A few years back, Marshall Dostal had an explosive problem. Drums of glycerin, a byproduct of turning waste grease into biofuel, had piled up in his garage in Pasadena, Calif.
Dostal was using the fuel to fill up his 1984 Mercedes 300D, which he had converted to run on biodiesel. He would get the grease from nearby restaurants, brew it into biodiesel and — voila! — free fuel.
Glycerin, a colorless, thick liquid, is not explosive by itself, but Dostal’s wife Megan wanted it out of the garage, so he decided to turn his waste into haste by taking his modest reuse project to the next level.
He created Further, a company that specializes in high-end hand soap with an environmental twist. Because it’s made out of leftover glycerin, it has an environmental foot … ah, “handprint,” … that’s squeaky clean.
“I wanted to create a company that would allow me to find things that seem like waste, like food grease, and then find ways to make use out of them,” Dostal explains.
A quick look at Dostal’s background makes it easy to see why he decided to start a company that’s modeled around conservation. As a child in a staunch do-it-yourself family, Dostal spent his childhood raising chickens and shoveling coal into the stove.
“We were a normal, suburban family,” says Dostal. “Doing those things was more of a fun thing than anything. It’s not like we thought we were doing anything better than anyone else.”
Today Dostal extends that common sense attitude toward his own family life. For example, he and his wife use cloth instead of paper towels and hang the laundry to dry on the clothesline.
“We don’t put ourselves on a pedestal. It’s just kind of what we do,” he says.
As a former New Yorker who worked in post-production editing television commercials and shows, Dostal didn’t know the first thing about making soap, so he did what any eco-entrepreneur would do, he looked it up.
“I bought a bunch of books, read a lot on the Internet, and talked to people about making soap,” Dostal says. “What a lot of people don’t know is that the process of making biodiesel is actually very similar to the process of making soap.”
Getting the fragrance just right proved especially difficult, so Dostal and his wife decided to bring in a fragrance blender. “We were able to get just the right scent,” he says.
Though soap made from leftover French fry grease may not exactly bring cleanliness to mind, Further’s blend of essential oils give the soap a crisp and clean smell.
“Sometimes there may be a little bit of an ick factor among customers, but once they see what a great product it is, they tend to get over it pretty quickly,” he says.
Plus, the grease that Dostal uses doesn’t come from typical fast food fodder. Recently, Dostal paired up with celebrity chef Mario Batali, one of the owners of the Los Angeles Italian restaurant, Mozza, for a grease-to-soap exchange. The new partnership keeps Dostal swimming in Mozza’s grease — 1,600 gallons worth per month, to be exact.
“They give us the grease, which they’re more than happy to get rid of, and we sell them back the soap,” says Dostal. “It just makes sense.”
The gourmet grease is first used to either make new Further candles or be converted to biodiesel for the Dostals’ two diesel cars. The remaining glycerin is then recycled into Batali-infused hand soap and returned to Mozza’s bathrooms, creating a full circle of sustainability.
“Restaurants like Mozza’s are usually very receptive to the idea of a closed loop system,” explains Dostal. “They like being able to take perceived junk and put it into products that are better for the environment.”
Though owning a closed-loop business has its challenges, Dostal hopes that eventually the eco-friendly business model will expand to other industries.
“Being a completely closed loop, zero waste society would be tough, but I hope that it would happen eventually,” he says.
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