Fuel to the Fire

Foothill Fuel is making outdoor recreation sustainable, one meal at a time

Spending time outdoors has always been an important part of the environmental movement, but for campers and backpackers, preparing meals often requires burning fossil fuels. “We think this is kind of crazy,” says Brian Kennedy. Kennedy and Dr. Scott Eaton founded Portland-based Foothill Fuels in 2016 to create a renewable, low-carbon alternative. Working with one of the country’s foremost biofuel refineries, Kennedy and Eaton collect used vegetable oil from restaurants and farms, which goes through an advanced production process to create Foothill Bio-White Gas, a renewable fuel for use in liquid-fuel stoves.

The Maine Technology Institute has been critical to the company’s success, says Kennedy. Between 2016 and 2018, Foothill Fuels received two seed grants from the publicly funded organization to support research and development, intellectual property work, and field testing. Additionally, a grant from the Libra Foundation helped with crucial investments in marketing and branding, and Yarmouth-based advertising agency Blaze Partners helped bring it all to life. Popular Science named Foothill Bio-White Gas one of its ten “most thrilling recreation innovations of 2019.”

Last year, Kennedy and Eaton launched a successful trial batch and sold fuel to organizations that helped with field testing, including Outward Bound, Bates College, National Outdoor Leadership School, and Alpine Ascents International, which used the fuel throughout its 2019 Mount Rainier guiding season. All of the organizations have committed to using Foothill Fuels in 2020. Kennedy and Eaton’s next goal is to make their product available for retail customers. Foothill Fuels already has product at the Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington, Vermont, and at Alpenglow Adventure Sports in Bar Harbor, but they are working with a national distributor and hope for a country-wide launch by June 2020.

Foothill Bio-White Gas has a 50% smaller carbon footprint than petroleum white gas.

The fuel works in any temperature. Dick Chasse of Acadia Mountain Guides burned the fuel at ­–4°without a problem.

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