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Science Wednesday: Smart Investments: Technology for the Planet and the Economy

2009 March 4

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

About the author: April Richards is an environmental engineer with EPA’s Office of Research and Development, where she helps manage EPA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program. She recently organized the SBIR kick-off meeting for the new early-stage technology developers that received funding from EPA.

We recently held our kick-off meeting for new small businesses awarded EPA funding to develop innovative technologies for solving environmental problems. It was so exciting to have a room full of entrepreneurial engineers and scientists putting their collective brainpower toward solving such important issues as climate change, air pollution, renewable energy, infrastructure, and water quality monitoring.

“It’s great to know EPA wants us to succeed,” was one company’s way of summing up the meeting. We sure do!

The original idea of the SBIR Program was to tap into the wealth of engineering and scientific expertise of small businesses to address federal government’s pressing research and development needs. Given that small business (particularly in technology) is often referred to as the “engine of U.S. economic growth”—providing the majority of the country’s new jobs—this idea makes more sense now than ever before.

There’s never been a better time to match the need for economic growth with environmental protection through the creation of “green jobs.”

There is so much potential for developing technology that both benefits the environment and keeps the U.S. competitive in the global market. As EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a recent e-mail to Agency staff, we shouldn’t have a “false choice of a strong economy or a clean environment.” The concepts are mutually beneficial.

New, “green” technologies that use less raw and toxic materials, generate smaller streams of waste, and emit fewer emissions are good for the environment and the bottom line. For example, several of the SBIR companies represented at the meeting are exploring ways to harvest what is now considered waste to create building materials, cleaner energy, or other valuable commodities.

Companies face many hurdles getting their technologies into the marketplace, where they can ultimately have a positive impact on the environment. But the potential is tremendous, and it’s reassuring to know that so many smart people are working on this common goal, and with some help from EPA, can develop technologies which help the planet and the economy.

For more information about EPA’s efforts to match technology innovation with environmental needs, visit:

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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6 Responses leave one →
  1. James Becker permalink
    April 19, 2009

    Environmental Sustainability:
    Reducing Carbon Foot Print with reduction of CO2 Gases

    We are a manufacture of dry ice, and dry ice blast cleaning systems for the past 19 hrs in Cleveland, Ohio. A percentage of the dry ice we produce is used in food processing, and in medical requirements. The CO2 used in the manufacturing is FDA approved.
    The dry ice blast cleaning technology is used to clean electric motor, printing presses, tire molds, and nuclear decontamination etc. Dry ice in the form of rice (1/8” diameter) pellets is accelerated out a nozzle using compressed air to do the cleaning process.
    This technology produces no mixed waste as in sand blasting and chemical cleaning.
    During the process of manufacturing dry ice, we exhaust 76,000 lbs/week of CO2 into the atmosphere.
    Note: It takes 2.5 lbs of liquid CO2 to make one pound of dry ice without a vapor recovery system. With vapor recovery it takes 1.1 lbs of liquid CO2 to make one pound of dry ice.
    Vapor recovery will reduce our emission from 76,000 lbs/wk to just 4800 lbs/wk.
    There is equipment on the market that will capture these exhaust gases but is too expensive for a small business like ourselves.
    This process with vapor recovery is a sustainable project which can meet a lot of government new EPA requirements.
    Can you help me to find the agency in the government SBIR program that will review our request?

    What will the Vapor Recovery process do?
    1) It will reduce carbon emissions from 76,000 lbs/ week to 4800 lbs/week.
    (And its Sustainability is evident because it’s every week reduction)
    2) It will reduce the amount of deliveries from three / week to one / week.
    Deliveries are in (40,000 lb tankers) of Liquid CO2 from Lima to Cleveland.
    3) My cost for consumables will be reduced by more the 50%.
    4) Customers product cost will be reduced.
    5) The source of plant production will be reduced.

    James Becker
    2140 Scranton Rd.
    Cleveland, Ohio 44113
    216-696-8797 Ph
    216-696-8794 Fax
    Web site:

  2. Yani permalink
    June 30, 2009

    It’s absolutely amazing how we all get to watch technology grow in every conceivable direction. I found some interesting predictions about the direction of future technology at pandalous. They’re here:

  3. jack permalink
    October 27, 2009

    Dry ice in Cleveland? Contradiction in terms isn’t it?


  4. Steve permalink
    July 21, 2010

    James Becker,

    Dry ice is an amazing product. It can definitely be used for many things. You can see a good list on this dry ice website. The fact that dry ice blasting is a “green” technology is amazing in itself. I can only imagine if every used dry ice blasting instead of things like chemical cleaning. Imagine the impact on the environment!

  5. Jan Smith permalink
    July 11, 2011

    Perhaps it may be the right time to mention that Australia has just released our Government’s policy for a Carbon Tax. Personally, I believe they have done a pretty good job with the go-low-go-slow approach. They do finally have the numbers in Parliament but it is proposed but not yet quite law. The new law will be effective as from 1 July 2012.

    A tax on Carbon is the best way to curb pollution according to our economists; to ‘encourage’ innovation and change by heavy polluters and that includes small businesses as well as the big polluters. Personally, I agree. What do others here think?

  6. Marks Spencer permalink
    September 1, 2011

    Three of the most common items one can address to be more environmental conscious and thus become a greener business, are:

    #Use recycled printer paper

    #Refill or recycle printer cartridges and

    # Better computer usage.

    One of the easiest ways in greening your business environment is to use recycled printer paper. Not all recycled printer paper are good, so when buying such printer paper, make sure to buy paper that does not use a chlorine process during the making of the paper, as these chemicals are also harmful to the environment. Using recycled printer paper will go a long way in saving trees and the environment.

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