Science Wednesday: EPA’s P3: Looking to the Future

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

By Aaron Ferster

“Green Jobs. Green Economy. Innovation.”

That’s how EPA’s Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe summed up his overall feeling of optimism and appreciation for the students behind the sustainable designs displayed this past weekend at the National Sustainable Design Expo featuring the 8th Annual P3 Competition.

The P3—People, Prosperity and the Planet—competition is an annual event for college and graduate school teams. The competition taps the creative energy of students from across the country to spark innovation and engage them to design, build, and test prototype technologies that offer sustainable, real-world solutions to human health and environmental challenges.

Teams display their work to compete for the P3 Award and funding—up to $75,000—to advance their winning ideas from the design phase to the marketplace or community. Previous winning P3 teams have turned their ideas into successful small businesses and nonprofit organizations.

“Whether your team heads back to school with a P3 Award or not” Perciasepe noted, “everyone here has a great future to look forward to.”

He shared how his sense of optimism stemmed from a look both backward and forward. Looking at recent history, he recalled his own student days: a time when there was still lead in our gasoline, cities were all too often shrouded in smog, and river’s smelled of sewage.

But these challenges have now largely been met. And while today’s environmental and related human health challenges seem even more daunting, the P3 teams show us that there is a new generation of scientists, engineers, architects, and others ready to tackle them.

After an initial peer review process, this year winners were selected from 55 competing teams following two days of judging by a panel of national experts convened by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Want to develop your own sense of optimism? Check out this year’s P3 Award Winners:

  • University of Massachusetts-Lowell for novel greener routes to halogen-free flame retardant material
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for solar powered water collection, containment and self regulating distribution system
  • Purdue University for development of community power from sustainable small hydro power systems
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Oglala Lakota College for use of bone char for the removal of arsenic and uranium from groundwater at the Pine Ridge Reservation
  • Drexel University for lightweight green roof systems
  • Stanford University for innovative university-school partnerships for renewable energy projects and education

About the author: EPA science writer Aaron Ferster is a frequent Greenversations contributor.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Grow a Green School

By Megan Gavin

GreenRecently I attended the first Green Schools National Conference held in Minneapolis. One of the many cool things about the conference was the variety of people who came together with the common goal of how to make schools ‘greener’ and more sustainable. When you think about it, there are a lot of environmental issues surrounding schools – you have lighting, food, garbage, ventilation, schools with and without access to nearby nature and teachers who need to teach standards but want to integrate sustainability concepts into the curriculum – just to name a few. Sounds a bit overwhelming! Where do you even get started?

As part of the conference, the Will Steger Foundation sponsored a youth summit for 100 high school kids from across the country. While the adults were trying to choose between sessions about green jobs, using renewable energy, energy & water conservation, waste reduction, recycling, green purchasing and cleaning, creating a school-wide green culture, school garden programs, school lunch programs and more, students were learning about how to be leaders themselves.

The highlight came at the end of conference for me, when students who attended the youth summit reported out about what they learned. One of the student presenters was a Region 10 President’s Environmental Youth Awards (PEYA) winner form last year. Students spoke about learning tips and tools to get grants to fund their projects, how to be advocates and get media attention for their issues and more. I learned that active, interested high school students have a voice and they will not stop until they are heard. Adults and students alike had come together to support the concept of green schools!

In addition to learning from students, I learned from other organizations too. For example, I learned the U.S. Green Building Council has a center for green schools which helps to engage educators in creating sustainable learning environments for their students and apply solid research to inform leadership about the benefits of healthy, high-performing schools. I learned about other cool resources such as ‘Green my Parents’ which is a movement and a book that teaches kids that through fun, simple activities, keeping score and grading their parents, young people reduce energy consumption, water usage and waste at home to save over $100 for their family and take charge of creating a more sustainable future today.

All in all, I was reminded that green schools aren’t only about the building but the people inside the building. The opportunities to get involved in this movement are endless. My goal is to find kids doing ‘green’ projects in my area and help them get the recognition they deserve through EPA’s President’s Environmental Youth Award program.

About the author: Megan Gavin currently works as the environmental education coordinator in the Chicago office of EPA.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.