Zach Waickman, biodiesel lab manager, chats with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. last year during a tour of the University's facility.

The two schools settled on the north shore of Lake Michigan now share more than just the sand and beaches. Loyola University Chicago’s Center for Urban Environmental Research and Policy (CUERP) and Northwestern University in Evanston have collaborated to increase biodiesel production, education, and campus and community outreach.

Biodiesel is a fuel source that is produced  from agricultural byproducts and co-products, making it a recycled product. It also releases fewer emissions than petroleum diesel. Since it is renewable, domestically produced, and cleaner burning, biodiesel is seen as an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional fuel sources.

Loyola’s biodiesel program began as an educational component of CUERP in 2009. In 2010 it became the first educational program in the United States licensed to produce and sell biodiesel. The program has produced between 2,000 and 3,000 gallons of biodiesel a year since its inception. Some of that biodiesel was sold as fuel to The Free Enterprise System, Inc., which is both Loyola’s and Northwestern’s shuttle service provider. The program also developed BioSoap, an eco-friendly soap made from the byproduct of biodiesel production from Loyola’s biodiesel lab on the Lake Shore Campus. It has been sold for the past two years. The success of the program’s initial projects inspired it to expand its outreach and begin to talk about a partnership with Northwestern.

“This partnership was a natural fit, as Loyola and Northwestern are neighbors with shared values and resources. We both would like to be an example of local, green, collaborative thinking,” says Loyola’s biodiesel lab manager Zach Waickman.

The two universities will also partner with Chicago Biofuels, a local start-up company working to promote biodiesel usage in the city by converting used vegetable oil into renewable fuel. Chicago Biofuels will collect used oil from Aramark and Sodexo, the food service providers for Loyola and Northwestern, respectively. The oil will then be recycled and transformed into biodiesel product right at Loyola’s biodiesel lab. For now, the lab will produce biodiesel fuel for both schools’ shuttle services and BioSoap. New projects are also being discussed for the future when the program moves into a new lab in the fall of 2013.

“By combining our resources to make biodiesel, we will be able to fuel both of our shuttle bus fleets–both are run by The Free Enterprise System, Inc.–with clean-burning biodiesel and hopefully push other schools, agencies, and businesses to use more local, renewable fuels,” says Waickman.

For more on the biodiesel program, click here.