pay a fee for something they don’t even need!

This new policy takes yet another financial aspect out of the hands of the students. We already do not choose how much money we spend on food, textbooks, housing, etc., and now we don’t even get to choose how much we spend on laundry. After doing some very complex math, we came to the conclusion that we each spend $24 on laundry per year. This isn’t so much a question of saving money, though if you do laundry weekly, the $3 a week do begin to add up, but more of a question of necessity. If you have enough clothing to last you a month, and therefore do laundry less frequently, you are being more cost and environmentally efficient.

With these new changes, however, we do not have costs to think about and will most likely start doing laundry more often, since there is no direct fee associated with it, and we do not want to waste more money than we already do by living on campus (i.e on food). If we already paid the fee for laundry, of course, we are going to do as much laundry as we paid for, at least. Which for the two of us, would mean doing laundry twice as much as we used to before. The average amount of water used per laundry cycle varies from machine to machine, the lowest being 15 gallons of water per load. So with these new changes, instead of using 120 gallons of water per year each, we will use 240 gallons. With no cost directly associated with doing laundry, students will not hesitate to wash a piece of clothing they just stained. That’s fifteen gallons of water for one clothing item with a stain. Sustainability what?

For a campus that is trying to become more green, this is definitely not a step in the right direction. There are many posters in the laundry room that tell students to not use hot water while doing laundry, and there’s a good reason for it. Laundry consumes a large amount of energy, and hot water for laundry only adds to this amount. Making laundry free would consume even more energy as students would be more incentivized to frequently do their laundry. Making students pay for each load of laundry may not have increased students’ consciousness of how much water they used, but it definitely discouraged them from doing excessive amounts of it.

There is already an issue with a shortage of washing machines and dryers in residential quads. Unless you do laundry at a ridiculous time, like at two in the morning on a Wednesday, good luck finding an empty and working washing machine or dryer. Now imagine what will happen next year when everyone does laundry a lot more frequently. You’d have to make multiple trips to the laundry room just to find a vacant washer, which is inconvenient at best.

The administration is once again taking aspects of students’ lives under their own control. Who this will benefit is also debatable. It will waste the money of students who do not do laundry on campus and encourage the usage of more water, even when it is not really necessary. How exactly is Brandeis planning on becoming more green if they take one step forward and then one step back?

They introduced a fee for printing to reduce the amount of printing, so students think twice before printing something they may not necessarily need. Decreasing paper usage: a step forward towards a greener campus. Making laundry free, thereby increasing water usage: a step back. So what is our goal Brandeis? Where do our priorities lie?

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