Businesses and consumers have learned that sustainable development or "green technology" results in both environmental protection and economic growth. And with some help from EPA, college students around the country are also catching the "green wave." Fifty-eight university teams were awarded $580,000 in EPA grants to work on sustainable solutions for environmental problems.
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 generated within the community and then will be used to power local public fleets. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill team will 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.
Since 2004, the People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) sustainability design competition has encouraged university teams to design and develop projects that:
- Benefit People by providing healthier home and work environments
- Promote Prosperity by developing local economies and creating small businesses, and
- Protect the Planet by conserving resources and minimizing pollution.
"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 the 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 is now the owner of a center that sells general energy efficiency supplies, runs a shop where cars are converted for vegetable oil use, and serves as a hub for energy-related educational initiatives. This unique resource center also plans to begin retail sales of ethanol and various biodiesel blends at the pump and run a biodiesel production coop using a bike-powered processor.
These student projects will be demonstrated on 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.