You’ve heard of cooking with gas, but how about gassing up with cooking oil? That’s what Team Blonde owners Jayne Ertel and Heidi Vance burn in their VW Jettas. The used oil comes from Gaetano DiBenedetto, who switched from hydrogenated to non-hydrogenated oil to keep moisture out of Team Blonde’s fuel lines.

Gaetano sets out the oil and they take it to the garage for mixing. Heidi and Jayne pour the oil into two 50-gallon drums topped by screens and let it to sit for two weeks to allow sediment to settle.

A pump skims the oil from the top and runs it through two filters into the mixing tank. Forty gallons of used canola oil are combined with four gallons of kerosene and two gallons of unleaded gas. Jayne’s car really likes the stuff and runs on 75 percent bio-fuel, while Heidi’s is a pickier eater and uses 60 percent combined with diesel.

Heidi’s dad, William, perfected the recipe. William is a farmer who uses bio-diesel in his truck and tractor, as well as his vintage Mercedes Benz. His local school district also uses oil donated from a chicken factory to power their busses. William and his wife, Mary, however, learned a painful lesson one winter day when the bio-fuel jelled up and their vehicle stalled. Cooking oil consumers have learned to stop using the fuel when it drops below 45 degrees.

Jayne and Heidi estimate it cost about $300 to purchase the equipment to make bio-fuel. They also admit it’s a messy, sticky business to mix the ingredients. However, it’s only costing them 94 cents per gallon to fuel their cars, and they get great mileage. On a recent drive to New York, they made it all the way to Ohio on their first tank.

Saving money, though, is not their main motive; it’s part of their efforts to care for the environment. Their dedication to conservation is reflected in their store as well as in their driving habits. For example, when they remodeled the shop, they saved all the old drywall screws to use for new partitions. They re-paint, rather than replace, they cut skylights instead of hanging fluorescents. They also sell a heavy mix of eco-friendly products, from reclaimed leather, to soy candles set in recycled wine bottles.

Heidi comes from a long line of recyclers – William saves wire from cardboard hangers – so changing her car’s emissions from diesel fumes to Italian food fits her lifestyle. Plus, getting the oil from Gaetano’s is another example of Forest Park businesses working together.

In fact, Mark Hosty, of Healy’s Westside, is also donating oil for Team Blonde’s vehicles. It saves him money on disposal costs, keeps the waste oil from tainting the environment and will change the aroma of their exhaust to chicken wings and cheese sticks.