Greasy Greening: How One NC Company Plans To Change The World
by Ladianne Mandel
photos: The Unwinding book cover from Amazon.com; all other photos compliments of Green Circle.
Writer’s Note: Rarely do I contact a subject for an article, discover from said subject that a book has JUST been released in which they are featured prominently, purchase the book, read about the subject, and then – just a couple of days later – interview them. That, however, is exactly what happened in the case of my interview with Dean Price. I strongly encourage everyone to read The Unwinding by George Packer. Not only is it the best and most efficient way to get the backstory on Dean Price, but it’s an informative and well written work that brings to light so very much in a most eloquent and interesting way.
Dean Price is one of the main subjects of The Unwinding by George Packer, a book about the promises and pitfalls of some of the most prevalent current American paradigms, examined through the lenses of a handful of people from various parts of the nation. Price, the co-owner of Green Circle, a North Carolina based cooking oil recycling company, arrived at his present place in the Green Economy movement through a series of professional and personal events and experiences that could easily be mistaken for a madcap adventure movie plot.
But, just beyond all of the twists and turns of Price’s life there lies a simple and frightening truth uncovered by George Packer: we are rapidly approaching the time when we will have no choice but to change our ways of living and being. Gasoline will no longer be affordable. We will have exhausted numerous fuel and food resources. Income disparity will continue to increase. Ultimately, we will have to completely shift our ways of existing.
None of this means, however, that we should be giving up. Quite the opposite, in fact. ”We have to create new and different industries, if not for our generation then for the next generation,” Price, the father of two, says. The former convenience store/gas station owner learned mountains of lessons about our nation, our consumerist culture, and all that fuels it – pun intended. When he happened to meet his business partner, then-owner of Green Circle, Stephan Caldwell, Price had already taken a dive into the world of biodiesel fuels and knew how much potential the industry held for both profit and as a potential tool in the fight for alternative fuel strategies. Shortly after meeting Price, Caldwell brought him on board as the majority shareholder in Green Circle, their now shared business.
Price and Caldwell put their heads together and realized it’s easier to get people’s attention when you’re doing something that offers benefits that hit close to home. That’s how they cooked up the idea to partner with their county’s school system. The whole deal looks like this: Green Circle picks up used cooking oil from restaurants, they get it ready to be used by the biodiesel companies that actually turn the used cooking oil into fuel, and then Green Circle shares the profits with local schools. One awesome outcome of this whole model is that local school buses in Price’s area now run on biodiesel. It puts money back in the pockets of schools that have been crippled by budget cuts in recent years. Green Circle’s program is called Biodiesel 4 Schools.
Price sees biodiesel as the way of the future for North Carolina and all states beyond. ”Instead of having one or two biodiesel refineries in the state, I want to see 100. We start locally and then this could spread to the whole country,” Price says. But, he acknowledges, getting people on board can be challenging. ”They tend to go with what’s easiest,” he explains. Buying local isn’t just about end projects, it’s about the whole chain. ”There was a woman with a bakery in my town. She had a sign in the window that said buy local, but it’s not just about the cupcakes. It’s about where you get the eggs. Where you get the flour. Biodiesel is the same way. It’s not just about where you buy the fuel – it’s about the rest of the process too.” When it came to explaining his business’s concept to people he found it challenging at first. But, when he and Caldwell added the fact that they were benefitting schools with their business model, people’s ears started to perk up. Appealing to people through their hearts and wallets is far easier than trying to explain how biodiesel can benefit the entire economy. And yet, it can…
Price wants to see canola purchased from local farmers, used cooking oil and other ingredients used in the making of biodiesel to be purchased from local suppliers. Local, Price says, is the way to go from here on. Of course, if predictions about increasing gas prices and dwindling supplies continue to come true, local will not just be the most desirable way to go – it’ll be the only way to go.
Imagine that – buying local! Novel concept – - too bad we ever got away from it! Now, let’s get back to it!
In the meantime, keep an eye on national (and multinational) corporations that control things like canola seed. Just sayin’.