Picking a meeting hotel that takes its sustainable practices seriously can be tricky business, but hereâ€™s a question to add to your site inspection: Does the property recycle its cooking oil?
If youâ€™re considering Hawaii as your meeting destination, the answer is quite likely to be â€śyes.â€ť Maui-based Pacific Biodiesel is working with close to 30 hotels around the state, as well as hundreds of restaurants, to convert used cooking oil into diesel fuel.
Launched in 1996, Pacific Biodiesel was one of the first companies in the U.S. to recycle waste vegetable oil. Its founder, Bob King, a diesel mechanic, learned that restaurants and hotels were paying companies to haul waste oil away. His inspiration: Provide venues with containment bins and collect the oil free of charge.
The company now has recycling plants on Maui and Oahu and is opening one this year on the Big Island of Hawaii. The Oahu plant produces 1 million gallons of biodiesel fuel each year, while the Maui facility makes 750,000 gallons annually. Most of the fuel is used for municipal vehicles that run on diesel, such as garbage trucks, but several gas stations on the islands carry the fuel for diesel-powered cars. For every gallon of waste cooking oil, 90 percent is converted into biodiesel while the other 10 percent is used in other ways, for example as a soil additive. â€śWe donâ€™t waste anything,â€ť said Beth Mathias, director, sales and marketing, Pacific Biodiesel. â€śItâ€™s all organic.â€ť
Many of the large meeting properties on Waikiki Beach are part of the program, including the Hilton Hawaiian Village, Hilton Waikiki, Hyatt Regency Waikiki, Sheraton Waikiki, and Sheraton Princess Kaiulani. Meeting hotels on Maui and the Big Island are also part of the effort. Last year, Pacific Biodiesel created a sustainability award, recognizing the hotel that is the most â€śgreen,â€ť not just as a cooking-oil recycler but for other initiatives as well. The Hyatt Regency Maui won the inaugural award. â€śHotels can make such huge impact on renewable energy,â€ť says Mathias.
Pacific Biodiesel helps hotels and restaurants get the word out about their recycling efforts through its Restaurants for Renewables program. Pacific Biodiesel also collects grease traps for conversion to diesel fuel, but charges for that service because more work is required. â€śBut we are very competitive in pricing because itâ€™s something we value,â€ť says Mathias.