Ron Schildge ’03 received a campus Environmental Grant from the Environmental Council in 2001 to research the feasibility of converting waste vegetable oil from the kitchens into biodiesel fuel. Dining Services generates about 40 gallons of waste vegetable oil per week that was managed through the compost system. In 2002, with the support of Dining Services, Ron processed several gallons of biodiesel fuel that he used in his own 1990 VW Diesel Jetta. Gaining further support through a Campus Ecology Fellowship in 2002 from the National Wildlife Federation, Ron expanded his partnership to include Dining Services, Facilities Management and the Patricia Hannaford Career Center (the local vocational technical high school) to produce biodiesel for testing in some of the diesel run college equipment (that annually consume over 7000 gallons of diesel fuel). Ron also taught classes on alternative energy at the Hannaford Center and worked with high school students on special projects related to this topic.
In 2003, several students, including Thomas Hand ’05 and Logan Duran ’05 worked with Ross Dining staff to set up a filtering system for the waste fryer vegetable oil that, with some adjustments to their vehicles, allowed them to run on what is known as straight vegetable oil (SVO). These enterprising students and environmental advocates caught the attention of the media in the summer of 2003 by purchasing and painting an old school bus, stockpiling waste veggie oil from the College's dining halls, borrowing the filtering system from Ross Dining (purchased with a campus Environmental Grant) and gathering up a dozen friends to travel across country while educating about biofuels and rock climbing. When they were nearing the end of their fuel supply they would seek out the nearest fast food restaurant for a refill of used vegetable oil. The Project Bio Bus website (which is unfortunately no longer active) on which they documented their trip, received thousands of hits.