Loyola University Chicago Producing and Selling Biodiesel

Zachary Waickman, Biodiesel Lab Manager at Loyola University Chicago
Zachary Waickman, Biodiesel Lab Manager at Loyola University Chicago.

The Loyola University Chicago Center for Urban Environmental Research and Policy’s (CUERP) Biodiesel Program has become the first school program in the United States to be licensed by state and federal authorities to produce and sell its biodiesel fuel. The program has received the approval of the Environmental Protection Agency, Internal Revenue Service, Illinois Department of Revenue, and the National Biodiesel Board.

Loyola’s first customer is The Free Enterprise System, Inc., the company that runs the University’s shuttle service between its Chicago-based Lake Shore and Water Tower campuses. Purchasing biodiesel fuel from Loyola will allow the company to run its six Loyola buses with less diesel fuel, which is one of the dirtiest fuels and is known to release large amounts of carbon dioxide, polluted “dust,” and sulfur compounds that can cause lung problems and lead to acid rain. The move will eliminate the use of nearly 3,000 gallons of diesel fuel every year on the shuttles.

“The growth and success of our biodiesel lab has been amazing and we will continue to expand not only our production and sales, but also our outreach to schools, small businesses, and individuals interested in biodiesel,” said Zach Waickman, lab manager for the biodiesel program. “It is like running a small business that will be financially sustainable by finding unique ways to benefit the environment.”

In addition to selling biodiesel fuel, the University will also sell the lab’s “BioSoap” at its campus stores and select retailers across Chicago. The BioSoap is made from the byproduct of the biodiesel fuel production, which is known as glycerin. The soap retails for $7.99, or $2.49 for a sample size.

The University’s Biodiesel Program began in 2007 when CUERP was awarded a $10,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to implement a new educational model on campus called “Solutions to Environmental Problems” or STEP. This interdisciplinary program brought together faculty, staff, and students from all over the University to tackle a tangible environmental problem that Loyola was facing. The program’s first project was to focus on the problem of carbon dioxide (CO2) gas emissions on Loyola’s campuses. From there, the students identified, designed, and implemented an array of projects to contribute to the solution, including fuel-production research, the drafting of a biofuels legislative bill, the development of a documentary film, the establishment of the biodiesel lab, and outreach to local high schools that allowed teachers to deliver the STEP curriculum to their students.

After another $75,000 grant from the EPA for high-school outreach, the Biodiesel Program is now its own stand-alone program, and is run by students, with the help of one staff member, the Biodiesel Lab Manager. To date, the lab has produced more than 1,500 gallons of biodiesel fuel.

“Our work has just begun, as our Biodiesel Program plans to collaborate with other universities in the Chicagoland area to collect waste vegetable oil, convert it into biodiesel fuel, and then sell it to other community circulator buses and universities,” says Nancy Tuchman, vice provost and former director of CUERP, “I’m so proud of what our students have accomplished thus far, along with their passion for finding solutions that protect the environment and ultimately will make the Loyola community a greener place to live, work, and study.”

Established in 2005, the Center for Urban Environmental Research and Policy (CUERP) is an interdisciplinary program focusing on research of the urban landscape and how human populations interact with this landscape. CUERP is committed to teaching and training through the integration of a variety of academic departments and the Environmental Studies/Science Program. Additionally, outreach to the local community is fundamental to CUERP’s mission of advancing the understanding and appreciation of the urban environment.

Loyola University Chicago, founded in 1870, has more than 15,800 students, which includes more than 10,000 undergraduates hailing from all 50 states and 82 countries. The University has four campuses: three in the greater Chicago area and one in Rome, Italy. Loyola also serves as the U.S. host university to The Beijing Center for Chinese Studies in Beijing, China. Loyola is among a select group of universities recognized for community service and engagement by prestigious national organizations, such as the Carnegie Foundation and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

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