What do Thanksgiving, fried turkey and biodiesel have in common? Six weeks ago, the NCCC Delta 8 “Green Team” began serving with a nonprofit in New Orleans on an energy conservation project to develop a sustainable plan and solicit restaurants to donate used cooking oil for biodiesel fuel production.
During our time working with Operation REACH’s Gulfsouth Youth Biodiesel Project on a Fried Turkey Grease Drive, our specialized AmeriCorps NCCC team, Delta 8, discovered how a team of six could make a big difference, even in the populous city of New Orleans.
We dove enthusiastically into the project and our assigned tasks, which included creating and circulating promotional materials to nearly 60 locations in the greater New Orleans area, writing and distributing press releases and public service announcements, and researching and working to implement a system that would eventually increase the output of biodiesel in our lab to 2,500 gallons of fuel per week.
During the weeks leading up to this event, none of us were exactly sure what kind of response we would get, given that this was the first year of the drive. Would people make the extra effort to bring their grease to one of our eight drop-off locations? Did we get enough media exposure and distribute enough fliers to reach everyone in the city who fries their Thanksgiving turkeys? As a team, we threw around some numbers and decided that the grease drive would be a success if we came away with 200 gallons of grease.
By Saturday, December 4th, the last day of the drive, we found out that our estimation was way off -- we collected roughly 360 gallons of grease, which will convert to over 300 gallons of biodiesel fuel. Our hard work paid off with the help of those who took that extra step to recycle their grease instead of disposing of it in drains, backyards, or landfills. With the ongoing efforts of the GYBP, the grease collection will carry on throughout the year.
Now calling ourselves “grease mongers,” each member of the NCCC team was chosen for his or her interest in sustainable living. The team includes Samantha Ahrendt, 21, of Pewaukee, Wisconsin; Allen Chang, 24, of Atlanta, Georgia; Matthew Gonzales, 23, of Albuquerque, New Mexico; team leader Kaitlin Higgins, 23, of Brick, New Jersey; Sara Lamberson, 24, of Wallingford, Pennsylvania; and, Drew Schaffer, 18, of Norwalk, Ohio.
With less than two weeks remaining before our team moves on from the Big Easy, I think we can all walk away from this project knowing that we made our own contribution to the Green Movement in New Orleans.