EPA Grants Students $580,000 for Sustainability Projects

EPA awarded 58 university teams a total of $580,000 in grants to provide college students with the resources to develop sustainable environmental solutions and to create healthier home and work environments.

According to EPA, students, in addition to businesses and consumers, are aware that sustainable development or “green technology” can result in both environmental protection and economic growth. As a result, the agency launched the People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) sustainability design competition in 2004 to encourage college teams to design and develop projects that could improve community and work surroundings.

In addition, EPA expects the project to boost prosperity by developing local economies and creating small businesses that help protect the planet by conserving resources and minimizing pollutions.

This year, for instance, students at Keene State College in New Hampshire will create a "closed energy loop," where biodiesel fuel is both manufactured and used within the same community. The fuel is made from waste grease and used to power local public fleets.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill team will use its grant to develop an inexpensive technology that people can use to test for bacteria and viruses in drinking water in the Dominican Republic, Cambodia and South Africa.

"We want to tap the enthusiasm and knowledge of the next generation of scientists, engineers and decision-makers to make the world a better place," said George Gray, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. "And we're succeeding. Past P3 projects have become new commercial ventures. The P3 competition has created several small businesses that are helping promote sustainability in India, South America, Africa, and the U.S."

A student from a former P3 team from Oberlin College now owns a center that sells general energy efficiency supplies, converts cars to run on vegetable oil and serves as a hub for energy-related educational initiatives. This resource center also plans to begin retail sales of ethanol and various biodiesel blends at the pump, as well as run a biodiesel production co-op using a bike-powered processor.

These student projects will be on display at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on April 20-22, 2008, when the 58 new teams will compete for EPA’s P3 Awards. The P3 awards are given to the six highest-rated student designs and include additional funding up to $75,000 for the teams to further develop their designs, test their projects in the field and move them to the marketplace.

Information on the P3 student teams and projects can be found at: http://es.epa.gov/ncer/p3/current/index.html.

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