Pollution Prevention Works: A Storytelling Challenge for Students
In September 2022, EPA launched a challenge promoting innovation in pollution prevention at industrial and federal facilities. The Challenge invited high school and college students to use the TRI P2 Search Tool to identify a TRI facility that has reported implementing source reduction practices and tell a compelling story about how those practices or techniques benefit the business and positively impact communities and the environment. The challenge is now closed and winners will be announced in May 2023.
On this page:
- Challenge Overview
- How to Develop a Story for the Challenge
- How to Enter
- Terms and Conditions
- Helpful Resources
- Contact Information
This challenge was open to high school students (grades 9-12) and college students who live in the United States or its territories. Participants may be individuals or teams. Federal employees, children of EPA employees, and children of affiliated state or tribal judging panel members are not eligible. Employees and their children of the companies profiled for this challenge are also not eligible to apply.
- Submissions accepted: September 19, 2022 - February 17, 2023
- Review of submissions: February - May 2023
- Prizes awarded: May 2023
EPA will award up to $50,000 total in prize money to multiple participants. Award monies will be handed out according to the prize table below. For team submissions, awards will be divided among the team members. EPA will recognize participating business partners with letters of appreciation. Students under 18 years of age must have parental permission.
(Two winners per category)
(Three winners per category)
(Five winners per category)
In addition to receiving cash prizes, winning entries will be posted on the EPA's website and social media platforms.
EPA invited students to tell stories that communicate pollution prevention solutions and their positive impact to communities through the use of story maps, written stories, infographics or videos. Students should strive to present creative, innovative and informative submissions. The entries must tell a complete story and be easily understood by the reader.
Story submissions might cover the following topics:
- Overview of pollution prevention techniques by sector
- Presentation of one pollution prevention activity done by a facility (e.g., switch to a greener chemical, process changes, discontinue use of a chemical and/or implementing a technological solution)
- Description of reductions in emissions or waste generation and the benefit to the community (e.g., use TRI or other EPA data to quantify reductions over time)
- Description of community engagement activities aimed at increasing awareness of the P2 actions (e.g., public meetings, newsletters, sustainability reports, website, social media)
Facilities eligible for being profiled are limited to those that reported implementing source reduction practices in one or more of the past six TRI reporting years (2016 to 2021). 2021 data will be available in October 2022. Eligible facilities can be found using the TRI P2 Search Tool. The story and accompanying documentation may cover information beyond what is provided in the TRI P2 Search Tool. Check out the definition of P2.
Content and Specifications:
Written Story: Keep the story between 1000-2000 words.
Infographic: Keep the graphic to one page.
- In 1 to 3 minutes, the video must describe pollution prevention practices implemented at a facility that reports to TRI and clearly explain or illustrate the benefits of these practices and improvements to the surrounding communities and environment.
- The video can be submitted in any language, but you must include a transcript for both English and the language presented.
- Source video file must be one of the following formats: MPEG4, 3GPP, MOV, AVI or WMV
- Either 24 or 30 (29.9) frames per second and have 1080 pixels resolution.
Note that most video cameras on phones should be capable of producing a video meeting the specifications above.
- Use the TRI P2 Search tool or the TRI Toxics Tracker to identify facilities that have reported source reduction activities. Remember that only facilities that reported P2 activities to EPA’s TRI Program from 2016 to 2021 qualify for profiling in the challenge.
If profiling a specific facility, check the facility compliance history. Those facilities currently in significant violation or non-compliance should not be selected. Refer to the resources section below for a quick video on the ECHO Tool.
Consider reaching out to the facility's representatives to obtain more information about P2 steps taken and resulting benefits. Company webpages may also be a good source of information.
If highlighting a sector, consider reaching out to an association or profiling an example facility within the sector.
Keep in mind that the activities highlighted (e.g., reductions in greenhouse gas emissions) may extend beyond reported information. Refer to the resources section below for more tips.
Consider talking to community organizations to learn more about the p2 outcomes.
Tell the story:
Put together your story in a format (story map, infographic, written article or video) or combination of formats that best conveys the actions taken and the resulting benefit to the business, community and environment.
If developing a video and decide to add music, make sure to review the EPA Music Licensing Guidance (pdf). There are several free music services available online.
Edit and collaborate with those facilities and communities that are mentioned in the submission to ensure that the P2 achievements are best reflected.
Submit your entry per the instructions below.
