A team of students from Loyola University Chicago has been awarded a People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for developing a more natural way to reuse water from biodiesel production.

The P3 Award is a multi-phase grant program that invests in sustainable solutions to environmental problems. The Loyola team presented “From Pollution to Possibility: A Sustainable and Interdisciplinary Solution to Biodiesel Production Wastewater” at the EPA’s P3 award competition in Washington, DC. They were awarded a $90,000 grant to further research and implement the program.

This is the second time Loyola has been awarded a P3 Award. The first grant, awarded in 2008, was used to establish Loyola’s biodiesel program, which turns cafeteria vegetable oil waste into biofuel.

“We are combating climate change and reducing our carbon footprint with our biodiesel program,” says Zach Waickman, Loyola’s biodiesel lab manager and mentor of the P3 Award team. “The process, however, creates a byproduct that contains methanol, potassium soaps, and free fatty acids. With this grant we can now find a way to sustainably use this byproduct.”

This year’s competition featured approximately 300 students showcasing their sustainable projects. A panel of judges convened by the American Association for the Advancement of Science recommended the winners out of 45 teams following two days of judging. Loyola was one of six universities and colleges to receive the coveted P3 Award. Other schools included University of Massachusetts Lowell, Radford University, San Jose State University, Georgia Southern University, and Cornell University.

Loyola’s P3 team is made up of three faculty/staff mentors and five undergraduates who range in grade level from freshman to senior and are majoring in subjects from physics to English. The students are part of Loyola’s Solutions to Environmental Problems (STEP) courses, which are part of the Institute of Environmental Sustainability and bring together students, faculty, staff, and community mentors to engage in interdisciplinary discussion and action around issues of environmental sustainability.

More information on the P3 Award competition can be found at www.epa.gov/p3/2013winners.