March 13, 2014
by Anthony Guerrero
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Used Cooking Oil is Heating NRDC’s New York Office

Anthony Guerrero, Director, Facilities & Administration, New York City

With super-storms and snow-pocalypses hitting our region left and right, buildings in New York City have been turning up the heat. The typical building in New York City supplies heat through the use of fossil fuels, either natural gas or heating oil – and this is responsible for 46% of NYC GHG emissions. At the beginning of this winter, however, NRDC’s New York office made a switch to using biofuels in an effort to pursue its Sustainable Operations goalTo continually move our operations along the cutting edge of sustainability management. With the help of the our Facilities Management team and students from Columbia University’s Sustainability Management Program, who conducted a feasibility study of Net Zero Energy in the New York office for their final Capstone Project, we were able to identify areas in which we could improve our energy efficiency while reducing our emissions.

Switching to biodiesel for our heating system was one option highlighted in the Net Zero report that would both cut emissions immediately and save money. Biodiesel made from waste grease, also known as used cooking oil, has replaced our conventional No. 2 heating oil (also known as diesel fuel) used in our boiler. “This was an easy adoption as our current boiler required only minor modifications in this conversion and the switch aligned with our sustainability objectives; we are very pleased with the results” said Milly Suarez, Office Administrator, who orchestrated the switch, after the supplier, Tri-State Biodiesel, was identified and vetted by our sustainability consultant, Closed Loop Advisors.

Through this change we are able to shift away from the use of combustible fuels, nearly eliminating the greenhouse gas emissions normally associated with burning heating fuels.  How does this work? Biodiesel releases less carbon monoxide, particulates, sulfur, and various other nasty emissions than the diesel it replaces.  But the big difference is that the carbon dioxide emitted is biogenic carbon, as opposed to carbon from fossil fuels.  The carbon emitted when the fuel is burned originally came from plants that sequestered the carbon from the air, so it remains part of the carbon cycle, as opposed to being dredged up from ancient carbon deposits which would otherwise not have been in circulation, i.e., fossil fuels.

We are very proud of our step to cut CO2 emissions, but recognize that this particular type of biofuel, waste-grease based biodiesel, is in limited supply and other biofuel options come with more complexities. We use a company that is able to collect used cooking oil from local restaurants, purify it, and then deliver it to us to power our boiler. This is a very low-carbon option for us because if this oil were alternatively disposed of it would eventually release more global warming pollution in the form of methane as it decomposed.

Even though we have virtually eliminated greenhouse gas emissions from our heating fuel, we are still trying to minimize use of the new fuel.  We have installed boiler controls to maximize efficiency of the heating system; sensors on each floor signal the boiler to turn on or off based on the set point temperature of the surrounding area. With this new system we are able to effectively regulate the temperatures on each floor to both provide a comfortable working environment for the employees and be maximally efficient in our energy use. Fuel consumption can be easily monitored with this new system and compared with benchmarks from previous years. We expect to see a 15% savings in heating fuel usage over the next year.

Increasing energy efficiency, ultimately becoming “net zero”, and minimizing our emissions wherever possible are key parts of our goal to be cutting edge in sustainability management – and the move to biodiesel alone reduced our NYC emissions by nearly 40%.

This blog was written in collaboration with Marisa Kaminski, Sustainability Intern, and the NY Facilities Management team.

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August 7, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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A greener, more sustainable source of ingredients for widely used plastics

A new process can convert a wide variety of vegetable and animal fats and oils — ranging from lard to waste cooking oil — into a key ingredient for making plastics that currently comes from petroleum, scientists say. Continue reading

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June 17, 2013
by Jake Schmidt
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Break the Link between Deforestation & Commodities: A New Opportunity for the Obama Administration to Act on Climate Change

Jake Schmidt, International Climate Policy Director, Washington, DC
This post was co-written with Cecilia Springer of Climate Advisers.
There is a new opportunity for the United States to curb deforestation and slow climate change. Defo… Continue reading

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March 15, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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KLM to offer weekly transatlantic flights powered by cooking oil

KLM, a Dutch airline, has begun powering some transatlantic flights with a fuel mix that of 25% cooking oil and 75% jet fuel. Continue reading

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December 4, 2012
by Recycling
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Red Lobster, Olive Garden Recycle Cooking Oil

100 percent of the used cooking oil from Darden Restaurants’ 2,000 locations is recycled.

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September 3, 2012
by MoreRecycling
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Waste cooking oil makes bioplastics cheaper

‘Bioplastics’ that are naturally synthesized by microbes could be made commercially viable by using waste cooking oil as a starting material. This would reduce environmental contamination and also give high-quality plastics suitable for medical implant… Continue reading

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November 1, 2011
by Reduce
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Used Cooking Oil to Power U.K. Homes

Creative greenies have found some pretty cool applications for used cooking oil. It powers bus fleets, helps people travel the world and can even be used to heat your home. This month, Merseyside, England is taking recycled oil even further by using it to power local homes. Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority (MWDA), its contractor Veolia [...] Continue reading

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June 28, 2011
by ICGblog
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Cars 2 – A Spy Story with an Eco-Spin

Hard to believe it has been 25 years since Pixar Animation Studios opened its doors and began changing animation forever. Pixar’s12th full-length animated feature Cars 2 is a fun, exciting 3D adventure bringing together the characters from Radiator Springs and … Continue reading

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