After reading an article in the local newspaper, Cassandra Lin of Westerly, Rhode Island discovered that many residents could not afford to heat their homes. Inspired to do something, she formed a team of five seventh graders to recycle waste cooking oil and turn it into biofuel for distribution to needy families.
Started in 2008, TGIF (Turn Grease Into Fuel) works with local biofuel companies to recycle the grease from residents and restaurants, and refine it into biodiesel. The award-winning project has been collecting more than 36,000 gallons of waste cooking oil a year, bringing an estimated value of $60,000 of alternative energy that keeps 92 needy families warm in the winter.
TGIF encourages residents and restaurants to bring their used-cooking oil to the town transfer station to be recycled. TGIF’s partner, Grease Co., then collects and delivers the grease to a biodiesel refiner for processing into biodiesel fuel.
Thanks to TGIF, used cooking oil has also helped generate green jobs. Now 13, Lin is proud of the success of TGIF, “especially when I could show that my project has helped people and the environment at the same time,” she says.
The innovative teenager and her team of five seventh-graders have also influenced environmental legislation, persuading the local council to place a grease receptacle at the transfer station where residents donate their used cooking oil. And because of the TGIF project, Rhode Island now mandates that all businesses which consume cooking oil have to recycle the grease.
In April, 2012, TGIF team teamed up with Newport Biodiesel and sent out over 500 postcards to access Newport Biodiesel’s existing participating restaurants that were not in the TGIF program in an effort to gain support from a broader base.
Lin’s family are an integral part of her inspiration to conserve the environment and promote sustainable green solutions. TGIF became part of the Westerly Innovations Network (WIN), a community service organization started by her father, Jason Lin, in 2002. It is also run by students, including Lin’s older brother, Alex, who has earned numerous accolades for his own initiatives.
“I want to make an impact,” says Lin, and indeed she has. She was named one of America’s top ten youth volunteers for 2011 by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and has traveled internationally to speak on the environment and youth activism.
This month she was named one of 15 Build-A-Bear Workshop Huggable Heroes and awarded $10,000 in cash and a $7,500 educational scholarship for her outstanding work.
“It doesn’t matter how big or small you are, anyone can make a difference,” says Lin, whose dream project for the future is to design a model zero-waste community.
Ms. Lin joins 4 boys and 10 other girls, all remarkable youth from the United States and Canada named as 2012 Huggable Heroes, who have demonstrated outstanding community leadership and service. The Good News Network will feature all of these Heroes over the next two weeks on our Great Kids page.
(From an article by UNEP)