Rhode Island

Fried Foods Inspire Carbon Cutting Among School Kids

Credit: Flickr via thebittenword.com

Credit: Flickr via thebittenword.com

Don’t be surprised if you learn something from a kid in kindergarten, or third grade. It happens to me all the time. Even Lisa Jackson, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, learns from the little ones once in a while. Her agency recently handed out President’s Environmental Youth Awards to students who came up with projects like collecting their town’s cooking oil for recycling into biofuel and distributing it to charities, building an environmental education center out of green materials, and starting a class on recycling. OK, so maybe these kids have already graduated from kindergarten or the third grade.

They’re from schools all across the country:

  • Westerly, Rhode Island;
  • Syosset, New York;
  • Bethlehem, Pennsylvania;
  • Gainesville, Florida;
  • Addison, Illinois;
  • Lubbock, Texas;
  • Bettendorf, Iowa;
  • Bigfork, Montana;
  • Pleasant Hill and Martinez, California;
  • Homer, Alaska.

The winning PEYA projects, as they call them, include TGIF, which stands for Turn Grease Into Fuel. Thank goodness.

The project was done by the Westerly Innovations Network/Westerly Middle School in the nation’s smallest state.

“This group of middle school students, who are passionate about community service, decided to do their part in tackling global warming by creating a sustainable project to collect the town’s waste cooking oil, refine it into biofuel, and then distribute it,” according to the EPA.

“The students presented their project to the local town council and convinced them to place a grease receptacle at the town’s transfer station to collect waste cooking oil from residents.”

The students also convinced 64 local restaurants to donate their waste cooking oil, a byproduct of fried foods. And they worked with a local company to collect the oil and sell it to a refinery for recycling into biofuel.

The students then used the money they received from the refinery to purchase biofuel for local charities. And around and ’round we go.

So far, the TGIF project has collected more than 36,000 gallons of waste oil, produced 30,000 gallons of biofuel a year, and kept 600,000 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, the EPA says. Local charities have received 4,000 gallons of biofuel and helped 40 families with emergency heating assistance.

Now that just makes you feel warm inside. How many other states and schools could this program be expanded to? Do you know of any examples? Let us know in the comments.

The sustainable students from Rhode Islanda and elsewhere will receive a plaque and a trip to Washington, D.C., to pick it up.