Youth Engage Local Businesses to Responsibly Recycle Used Cooking Oil

On December 9th, 2011, the Human Impacts Institute (HII) held a workshop for students from International High School in Long Island City, Queens. Students met HII for an in-class training session on environmental leadership, small business outreach, and cooking oil recycling. Participating youth already had experience in doing business outreach and had learned about cooking oil recycling and second-generation biodiesel fuels in their chemistry class and previous internships. During the workshop, students brainstormed the importance recycling cooking oil and how they could most effectively discuss community environmental issues with local business owners and managers. Youth decided that, although there are many reasons to promote responsible cooking oil reuse, they wanted to focus their outreach on the following reasons:

  • Local fuel! Cooking oil can be recycled into fuel for diesel trucks;

  • Save money! A Business can receive tax deductions for recycling cooking oil and some companies recycle it for FREE;

  • Cleaner air! Cooking oil emits fewer pollutants into the air than diesel;

  • Reduce dumping! By recycling cooking oil, businesses who may be tempted to illegally dump are reducing estuary pollution and infrastructure damage, otherwise clogging the City’s sewer system;

After the training, students headed to Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and its’ busy Manhattan Avenue to outreach to local businesses. The purpose of outreach was to sign restaurants up for a free cooking oil recycling program provided by HII’s partner, RWA Resource Recovery. RWA Resource Recovery is a service of The Doe Fund, who provides employment opportunities for formerly homeless people in New York City. RWA recycles 100% of the used cooking oil for biodiesel fuel, unlike some collection companies who either throw away the oil or recycle it for use in pig and chicken feed—and unhealthy practice for the animals and for people who consume these animals. Biodiesel from cooking oil is a cleaner-running alternative energy used for transportation and home heating systems.

Students outreached to fast food, Italian, Polish, and Chinese restaurants, as well as, delis and diners all along Manhattan Avenue. After two hours of hard work, students successfully outreached to nearly 25 restaurants. This training and outreach was part of HII’s Ecopreneurs program. The Ecopreneurs program offers participants individualized professional development opportunities to incorporate environmental sustainability into their professional practices. Partnering with local organizations, agencies, and institutions, Participants gain experience in program development, environmental auditing, monitoring and evaluation, and leadership. HII looks forward to partnering with students of the International School again in the future and working towards creating more sustainable communities in NYC.

**A special thanks to NYCEF Newtown Creek Fund and Asian Americans for Equality for their support of this program.

By Melissa Mitchell, Human Impacts Institute Environmental Educator

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