P3: Working for a Sustainable Future

This post in the Science Wednesday series is coming to you early as we prepare for Earth Day activities. Stay tuned to Greenversations for more!

By Lahne Mattas-Curry

For the last seven years, EPA has challenged teams of students to compete for the People, Prosperity and Planet (P3) Award, which includes funding to develop sustainable projects.

Many past P3 award winning projects have grown, sparking full-fledged companies with employees making an impact on our economy as well as our global environment.  For example, a 2008 team from the University of California at Davis developed a process that produces biodegradable plastics from sewage.  Team members launched the company Micromidas a year after winning, have leveraged $3.6 million in venture capital, and currently employ 22 people.

A 2005 winning team from Oberlin College developed a data mining display software system that shows real-time energy and water usage in dormitories and other large buildings.  The team started The Lucid Design Group, which now has 12 employees and has sold their pioneering Building Dashboard Software to hundreds of commercial, civic, institutional, and residential buildings throughout the United States.

And last year, Harvard University along with MIT, Qinghai Normal University, and Tsinghua University won a P3 award for developing a lightweight solar energy device that provides agricultural and nomadic communities in the Himalayas a low-cost, portable means of cooking, heating, and generating electricity. The project spurred the founding the non-profit One Earth Design.

One Earth Design has also been recognized by the Dutch Postcode Lottery Green Challenge, St. Andrews Prize for the Environment, the MIT $100k Competition, the Clinton Global Initiative, the Lemelson Foundation, the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship and the Yunus Innovation Challenge.

Sustainable innovations like these are the environmental and economic future not just for our nation, but the world. They are creating real time solutions to some of our more pressing global issues.

This year, 55 teams of more than 400 students will showcase projects that provide solutions to environmental challenges including clean drinking water, green building, renewable energy sources, sustainable agriculture practices and the manufacture of environmentally-friendly materials and green chemicals. Their solutions, just like those of the last seven years, have broad and worldwide impact—affecting countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Several projects focus specifically on Haiti.

The competition will culminate with final judging during EPA’s 7th Annual National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall April 16-17, 2011 as part of EPA’s Earth Day events. The projects are open to the public and can be viewed on Saturday and Sunday.

About the Author: Lahne Mattas-Curry is a science outreach specialist and science communicator at EPA.

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