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Leading the green initiative at Cedar Crest

Created date

April 24th, 2012

When Erickson Living encouraged its 16 campuses to reduce their carbon footprint, Rich Ferguson perked up. A 42-year veteran in the construction industry, the general services project manager of Cedar Crest, in Pompton Plains, N.J., had witnessed the environmental and financial savings of biodiesel technology. After recruiting Cedar Crest community member and chemical engineer Bill Sperry, Ferguson took action in what has so far saved the community $350 a month in waste-hauling costs and countless dollars in diesel fuel. Not to mention two shuttle buses, four mowers, and one ATV now emit zero carbon into the environment.

Partners in biodiesel

Using biodiesel technology, Cedar Crest converts 500 gallons of used cooking oil (vegetable oil and animal fats) from its four on-site restaurants into fuel for its vehicles that run on diesel fuel. The clean-burning, nontoxic, biodegradable alternative fuel contains no petroleum and almost no sulfur or aromatics. Sperry, who has lived at Cedar Crest for almost nine years, worked hand-in-hand with Ferguson to evaluate the most appropriate plan of action and to implement safe operation of the new equipment, which is housed on campus. I was a consultant on safety and final design, says Sperry, who attended a biodiesel conference with Ferguson while in the project s planning stages. We evaluated different companies and packages, and we chose one that best fit Cedar Crest. All the biodiesel equipment at Cedar Crest has undergone and passed tedious inspections by the fire marshal and building code inspector. Sperry, a retired chemical engineer for DuPont, in Wilmington, Del., says he likes knowing he helped do something good for ecology. Instead of throwing away energy used in cooking oil, we harness that energy, he explains. [It] is renewable and will help us protect the environment. This system also helps save the community money because Cedar Crest will not have to pay for oil to be hauled away.

Significant savings

The initial equipment cost Cedar Crest $17,000, but the community saw a return on its investment in just eight months. It s a huge savings in diesel fuel, Ferguson says. And those vehicles that use it have a zero carbon footprint. With very little labor involved, the equipment processes 80-gallon batches, which can be pumped directly into any of the community s diesel vehicles. All of those vehicles remain on campus, saving the community an additional $.30 a gallon road tax. While biodiesel fuel currently costs more at the pump than regular diesel, the community reaps savings unseen by most individuals because it produces its own. Residents are excited about Cedar Crest taking a green initiative, Ferguson says. And they also love seeing the community find ways to save money.

What s next

Cedar Crest s next eco-initiative will convert food waste into water. Read more about Food2Water in next month s issue. Note: You should never fuel your vehicle with clean or used grease or vegetable oil that has not been converted to biodiesel fuel. For more information"> To learn more about biodiesel fuel, visit the following websites by the U.S. Department of Energy: