June 26 , 2006
food waste makes for fuel-friendly campus shuttle
Thanks to the idea and persistence of 2006 graduate Erik Fyfe, Emory will soon use biodiesel made from raw materials cooked up in the fry vats of local restaurants and the University’s own kitchens to fuel much of Emory’s bus fleet. There’s little worry about a fuel shortage: Emory dining services alone produce about 5,500 gallons of used oil every month.
The new biodiesel program is based on Fyfe’s senior honors thesis. His research analyzed the potential for a community-based biodiesel production program using a model developed by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE).
Emory will partner with the local nonprofit SACE to launch a pilot program this summer.
In line with Emory’s sustainability commitment, the SACE model takes waste at its source, converts it to biodiesel, and returns the useful fuel to the same market. Relying only on local, recycled waste sets the Emory program apart from other biodiesel projects that produce virgin oils on a large scale. To SACE’s knowledge, Emory is the only institution of its size converting its own waste to biodiesel on such a large scale.
Contributing to a healthy environment was especially meaningful to Fyfe, an environmental studies major who grew up in Decatur.
Fyfe was inspired to pursue the research when gas prices spiked after Hurricane Katrina. “It was important to me to do research that would be both relevant and useful,” he said. Part of his study included a survey of local restaurants to find out the availability of used cooking oil, as well as the restaurant’s willingness to participate in the program.
“From the beginning, Emory’s dining and alternative transportation services have been interested in creating a sustainable biodiesel program,” said Fyfe. “I’ve been surprised at how receptive people are to the idea. It’s been really incredible to see it develop so quickly.”
Emory’s biodiesel program is attracting the interest of other schools and businesses, including other Clifton Community Transportation Management Association institutions that are expected to contribute to the program as well.
Once online in the fall, about 45 percent of Emory’s 53 bus shuttles will be fueled with biodiesel, making the university’s entire fleet alternatively fueled (other buses already are using compressed natural gas or electricity).