Keene State College Makes Sustainability Strides with Carbon-Neutral Biofuel

Lisa Markowski, ERS, for Zondits

New Hampshire’s Keene State College (KSC) this week became the country’s first college or university to use recycled vegetable oil to heat buildings on its campus. The carbon-neutral purified waste oil comes from a local supplier and is used to heat 36% of the campus. The college is also looking in to recycling cooking oil from its food services for use in heating. As one of the original participants in the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (which began in 2007), KSC has been actively engaged in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions and achieving greater sustainability.

Keene State College
Photo credit: Keene State College

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KSC is First College in the U.S. to Heat with Purified Waste Vegetable Oil

Keene State College, October 4, 2016

Keene State College announces that it is the first, and currently only, college or university in the United States to heat a college campus with 100 percent purified waste vegetable oil. The announcement comes during Campus Sustainability Month, an international celebration of sustainability in higher education.

The biofuel is a product of a proprietary refinement process used by a New England-based producer. The purified waste vegetable oil is carbon neutral and currently heats 36 percent of the College campus. Keene State intends to grow the use of the biofuel to heat more of the campus over the coming years, as it is a vital part of attaining the College’s sustainability and climate commitments, in addition to cultivating a more diversified and resilient heating fuel portfolio. During August 2016, Keene State met the demand for heat and hot water entirely through the use of purified waste vegetable oil.

“Keene State College’s decision to switch their heating fuel to 100 percent used cooking oil is an innovative example of reducing operational greenhouse gas emissions, supporting a local business, and improving the air quality around their campus. It’s also a testament to the many benefits of working toward the goal of carbon neutrality,” said Second Nature Senior Manager Steve Muzzy, whose organization works with colleges and universities to advance principles of sustainability in higher education.

The waste vegetable oil, with renewable energy incentives, offers a cost that is comparable to the No. 6 fuel oil that the College was using for most of its heating needs. Minimal upfront cost and staff time were necessary to begin using the waste vegetable oil derived biofuel, and the environmental benefits are significant for the campus and the greater Keene area. In addition to using vegetable oil for fuel, Keene State is making plans for its own used cooking oil to be recycled for use as heating oil.

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Image credits: Keene State College