Reclaiming Cooking Oil for a Greener Kitchen.
By Brad Nelson
Thursday, 4th February 2010
The National Restaurant Association's annual trend survey of Professional Chefs identifies sustainability as one of the top trends to guide 2010 culinary thinking.

No surprise there, the global concern of our precious natural resources has been on the focal point of our industry for years. Local foods with a smaller carbon footprint, sustainable fishing and farming, recycling and composting, and purposeful menus have all shared in the shaping of our chefs' collective environmental awakening.

When we announced in 2007 that we eliminated trans fats in our food preparation, I wondered how we could tap into the small but growing Bio Diesel market. 5.5 million pounds of cooking oil is a conservative estimate of what our hotel and restaurant kitchens consume annually.

Typically, the used oils are manufactured into animal feed or consumer products.  We prefer to direct these oils into a more sustainable platform, one that ultimately provides ecological benefits in line with our global green initiatives. 

Reclaiming 5.5 million pounds of used cooking oil will:
  • Produce 362,000 gallons of usable biofuel
  • Be the equivalent of planting 92,000 trees due to reduced CO2 emissions
Finding a reliable BioFuel company to partner in these efforts have been hindered by the lack of a nationwide or global presence. Greenlight Biofuels, a subsidiary of Greenlight Energy Resources based in Charlottesville, Virginia, is one of the  companies with the capability to service a multi-state area. 

Greenlight now services the majority of the Washington, DC-area hotels and is providing a model for other regions to identify similar companies in other areas capable of the same service. Wherever the infrastructure allows, we will globally direct our used cooking oil to be reclaimed into the Bio Diesel system.

Our hotel kitchens pride themselves on being good stewards of their environment, with the attainable goal of reducing our carbon footprint to the lowest possible. Running a kitchen takes a lot of energy (both physically and environmentally). Stoves, refrigerators, daily deliveries, and shipping packaging account for the obvious energy burners, but there are many more hidden opportunities.

Turning our used oil into non-fossil fuel is just one more thing we can do for the environment and cities in which we live, globally supporting our local communities. 

My name is Brad Nelson and I am Marriott's corporate chef and vice president of culinary. I grew up in Seattle, Washington where I developed the passion for food that continues to follow me throughout my career. We savored the first salmon of the season, shopped Pike Place Market, grew vegetables in the family garden, and learned to respect nature's simple, clean flavors, which I strive to instill into the philosophy of our numerous global kitchens.

More significant has been the daily food discoveries that still enlighten me, proving the old adage no one knows it all. That is never more accurate than in the food world. 

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