Rhode Island Teen Recognized for Bioheat Project

John Davis

CassandraLin1A teenager from Rhode Island is being recognized for her project to turn waste cooking oil into biodiesel to heat homes, or bioheat. Cassandra Lin, a 15-year-old from Westerly, has been honored as one of six Earth Island Institute’s New Leaders Initiative young environmental activists winning the Brower Youth Awards, recognizing her efforts toward ecological sustainability and social justice.

When she was in fifth grade Cassandra Lin learned that used cooking oil could be converted into cheap, clean-burning biodiesel to heat homes. The same year, 2008, Lin founded Turn Grease Into Fuel (TGIF), a youth group that gets local restaurants to donate their kitchen grease to be recycled and shared with charities that identify families who need heating assistance. So far, Lin’s outfit has helped offset more than 2 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions by promoting the use of biodiesel. In 2011, Lin and her team drafted a bill that required all businesses in Rhode Island to recycle their waste cooking oil and worked with local legislators to get it approved. State lawmakers passed the Used Cooking Oil Recycling Act in June 2011 and the law went into effect in January 2012, expanding TGIF’s efforts into neighboring communities. The network of local businesses and charities that Lin and her team created is itself a well-oiled machine that addresses the needs of community members and reduces waste and pollution.

She’ll receive her award during the 14th Annual Brower Youth Awards on October 22 at the Nourse Theater in San Francisco.