Green laundry: Student researcher finds eco-friendly upgrade to Theatre Arts costume chore


SUNY New Paltz’s Department of Theatre Arts puts on multiple productions a year. That means lots of rehearsals, lots of set design and lots of magnificent costumes. It also means loads upon loads of laundry.

For Roy Ludwig ’22 (Geology/Education), all that washing and drying created an opportunity for an eco-friendly research project.

Ludwig and faculty mentor Andrea Varga, associate professor of design, received an Academic Year Undergraduate Research Experience (AYURE) grant to study how they might deploy modern microfilter technologies in Parker and McKenna Theatre laundry machines to clean out microfibers that cause environmental pollution.

“We’re looking to show how it is easy to install and use,” said Ludwig. “There’s no change in the usage of the machine. Basically, you throw on a normal load, turn it on, and the filter just does its thing on its own.”

The initiative grew out of Varga and Ludwig’s involvement with campus sustainability efforts and the Beyond Plastics project, a collaboration between the Office of Campus Sustainability and the student Sustainability Ambassadors. Ludwig had taken Varga’s Honors Program seminar, “Ethical Fashion: Understanding Consumerism, Globalization, Justice & Sustainability Through Textiles,” and developed an interest in the issue of synthetic microfibers in clothing.

“I hadn’t had much exposure to microplastics and microfibers before. I knew they existed, but I didn’t know to what extent,” he said. “I thought that maybe we could do something here on campus to make laundry more sustainable.”


Photo from the College’s 2017 production of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” with award-winning costumes designed by Kirsten Walsh ’18 (Theatre Arts – Design and Technology) with Associate Professor Andrea Varga’s mentorship.


The project became a labor of love for both Ludwig and Varga, who were able to combine their interests in sustainability, technology and the arts for this interdisciplinary endeavor.

“Roy has brought so much to my research and my understanding of a topic that I care about,” she said. “I think the best professor-student relationship is when you learn from each other.”

Want to learn more about green initiatives at SUNY New Paltz? Visit our Office of Campus Sustainability here.