case study: Fat of the Land

Fat of the Land

Investigation, implementation and documentation of waste grease-to-biodiesel project

  • marketing campaign/public education
  • demonstration of small biodiesel production
  • qualitative research and analysis
  • documentary filmmaking
  • ethnography/social intervention
  • creative practice

In 1994, there was little public awareness regarding biodiesel, let alone the use of french fryer grease, as a feedstock, to make it with.  This byproduct of the American diet was either used in animal feed or discarded in landfills.

I initiated this project with four key components:

Investigation into the emerging biofuels industry, contacting and securing interviews with industry and institutional leaders instrumental in advancing the technology and adoption of biodiesel.

I developed a cross country guerilla marketing campaign, to generate public interest in alternatives to fossil fuel.  Myself and four other women, costumed in attire inspired by the road, (waitress dresses and mechanic jumpsuits), drove a diesel van across the US, stopping at fast food restaurants to collect waste grease and making our fuel along the way. With no prior experience in chemistry or automotive engineering, we set out to demonstrate that anyone has the capabilities of liberating themselves from predominate industries. Our public spectacle and unique marketing strategy received excellent coverage in major media outlets including BBC, CNN, USA Today and NPR.

We documented the trip, equally sharing the various production roles. I co-wrote and co-edited the final documentary, Fat of the Land. The 60-minute piece screened at numerous festivals and venues, domestically and internationally, including the Museum of Modern Art.

I taught workshops in multiple cities on biodiesel fuel making for beginners, utilizing locally collected waste grease. 

Today, waste grease is commonly recognized as a viable feedstock for biodiesel, to such an extent that, in some markets, it’s no longer considered a waste but valued as a commodity.