Biodiesel Brewed Up for Future Chefs

John Davis

Students at California’s Culinary Institute of America are learning their ways around the kitchen. And if they’re paying attention to the biodiesel being used in their rides to school, they’re also getting a lesson in sustainability.

Biodiesel Magazine reports the school’s Greystone campus in the Napa Valley is using waste vegetable oil from the kitchens to turn into biodiesel (produced Springboard Biodiesel LLC) for shuttles:

The biodiesel is used in two shuttle vans and other all-terrain vehicles used to move equipment around the campus. The vans, each with a 26-gallon fuel tank, previously used diesel fuel at a cost of roughly $3.35 per gallon. By using the biodiesel-blended fuel, which according to the school costs 88 cents per gallon to make, the CIA was able to save $64 per tank.

The school has been producing biodiesel for the last three months, and Phipps said in the winter the mix will be 50 percent biodiesel while the summer mix will be 70 percent. The idea to use the school’s WVO was first proposed by Charles E. Henning, managing director of the campus. “I have been ‘green-thinking’ for many years,” Henning said. “I grew up in Switzerland where we have been recycling and leading a green lifestyle since the 1960s.” Because sustainability is a large goal of the CIA, Henning started looking at how to put the WVO to better use. “After investigating several options, we ran the numbers on purchasing our own distiller to make the biodiesel,” he said, adding that because the machine would pay for itself in one year, “the decision was obvious.”

School officials say they learned a lot from an Internet biodiesel production class from Utah Biodiesel Supply Co. and also received help from Springboard.