As Green Circle NC co-founder Dean Price foresees it, the foundation for constructing a sustainable community “starts with energy.”
Since the beginning of the decade, Price has helped shaped a biodiesel industry that has proven its value throughout eastern North Carolina, especially for area school districts that have employed the alternative fuel source in their bus fleets.
Green Circle NC, the brainchild of Price and Stephan Caldwell, follows a simple tenet: Create a self-sufficient, locally supported system to deliver renewable energy that is both safe and environmentally sound. The outreach program is called Biodiesel 4 Schools.
Biodiesel 4 Schools collects used cooking oil—peanut, soybean, safflower, sunflower seed, canola, etc.—directly from partnering sites to convert it into feedstock that makes biodiesel. Through the use of Green Circle NC processing plants, the company provides a “cleaner-burning, locally-made biodiesel” for school districts.
A portion of sales proceeds is put back into the classroom as funding, and the community is encouraged to support the restaurants that partner with Green Circle NC. Roughly 1,000 restaurants currently participate in the program.
Biodiesel 4 Schools also educates local schoolchildren about the benefits of converting to a renewable energy source by “demystifying biodiesel, which helps shape a new narrative of forming a new, sustainable ecosystem in North Carolina,” according to Price.
“It takes time to tell a story, explain the situation,” said Price. “Biodiesel will power the economy, but it starts first with getting kids to school in the first place.”
A number of area school districts have agreed to shift from traditional diesel to use the biodiesel from Green Circle NC: Pitt County Schools, Johnston County Schools and Durham Public Schools.
Price anticipates that in the near future, Green Circle NC will partner with local farmers to supply them fuel, fostering a collaboration that will steer them to plant more oil-producing crops.
Price predicts this “shared infrastructure” will establish a new market for farmers to grow crops for food oil and non-food oil.