While temperatures are dropping in Colorado Springs, a current project by the Outdoor Education and the Office of Sustainability is certainly heating up.

Due to a large collaboration between the Office of Sustainability, Outdoor Education, Transportation Services, Facilities, and Bon Appétit, the CC campus can expect to have its very own “veggie van” by the end of this academic year.

After the Campus Sustainability Council approved the project last spring, the Office of Sustainability received $10,000 to convert a 12-person diesel van into a vehicle fueled by waste vegetable oil. Now that the research and design have been completed, students are invited to get their hands dirty and join in on the conversion project.

Once finished, the Outdoor Recreation Committee will use the van for local off-campus trips, but the van will also be available for other organizations that have undergone the proper training.

Outdoor Education & Ritt Kellogg Memorial Fund Coordinator, Chris Dickson, has been involved since the project’s creation last fall.

The idea spawned from Director of Outdoor Education, Ryan Hammes, after he and Dickson sat in on a few Sustainability Council meetings.

“We realize in Outdoor Education that our biggest impact on our carbon footprint is our use of the transportation fleet here at CC and driving all around to do these various trips,” said Dickson. “We can’t really stop driving everywhere because that is kind of essential to what we do. But we wondered if there was a way we could offset it or [start] a project that brings awareness to it? So, the veggie van came to fruition.”

Senior Biology major Tom Crowe stepped up as a student leader of the project this year and helped finalize the schematic details of the van’s filtration system.

Waste vegetable oil from Rastall is filtered by a centrifuge from Raw Power that will be constructed in a trailer towing behind the van. The van will have both diesel and vegetable oil tanks, as the diesel tank is used upon start-up to heat the vegetable oil until it’s hot enough to be used as fuel.

“We live in this world where we know so much about climate change and the effects of fossil fuels on our earth, and there’s not many ways to directly change your lifestyle or do something significant that alters how much fossil fuels you’re consuming or how much CO2 you’re putting into the environment,” said Crowe. “This for me is a very tangible way to get involved with a project that is going to be directly helping climate change and fossil fuel consumption.”

Sustainability Manager in the Office of Sustainability, Ian Johnson, oversees many of the logistics of the project and is excited about the possibilities of the veggie van.

“The actual mileage is comparable to diesel fuel,” said Johnson. “Depending on the tank size we end up with, we’re talking probably about 15 miles per gallon in a 12-passenger van. So we’ve got some pretty substantial range coming out of a half day’s worth of work.”

Future plans surrounding the veggie van include outreach programs to local elementary and middle schools, as well as the possibility of converting more vehicles on campus depending on the success of this first van.

The first information session for students was held this past Wednesday, but anyone who is still interested may contact Tom Crowe at tgscrowe@gmail.com.

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