All Articles Food Restaurant and Foodservice Turning cooking oil into fuel is just one part of CIA's green plan

Turning cooking oil into fuel is just one part of CIA’s green plan

3 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

Today marks the 41st anniversary of Earth Day. Chefs and restaurants across the country are greening their kitchens  and benefiting their bottom lines. Chefs in training at The Culinary Institute of America are focusing on sustainability in and out of the kitchen at all three of the school’s U.S. campuses.

The Hyde Park, N.Y., campus buys $750,000 worth of Hudson Valley dairy, eggs, honey and meat, while chefs at the CIA’s California campus in Napa Valley source ingredients from the student-run garden, which is expanding to more than two acres. Also, the CIA has switched to a electrolyzing cleaning system that helps prevent chemical detergents from going down the drain, and the campus in Hyde Park has reduced waste of up to 18,000 paper cups and lids every week.

Meanwhile, on the Greystone campus in Napa, two campus vans and a utility vehicle are using cooking oil that has been turned into fuel. Rumor has it that the exhaust smells like fresh doughnuts!

For restaurants, foodservice groups and universities that have large amounts of cooking oil, fleets of vehicles and a green goal, it’s a no-brainer that they explore opportunities of turning their used grease into fuel, says Charles Henning, managing director of the CIA Greystone. Small restaurants also can be a source of oil and even reap cost savings by selling it or forgoing a hauling fee, he says.

The CIA shares its biodiesel story

Finding the machine: Distillers, at $7,000 to $8,000, require little expertise but proper training, and they are reliable. The program has been in place for about 18 months at the CIA, and the distiller now turns 105 to 110 gallons of oil into fuel each week.

What are the challenges? Come winter, 100% biodiesel can’t be used in cold temperatures. To have the vehicles retrofitted would be an added expense so mechanics helped the CIA find the right concentration.

Networking introduces new ideas: Henning says the CIA found out about the opportunities through California wineries that had similar programs. He suggests networking, in addition to research, to explore all the opportunities.

“When you put your mind to it and do your research,” Henning says, you can achieve your goals and be an upstanding citizen. “It’s a beautiful step.”

What’s next? Henning said the CIA is exploring opportunities to use a fuel cell to provide the entire Greystone campus with electricity.

Photo credit: CIA/Tyffani Peters

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