News / Economy

Philadelphia Laundry Succeeds by Being Green

Philadelphia Laundry Succeeds by Being Greeni
X
Faiza Elmasry
August 01, 2014 12:06 AM
When Gabriel Mandujano opened Wash Cycle Laundry in Philadelphia four years ago, the 26-year-old social innovator had three goals in mind: making a profit, developing community and staying green. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, four years later, he has not only succeeded in achieving these goals, but he is expanding the business as well.
Faiza Elmasry

When Gabriel Mandujano opened Wash Cycle Laundry in Philadelphia four years ago, the 26-year-old social innovator had three goals in mind: making a profit, developing community and staying green.  Four years later, he has not only succeeded in achieving these goals, but he is expanding the business as well.  

It is hard not to notice them on the streets.  Wearing bright orange T-shirts, Wash Cycle Laundry cyclists pick up and deliver laundry around Washington, pulling big orange trailers behind their bikes.  That separates Wash Cycle Laundry from other cleaning services.  But this is not the only difference.  The clothing and linens are cleaned with locally produced and environmentally friendly detergents and delivered in reusable packages.

Founder Gabriel Mandujano wanted to go green, but be competitive too.

“I think a lot of time when people hear 'environmentally friendly', they automatically think 'more expensive', but laundry is really a neat industry where it is cheaper to save water and energy than it is to waste it," said Mandujano.

It is also cheaper to use other companies' equipment.

“We've done millions of pounds of laundry, but we actually do not own a single washing machine ourselves," he said. "We are not bringing anything new to the market.  What we've done differently is rather than building one gigantic plant, often in industrial parks, somewhere that is 40 or 50 miles away from the city, we've established ourselves in a lot of sort of micro plants, where we are four or five blocks away from our clients.  We always find laundries that are under-utilized and then we make a sort of an agreement with the ownership of that laundry to use it during their downtimes."

Mandujano says the nation’s capital seemed like a lucrative market for his laundry business.

“There are a lot of people who do not have the time, but do have a little bit of income that they can use to afford our service," he said.

Inspired by his background with community development non-profits, Mandujano adopted a purposeful hiring policy to find employees to provide that service.

“About half of our employees are from what you call a vulnerable adult population.  That means they could have been chronically unemployed," he said. "They could have been coming off a public benefits program, a number are in recovery from substance abuse.  Some have a history of incarceration."

Shawnice Foxx is one of his new hires.

“I thought I wasn't going to be able to continue working here because of my personal problems, but they helped me out," she said. "I'm still here and everything is going great now. I am trying to just sustain one job and be able to be there for years and advance in a company instead of keep hopping from job to job."

Jim Starn, who owns a massage therapy business, says Wash Cycle's social commitment is one reason he is a client.  Being green is another.

“It's easy. I do not have to worry about a [delivery] truck coming by and blocking traffic and people being irritated," he said. "And I love the fact that they aren't just using all that gasoline. Because we're a massage studio, people come to us for natural wellness and alternatives. So the fact that we do not have to worry about the chemicals and the bleach and all these things that can be in the laundry and the laundry comes back spotless is just terrific."

As he cycles through the city, picking up and delivering laundry, Chris Walke explains why his job is terrific.

“I get to move around, be active. Be out in the sun," he said. "My body is engaged, but my mind is free, which I really appreciate."
 
That is what Wash Cycle Laundry founder Mandujano imagined, when he established his enterprise.

“My family was probably a little bit concerned when I told them I was quitting my job to start a laundry business.  This is not the most glamorous profession, it's not like going to a dinner or a cocktail party and saying, ‘I'm a doctor’, ‘I'm a lawyer’, ‘I'm a banker,’" he said. "I think as business has grown, people started to see the vision and what we have been able to accomplish and where we might go."

Mandujano plans to expand Wash Cycle Laundry - and his approach to social innovation - to other U.S. cities and, he hopes, around the world.   

You May Like

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.9238
JPY
USD
119.51
GBP
USD
0.6614
CAD
USD
1.2119
INR
USD
63.562

Rates may not be current.