It All Starts with Science: People Prosperity and the Planet (P3)

By Aaron Ferster

The kickoff to our new science blog—It All Starts with Science—comes during an exciting time for everyone here at EPA. After all, later this week (April 22) is Earth Day, the one day a year people across the country stop to celebrate the Earth, and many join forces with neighbors and friends to spend a day outside taking action to clean up their local environments.

This coming weekend is also one of my favorite annual EPA events—the National Sustainable Design Expo, featuring the Agency’s P3 competition for sustainability.

P3—named for the three “P’s” of People, Prosperity and the Planet—is an annual competition for teams of college and graduate students. It taps the creative energy of science and engineering students to engage them to design, build, and showcase prototype technologies that offer sustainable, real-world solutions to human health and environmental challenges.

Teams display their work to compete for the coveted P3 Award, which comes along with funding to advance their winning ideas from the design phase to the marketplace.

Previous winning P3 teams have turned their ideas into successful small businesses and nonprofit organizations.

For example, a 2010 winning team made up of students from Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and two Chinese universities founded the nonprofit organization One Earth Design (OED), based on Solsource 3-in-1, their solar powered device that cooks, provides heat, and generates electricity.

Not only have such success stories advanced sustainability, they have also sparked economic growth. OED employed 29 people in 2011—and they are just one example.

If you are lucky enough to be in the Washington, DC area this weekend, you can come down to the National Mall and see this year’s crop of P3 teams as they show off their designs to the public and to the judges who have the difficult task of picking the winners.

P3 and the National Sustainable Design Expo will be open to the public from Saturday from noon to 6pm, Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm, and Monday 9 am to 1 pm. (Visitor information, including a map, can be found here:

Keep an eye on this blog for updates by P3 teams and others involved in this great annual event and follow our twitter feed @EPAresearch  for live updates from the event (#EPAp3).

About the Author: Aaron Ferster is the editor of It All Starts with Science.