Sustainability: MIT Student Invents New Way to Conserve Water - MIT Endicott House

sustainabilityWhat’s your monthly water bill? Depending on where you live, it can vary widely, but it’s still an expense that adds up along with electricity and food. Ever wonder what it costs a conference center or hotel, with all those sheets and towels to wash every day?

MIT is known for its solutions that start with a “what if…?” MIT student Chris Lai and a group of cohorts wondered what it would be like if they could make it easy to recycle water that would otherwise just gurgle down the drain along with the dollars it costs to both deliver and pipe it away as wastewater.

They came up with an idea that grew into a new company called Aquafresco. Knowing that laundry uses at least 20% of the water coming into and out of our living spaces, Aquafresco saw an opportunity to save an essential resource and reduce utility costs. Lai’s technology uses a unique filtering process that allows a machine to wash loads of dirty laundry using the same water for months at a time.

MIT’s Endicott House was a willing guinea pig when Aquafresco needed a live test bed. Slashing their water bill sounded good to Michael Fitzgerald, general manager of the House, and reducing the number of gallons of fresh water used by the facility was in perfect alignment with their desire to be a model of sustainability for the hospitality industry.

Fitzgerald: “Being a conference center-hotel type facility, we do a lot of laundry every day. We have a septic system onsite. One of the most detrimental things to your septic system is washing machine waste water.”

Now Endicott House is saving their septic system by reclaiming 80% of its wastewater using Aquafresco.

And that’s not all.

Energy costs, like water, are not going to go down anytime soon. That’s why Endicott House also replaced every incandescent light bulb they could find with CFL or LED bulbs. There are a lot of lights inside the mansion, and it ended up reducing our energy bill noticeably. And we don’t have to replace them nearly as often.

In the kitchen, the chefs don’t throw much away. All those carrot and potato peelings go straight into another MIT-originated device called Ecovim. All organic food waste, from the parsley garnish you didn’t eat, to spoils and stems go into the Ecovim organic waste dehydrator. The output is water, used to nourish the plants in the gardens and ready-for-compost solids that are spread as soil amendments as needed on the property.

Food costs are another place where the Endicott House is leading the way in sustainable practices. We grow a good number of herbs and vegetables right here in our lush grounds.

You may have heard something about the dire straits our honeybees are in. MIT beekeepers work as hard as their bees to monitor trends and solutions, while our guests reap the sweet rewards! Store-bought honey is a thing of the past since we invited the MIT Beekeepers club to use our grounds for a home base.

There’s much more that we do as part of our mantle of responsibility to make the world a better place, from converting our fryer oil to bio-diesel fuel to installing special variable-load kitchen fans to converting all our cleaning products to a high-tech liquid cleaner involving electrolysis, tap water and salt.

We also recycle everything we possibly can, as General Manager Michael Fitzgerald points out, “MIT is a world headquarters for innovation. We recycle everything from cardboard boxes to wooden pallets, to plastic bottles… We are the first conference center in the U.S. to adopt this technology making this implementation a jewel in our environmental crown and a feather in MIT’s cap of innovation.”

One recognition we prize is the IACC’s Gold Tier membership. The IACC is  a well-known accreditation organization for small to medium sized conference centers worldwide. Our leadership in far exceeding the IACC’s standards for sustainability earned us kudos for achieving over 85% of their environmental goals.

So your group’s stay at the Endicott House is one way you can contribute to a better environmental future. We welcome you to take a tour to see our green initiatives in action and devour a gourmet luncheon on us!