ECU cooking oil fuels school buses

Campus Dining Services has started to recycle cooking oil to use as biodiesel in county school buses. -Ryan Harper I The East CarolInIan

Campus Dining Services has begun recycling cooking oil to donate to local Pitt County schools to use as biodiesel in buses. This recycling is being done through a program called Biodiesel 4 Schools, which began in the spring of 2010 in association with Green Circle, an environmental fundraising group.

The university was already recycling its cooking oil to be used as biofuel, but this new program allows the biofuel to stay in Pitt County without any extra fees for distribution or conversion.

In an interview with the Daily Reflector­, Joyce Sealey, director of Dining Services, said, “To me, this is a better deal, because it’s going back to the school systems. It actually stays in Pitt County. We need to give back to the community.”

Biodiesel use has been growing since the Energy Policy Act was passed in 1992, which looked to lessen dependency on foreign oil. It has since been approved by the federal Environmental Protection Agency as an alternative fuel.

“You can definitely start to see changes on campus as far as the environment goes. I think more and more people are becoming aware of the problem we impose on the environment and are trying to do something about it,” said junior Hilary Lee. “A lot of people are on campus and eat in the dining halls and other places like Dowdy and I can only imagine the waste that comes out of that.”

Every school day, some 440,000 school buses transport more than 24 million children to and from schools and school-related activities. Right now, only a few thousand of those buses run on biodiesel. There are only 15 counties in the nation whose schools systems run completely on biofuel.

“There’s always going to be school buses,” Lee said. “If you’ve ever sat behind one at a stoplight you can see the pollution that just one of these diesel buses puts out.”

The cooking oil from campus is being sold to a plant in Wilson that recycles the waste and redistributes it as biodiesel. Approximately 620 gallons have been donated since partnering with the Biodiesel 4 Schools program.

“Sometimes I feel like it’s not enough, like environmental awareness is a fad. You see everyone walking around with stainless steel water bottles and there’s a few recycling bins around campus, but it’s almost like trying to keep up appearances,” said junior elementary education major Kelly McLees. “Professors that have gone paperless and have papers done completely online and using biofuel in school buses are things that are actually going to make a difference in the environment. Just think about how many papers you throw away at the end of the year that you never looked twice at.”

In a study done with the Association of Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, experts cited four main reasons that colleges and universities are going green: work done by environmental groups has taken hold and reached more people, government standards for green buildings have been implemented, climate and energy issues have been a part of the media’s focus and students have begun pressuring campus officials to adopt more environment-friendly policies.

The executive director of the AASHE, Judy Walton said in an interview with Seattle PI, “We feel that campuses have a special duty, and I think they see it as well. They’re training the next generation.”


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