St. Pete students looking to do laundry can now get free access to detergent in the laundry room of Osprey Suites.
This comes as part of a new initiative from the Student Green Energy Fund (SGEF) to attempt to reduce plastic waste.
The station, which opened Aug. 17, will allow those washing clothes to utilize reusable measuring cups to pump and fill with detergent and apply to a medium load of laundry, according to Dilek Refka, a member of SGEF who is leading the project with co-leader Andrea Ramos Almodovar.
Refka said the project will hopefully promote sustainability on campus and allow students to choose environmentally friendly options.
“If each individual student is buying their own packs of either laundry detergent or Tide Pods, that is adding to a lot more waste,” she said.
“What we’re trying to do is eliminate that waste as much as possible. So we are buying laundry detergent in bulk. And yes, there is a plastic component to the packaging, but what we’re doing with that is actually donating it to the St. Pete Youth Farm. So those buckets are actually being reused rather than ending up in the landfill.”
The budget in place to implement and maintain the station until the end of next summer stands at $2,500, according to Refka. For every one credit hour taken on the St. Pete campus, students pay $1 in fees that go to SGEF, which in turn allows the organization to fund student-led initiatives that hope to provide a more sustainable campus.
In order to maintain the station, which was installed by Ace Handyman Services St. Pete South, trained volunteers check in on it to clean measuring cups and ensure the area is sanitary and in working order, according to Refka.
The amount of detergent needed to be ordered per semester was calculated based on how many loads a student does per week, how many weeks are in the semester and how many students are living in the building, according to Refka. With all of that factored in, SGEF obtained 10 large buckets from Stan’s Market, a local zero-waste store, that they will utilize for the semester.
When deciding which laundry detergent to use, Refka said a versatile appeal was important to ensure no student is deterred from using it. Therefore, the detergent, called ECOS Pro Free and Clear, is unscented and hypoallergenic.
Students can provide feedback via a QR code placed near the station. Refka said student input will make the team aware of any issues needed to be solved or dealt with. As of Tuesday, no student responses or complaints had been recorded, which Refka said the team is taking as a good sign.
Future plans for the expansion of the project will be dependent on student usage, she said. Refka called the implementation of a single station a “pilot project,” as they were unsure how it would be received by students.
”My partner [Almodovar] and I are graduating this spring semester, so if the station keeps running it’s going to be done by future SGEF students,” she said. “If we find that it’s not being used like we thought it would be, it would be better to invest in other projects.”
While expanding it to other campuses is out of their jurisdiction, she said it is possible more stations could be installed across the St. Pete campus if the project proves to be a success.
“If we get positive feedback and we see that our station is being utilized, we want to first extend it to the other two dorms,” she said.
“We would love to add even more products later on. It could be anything to do with things like bathroom cleaners, multipurpose cleaners and all that stuff. So it’s something we hope to grow. But as it grows, we would have to adjust the way we conduct the project.”