Memory Lane

A long time ago Piedmont decided to attempt to certify our operations and fuel with the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels.

They are headquartered in Switzerland, and they have spent years doing stakeholder engagement all around the world to develop a Meta standard on what “sustainable” biofuels might look like.

Millions of dollars, and millions of meetings later, they have finally put a certification scheme in place. We applied. We learned. We went through contortions. We applied ourselves. And we qualified for an audit.

We hired an auditing firm out of California, they came to visit, they worked their magic, and they sent us a long list of non-conformance issues to address. We learned. We made changes. And we have sent them our plans for corrective actions.

10. toolspaceIt’s all fiendishly complex, and possibly negligible from an economic return on investment perspective, but we believe in it. For years we have wanted a “label” that indicates not all biodiesel is created equal. If we get our RSB certification, it might just be the label we’ve been looking for.

I should also say that one of the RSB representatives in North America is Matt Rudolf, the former Executive Director of our cooperative. He was once central to our project, and he remains a dear friend of our project, and so there is a chance we are unduly biased in favor of RSB.

Our auditor sent us a 38-page evaluation with suggested changes to our operations, and we have just sent them a 13-page reply.

One of the areas where we received low marks was on “Health and Safety.” They were kind enough to send us photographs of various points of failure around our operations, and as the RSB guy on campus, it became my job to remedy each site.

Off I went, broom in hand, to transform dozens of “scenes” to make the auditor happy. And in doing so I inadvertently went down memory lane.

One point of failure was a dust ensconced Tupperware vat that had been sitting in our fuel terminal for years. I cracked it open, and found the usual collection of greasy vessels filled with a wide array of products.

There was a mason jar filled with moldy cottonseeds that still had the lint on. There were tiny sample jars of “Soy Biodiesel” that had turned to goo. I could barely make out the Soybean Association trademark on the glass—but I remember the year we distributed hundreds of them in the Pittsboro Christmas parade.

There was a mason jar of rancid vegetable oil, with the lid rusted in place. I took it to the compost heap and shattered it with a rock to get rid of the liquids and to deposit the broken glass in the dumpster.

There were a handful of safety glasses, ensconced with liquefied plastic gloves.

As the old man on project, or perhaps, as the project’s archeological janitor and compliance officer, I couldn’t help but think I had uncovered the remains of someone’s “roadshow” kit. There was a jar of catalyst, and a foggy jar of methanol, and I thought back to the many “shake and bake” demonstrations that Piedmont has conducted—from Maine to Florida over the years.

I was basically disposing of the remnants of our “mobile education” efforts, and I wondered how many people we had impacted through live demonstrations and talks.

Thousands? Definitely. Tens of thousands? Maybe. Millions? Probably not.

As I emptied jars onto the compost heap I could not help but think we were much older then. We are younger than that now.

Here’s hoping that our RSB certification goes through. Even if it is accepted we will still have more work to do.

Like our BQ9000 accreditation for fuel quality, and our B Corporation certification for mission, RSB is another voluntarily imposed compliance mechanism that we endure.

As always, with our fingers crossed.

And this time, compliance means an obligatory trip down memory lane…

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2 Responses to Memory Lane

  1. Tami says:

    I like that we are younger now. This will mean big things for Piedmont Biofuels!

  2. Matt says:

    The Piedmont alumni went out last night in Vegas to see a show. We had David, Leif, Rachel and myself, and a handful of others from NC biodiesel. Being at NBB with so many former Piedmont staff has also been a trip down memory lane. And certainly the number of people that have been touched by former Piedmont staff and interns must be well into the tens of thousands.

    It was nice to hang out with everyone last night. Wish you could have been there.

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