“Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it to the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel” – Deuteronomy 31:19

Soon after Lester Vaughan Secondary school closed for Christmas holidays 2005, Nicole and Handel convened a meeting of parents and children to teach them the ‘song’ entitled ‘a used vegetable oil recycling project’. The critical mass of 27 persons who attended was engaged in rapt attention throughout the presentation. At the end, the children, supported by the parents who were present, committed to the task of embarking on this first step towards a potentially large business enterprise. The evolution of this project will bear witness against the commitment of these families.

Nicole is an Australian volunteer at Counterpart Caribbean @ The Future Centre which is a holistic sustainable development, indoor and outdoor exhibition centre and small enterprise incubator. Handel Callender is an entrepreneur whose enterprise Native Sun NRG is housed at the Future Centre. Handel is also a volunteer at the Centre. Native Sun NRG is being shepherded by CBET, with support from the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation, in its business to produce biodiesel from used cooking oil.

Biodiesel is a non-toxic renewable diesel substitute derived from fresh or used vegetable oil. Biodiesel is as biodegradable as sugar and less toxic than salt. Harmful exhaust emissions are significantly reduced when using biodiesel. Carbon dioxide is reduced by 100% as is sulphur dioxide. There is a reduction of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons by 60%. Overall, cancer causing agents are reduced by approximately 97%.

Biodiesel can be used in any diesel powered equipment with little or no modification to the engine. It is also completely miscible with regular diesel. Native Sun NRG currently manufactures biodiesel from waste vegetable oil, but fresh vegetable oil may also be used, thus creating a backward linkage to agricultural production. The recycling of used vegetable oil has a positive impact on environmental protection.

The sources of used oil are hotels, restaurants, fish-frys, institutions, delis, cruise ships and households. Raw material is currently collected from some of the first five sources. The company is looking into collecting the used cruise ship oil which then leaves only the collection from households to be addressed. In this regard, a pilot project has been designed between Counterpart Caribbean, the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Native Sun NRG. Other private and public sector organisations and NGOs will also be involved.

The project simply asks the students, initially from the School’s Environmental Club, with the support of their parents, to recycle the household and neighbourhood vegetable oil by bringing it to the school, in secure containers, for collection by Native Sun NRG. The Environmental Club will earn income from Native Sun NRG for this activity and will also have the opportunity to win prizes. The Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme (YES) will assist the club in setting up a business where the income earned can purchase resources for the Environmental Club for all to share. Some suggestions would be to purchase a solar panel or buy a wind turbine to run a piece of equipment, or to purchase subscriptions to magazines or resource texts on alternative energy or sustainable development. The Parent/Teacher Association will also be involved. This Pilot project will begin in February 2006 and will last for a year. When the operational systems are refined, the project will be extended to other schools, ultimately garnering used cooking oil from most of the 80,000 households in Barbados. The project may then be extended throughout the region and beyond with the help of the GEF Small Grants Programme of the UNDP and other stakeholders

After presentations by Nicole and Handel, and an intervention by Giles Romulus of the GEF Small Grants Programme, I thanked the group for attending, and asked how many of the children thought that they would like to get into business. Each child raised a hand spontaneously, accompanied by eager and interested looks on their faces. I cautioned them that a good business philosophy was to ‘start small, do it right, make a profit, then expand’. I also advised them that their participation in this project could very well be a training ground for their involvement in other businesses. For example, in recycling alone, there were opportunities for conversion of waste materials such as paper, cardboard, glass, light & heavy plastics, light & heavy metals and organic waste, into commercial enterprises.

I then asked the audience to name a successful business that readily comes to mind and one of the first responses, which I heard, was ‘Goddard Enterprises’. I then reminded them that, as far as I understood, this business began by one man walking animals from the parish of St John to be sold in Bridgetown, and today it is a multi-national, multi-million dollar enterprise. I concluded by saying that businesses, which may be spawned by the stimulus given here today, may follow a similar path if nurtured well. Today’s children can lead the way for their generation to contribute to enterprise development.