A trip down Lorax Lane…

A few weeks ago I had the very distinct pleasure of spending the day on Lorax Lane in Pittsboro, North Carolina, the home of Piedmont Biofuels , and a number of other green enterprises. They occupy an abandoned industrial park, which I was told is actually an old missile manufacturing facility. In any case, they’re not making warheads anymore, but they are manufacturing tangible social and technological change in the form of biodeisel, locally grown organic food, social action, and an array of sustainable goods and services.

The rest of Lyle’s tour was a whirlwind through the biodiesel process. One thing was clear: Lyle knows his stuff, and quality control is priority number one. He has saved samples from each lot number since day one. Education is also a top priority at Piedmont. He ensures that every member of the coop knows what they are getting into when they start running biodiesel in their vehicles. Here’s a few pictures of some their reactors and holding tanks. In the second one that’s the grease collection truck in the foreground.

Guilford’s Environmental Coordinator Jim Dees, and myself were down at the Eco-Industrial Park for a tour and also to do some investigating for a few different projects, one of which is getting our off road tractors and mowers running on off-road biodiesel, and others which we’ll talk about later. We also happened to be there on Friday which at Piedmont Biofuels is also Local Lunch Friday. Each Friday they trade off cooking responsibilities and gather around the table for a locally sourced, delicious, and nourishing meal. Now I’ve been to some pot lucks in my day, and this one was pretty exceptional. Fresh baked bread, beautiful local greens and hot house tomatoes, kale and white beans. It was quite the feast.

Before lunch we were lucky enough to catch Piedmont Biofuels founder and VP of Stuff Lyle Estill between breakfast with Governor Bev Purdue, and putting on his distribution garbs to go out on a delivery run. Needless to say Lyle is a busy guy, but he was gracious enough to make time to give Jim and I a quick but very informative tour of his facility. Lyle started by showing us their very own B-100 community trail location where their co-op members can fill their cars with locally processed Biodiesel. Their location is actually a straw bail structure that encases the tank, metering system, and pump. It is also powered by a small solar array and heated by the structure’s passive solar design. Very cool stuff. Pictured below is Lyle himself showing Jim the ins and outs of the system.

As I mentioned before, Piedmont Biofuels plays host to an array of different sustainable businesses, and one of the ones we were most interested in was Carolina Worm Castings. We met Ben of CWC and coincidently Brian Rosa of the NCDENR Composting Division. We were very interested to see his operation as we’re in the process of expanding our compost system and are considering vermiculture as a sort of a final finishing stage, to help speed up the curing process. Carolina Worm Castings is a new addition and occupies some hallway space in the main building. While we were there his worms were not too happy, but it was still a cool operation to see. We also received some leads from Brian Rosa on some used Earthtubs, and also got some tips from him on how to improve our system.

The next stop on our tour was the home of HOMS which is a manufacturer of all natural insect repellents and pest controls. They have a great selection of locally produced pest repellents for your home, pets, and garden.

We were also able to meet the good people at Eastern Carolina Organics, which is also housed on Lorax Lane. Eastern Carolina Organics is a farmer-owned produce distributer that deals only in locally grown organic produce. Born out of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association in 2004, ECO has grown into a private, farmer and manager owned LLC, working with over 40 growers and over 100 customers. They are an invaluable source for North Carolina food service operators like myself that serve local produce.

After Lunch, as Jim and I were hitting road back to Greensboro, we couldn’t help but feel like we were leaving an alternate universe. Piedmont Biofuel’s little corner of the world, nestled deep in the pines of Pittsoboro, NC is a bustling think tank of sustainable thought and design. It truly was an honor to spend a day in their world. We can only hope that one day Greensboro, and cities all across America will have their very own Eco-Industrial Parks.

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