Scotland is a nation whose climate change declaration commits all its thirty-two local authorities to both local leadership and action. Responsibility does not rest solely with government, but with business and the individual as well. It’s an obvious point, but the difference is that the relationship between individual and business is far more intricate. Environmentally minded thinking usually looks upon the role of corporations as a negative influence, but it need not always be the case. There are initiatives everywhere which suggest this relationship can be reciprocal and grounds for optimism. One place where you can find business and community working in tandem is Kilmarnock in East Ayrshire, Scotland.
The concept is simple. Stagecoach, a transport provider, has come up with an inventive way to reduce their carbon emissions. Passengers exchange used cooking oil for reduced fares. The oil is converted into bio-fuel which will run a fleet of Bio-Buses. These Bio-Buses will be fuelled 100% by bio-fuel and the expected reduction in carbon emissions is as high as 82%. It’s a six-month trial in co-operation with Argent Energy Ltd, and its not the first time Stagecoach have been using bio-fuel. Previous to this commitment their fleet has been using “a blend of 5% bio-diesel in more than 4,300 vehicles, covering around 60% of its UK Bus fleet.” The cooking-oil scheme clearly represents a far greater commitment.
How does it work? Well if you're one of the 15,500 people who uses the Service One route from Stewarton to Darvel you’ll be given a container in which to save up your cooking oil. Once it’s full you take it to the recycling plant and in return receive vouchers giving you reduced bus-fares. Biofuels are not without their concerns, but bio-diesel is the least controversial and when we consider that the cooking oil would most likely have been wasted it’s a considered scheme. This method is, to put it simply, sustainable - at least if supplies of used oil are sufficient to keep the company from supplementing with, or, indeed, relying on environmentally destructive feed-stock versions.
Bio-diesel use is still quite low, and its employment by companies often verges on the cautious, yet it’s clear that Stagecoach see a number of benefits. The company has offered an incentive, but will passengers embrace the opportunity to practice some environmentally conscious behaviour? It’s a unique opportunity, allowing those whose carbon footprint is already relatively low (in relation to car owners) to further their commitment to carbon reduction. Only time will tell how successful the scheme will actually be, and if it takes off we need to insist to other transport providers that this is not only viable, but beneficial to both business and consumer.