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Fill 'Er Up. And Make It Premium Kitchen Grease

Food and fuel prices have driven consumers to conserve and repurpose like they’ve never had to before. As the Washington Post reported earlier this week, for example, more people have started buying meat en masse from local farms, and then packaging and freezing everything so it’ll last for the next year or so. Apparently the savings can add up to a couple hundred dollars.

Supermarkets and other companies are repurposing as well, and they’re finding it has the added bonus of being environmentally friendly. According to today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch, Ukrop’s will start turning leftover soy oil from the chicken fryers at its 11 Richmond stores into biodiesel for its delivery trucks. In all, this should produce around 65,000 gallons of fuel, or one quarter of what the retailer’s fleet consumes each year. It will also save the company $50,000 a year.

And Ukrop’s isn’t the only one. Online retailer FreshDirect, which delivers in the New York City area, is also working to turn excess kitchen grease into fuel for its trucks. “It makes us happy because it’s a closed loop system, and we’re also learning a lot as we go along about putting that process in place for a big fleet like the one that we have,” said Leitha Matz, FreshDirect’s head of environmental initiatives, in a recent interview.

Taking things a step further are companies like Straus Family Creamery, which powers its dairy with the help of a state-of-the-art “methane digester”. What’s a methane digester, you ask? Why, it’s a machine that converts cow poop into electricity. Laugh all you want, the machine generates 300,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity and saves Straus $40,000 each year.

As the urgency surrounding climate change builds — and it will — full-circle energy systems like the ones described here could become a vital next step for retailers. And I’m not just speaking in promotional terms.