Cassandra Lin: Turning Grease Into Fuel

At the 2014 National Service-Learning Conference, EarthEcho co-founder and president Philippe Cousteau had the unique privilege to share the stage with Cassandra Lin. Philippe and EarthEcho first met Cassandra in 2012 while collaborating with Cathryn Berger Kaye on our book Make a Splash! A Kid’s Guide to Protecting Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands. We featured the story of Project Turning Grease Into Fuel (TGIF), an organization founded by Cassandra and her classmates that collects used cooking grease to provide to organizations and individuals as heating fuel.

Today, Cassandra and her peers continue to grow TGIF—they have expanded from Rhode Island into Connecticut and Massachusetts, now encompassing an area with a population of over 750,000 people. With continued support from businesses, organizations, and local governments, TGIF hopes to reach all six New England states, and beyond. To do so, the TGIF team has created kits to help students in other regions launch similar projects, thus sustaining TGIF’s future and creating an even larger impact.

In recent years, Cassandra and TGIF have garnered  awards and media attention locally, nationally, and even internationally..  Most notably,  TGIF received a 2009-2010 President’s Environmental Youth Award, was a finalist for the 2010 Christopher Columbus Awards, and represented the United States at the Volvo Adventure competition in Gothenburg, Sweden, winning fourth place. Individually, Cassandra presented at the 2011 United Nations Environmental Programme TUNZA Conference on the Environment in Bandung, Indonesia, spoke at TEDxProvidence in 2013, was a 2013 Brower Youth Awards recipient, and received a “You Bring Charm to the World: Rising Star” award from Peking University in China. Speaking at the at Peking University awards ceremony, she encouraged young people from China, the United States, and elsewhere to work hard and chase your dreams.

Through the entire process, Cassandra and her team have learned how important youth are to a sustainable future. “Youth voice is the key to securing the future of our planet,” Cassandra says. “Youth today have so much potential and are able to do so much good in the world.” Cassandra is living proof that one determined individual with a dream can make a positive impact, as her project with modest beginnings has grown significantly over the years. “The beginning is always the hardest,” she says, “but you have to start somewhere. Today is as good a day as any. As cliché as it might sound, you have to have confidence in yourself and know that you really have what it takes to make an impact, whether it’s big or small. Just keep pushing forward and don’t give up!” As the title of one of Cassandra’s most recent TEDx talks states, sometimes youth have to “be your own Superman.”

In the next few years, Cassandra will finish high school and move to college, as will the rest of her TGIF team members. While Cassandra isn’t yet sure which school she will attend or what she will study, two things she does know: TGIF will continue to collect used cooking oil for biodiesel, and she will remain a passionate advocate for youth voice.  We can’t wait to see what else the future has in store for Cassandra!