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Students Build a Sustainable Tomorrow

Biodiesel Program Wins Federal Grant

Biodiesel Production on Campus

The Biodiesel Program was founded, expanded, and continues based on the hard work of dedicated undergraduate students seeking a deeper engagement with the systems at play outside of the controlled environment of the university.

 The projects in the program require students to incorporate scientific, business, social, and practical hands-on skills in order to not only assess, but implement solutions to pressing environmental issues. Loyola’s program is the only, school-based operation that is licensed to produce and sell biodiesel in the United States.

 The Program holds itself to the same standards that a fully independent business would while simultaneously challenging students to seek magis.

 The Latin term for “the more”, seeking the magis requires vigilance regarding energy consumption, the production of waste products, dissemination of  information beyond our institution.. To this end students have:

  • Researched zero-waste biodiesel production that utilizes all of the glycerin and wash water created during the process; built a business plan that allows the Biodiesel Program to fund itself while serving others;
  • Helped hundreds of high school teachers introduce biodiesel and environmental sustainability into their curriculum; and
  • Collaborated with dozens of universities to expand this same model across the United States.

Not only does the program aim to be an example of sustainable education in action, it aims to demonstrate that well planned, conscientious businesses can thrive in a commodity economy by looking beyond a single product, a single system, or a single outcome and instead strive for magis.

 This program was built by and continues to be pioneered by Loyola undergraduate students who benefit enormously from hands-on, real world, green business operations. It works hard to expand access to methods through extensive outreach with high schools across the country, local not-for-profit companies, and small business owners. The research on sustainable biodiesel production benefits the production community and adds to basic knowledge. Finally, the program benefits society by increasing the availability and awareness of renewable products (fuel, soap, etc) made from traditional waste products.
 
Student Collaborators- Dr. David Crumrine, Shane Lishawa, Lane Vail, 25 Student Fellowships and over 100 S.T.E.P. Students since 2007

EPA Grant:
 
A team of students from Loyola University Chicago has been awarded a People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for developing a more natural way to reuse water from biodiesel production.

The P3 Award is a multi-phase grant program that invests in sustainable solutions to environmental problems. The Loyola team presented "From Pollution to Possibility: A Sustainable and Interdisciplinary Solution to Biodiesel Production Wastewater" at the EPA’s P3 award competition in Washington, DC. They were awarded a $90,000 grant to further research and implement the program.

This is the second time Loyola has been awarded a P3 Award. The first grant, awarded in 2008, was used to establish Loyola’s biodiesel program, which turns cafeteria vegetable oil waste into biofuel.

“We are combating climate change and reducing our carbon footprint with our biodiesel program,” said Zach Waickman, Loyola’s biodiesel lab manager and mentor of the P3 Award team. “The process, however, creates a byproduct that contains methanol, potassium soaps, and free fatty acids. With this grant we can now find a way to sustainably use this byproduct.”

This year’s competition featured approximately 300 students showcasing their sustainable projects. A panel of judges convened by the American Association for the Advancement of Science recommended the winners out of 45 teams following two days of judging. Loyola was one of six universities and colleges to receive the coveted P3 Award. Other schools included University of Massachusetts Lowell, Radford University, San Jose State University, Georgia Southern University, and Cornell University.

Loyola’s P3 team is made up of three faculty/staff mentors and five undergraduates who range in grade level from freshman to senior and are majoring in subjects from physics to English. The students are part of Loyola’s Solutions to Environmental Problems (STEP) courses, which are part of the Institute of Environmental Sustainability and bring together students, faculty, staff, and community mentors to engage in interdisciplinary discussion and action around issues of environmental sustainability.

Written by David Treering