Participants were required to submit their entry with the required paperwork listed below by the February 17, 2023, deadline. If the entry was a video, the participant must post their video submission to YouTube as an unlisted video and send the link along with the required paperwork below.
- Make sure to fill out the challenge entry form below and submit the rest of the paperwork by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Send emails with the subject: 'TRI-P2 Storytelling Challenge Entry.'
- Note: To ensure your submission is not blocked by EPA servers, please keep emails under 9 MB.
Required Paperwork: Each video entry must be accompanied with the following paperwork:
- Challenge Entry Form (one entry form per challenge submission)
- U.S. EPA Agency Consent Form (pdf) (one form for each challenge participant, requires signature for underage participants)
- Video/Audio/Photo License Agreement (pdf) (one form for each individual appearing on the video, including any facility staff)
The video can be prepared in any language, but the applicant is required to include a transcript for both English and the language presented.
- Winning entries will be posted on the EPA website and announced in late May 2023.
- Content may be used by EPA and the public for informational, educational, and or public relations purposes.
- All video entries must be accompanied with signed license agreement and consent forms found below. Each person appearing on the video must sign a consent form.
- Music use must follow EPA guidelines on music licensing. See the How to Develop a Video Section.
- Challenge participants are responsible for complying with applicable copyright and intellectual property laws for any materials used in their videos. “Fair use” rules may allow the use of copyrighted material in certain circumstances. As an example, see the fair use guidelines on YouTube . Participants should seek legal guidance if they have questions about using copyrighted materials.
EPA and EPA officials do not endorse any product, service or enterprise that may appear in submitted videos. Furthermore, by recognizing winning videos, EPA is not endorsing products, services or enterprises that may appear in those videos.
- Participants cannot use funding from the federal government (either through grants or contracts) to compete in the Challenge.
- All prize awards are subject to EPA verification of the winners’ identity, eligibility and participation in the Challenge. Awards will be paid using electronic funds transfer and may be subject to federal income taxes. EPA will comply with the International Revenue Service (IRS) withholding and reporting requirements, where applicable.
- Winners are responsible for reporting and paying all applicable taxes in their jurisdiction of residence (federal, state/provincial/territorial and local). Winners will be required to provide information to facilitate receipt of the award, including completing and submitting any tax or other forms necessary for compliance with applicable withholding and reporting requirements.
EPA has a no-tolerance policy for plagiarism. Any applicant whose work is determined to be plagiarized in whole or in part will be disqualified.
By entering this Challenge, participant agrees to assume any and all risks and waive claims against the federal government and its related entities (except in the case of willful misconduct) for any injury, death, damage, or loss of property, revenue, or profits, whether direct, indirect, or consequential, arising from their participation in the Challenge, whether the injury, death, damage, or loss arises through negligence or otherwise.
EPA reserves the right to disqualify any submittal.
A panel of EPA subject matter experts will evaluate submissions using a 100-point scale and submit recommendations to EPA. EPA will determine the final winners and award all prize winners. Entries that do not meet the specifications in the rules section will be disqualified. The submissions will be judged on the following criteria:
Submission Quality (20 points): Submissions will be evaluated for the quality of the entry submitted. Make sure all submissions are legible and audio is clear for video entries.
Pollution Prevention Storytelling (40 points): Submissions will be evaluated on how they communicate a persuasive, meaningful, accurate and engaging P2 message to a broad set of audiences. Credit will be given to submissions that note information identified in the TRI P2 Search Tool, describe the P2 activities that were implemented, illustrate the benefit(s) to the facility, and explain why the facility decided to invest in the P2 activity or activities.
Community Impact Storytelling (40 points): Submissions will be evaluated on how significantly the implemented P2 technique or technology positively impacts the environment and the community. Credit will be given for submissions that quantify the environmental benefit and describe any engagements aimed at increasing awareness of the P2 actions and strengthening relationships with the community.
- How to Find Facilities Implementing Source Reduction Activities (pdf) : Step-by-step guide focused on using the TRI P2 Search Tool to identify facilities that have reported source reduction activities.
- How to Access P2 Data Reported to TRI Using the TRI P2 Search Tool: 14-minute video describing the search tool's query options, the facility P2 profile report, and the parent company comparison report.
- Suggested questions to ask company representatives: Suggested Facility Questions (docx)
- Definition of P2
- Quick overview of the ECHO Tool
- Pollution Prevention Analyses and Publications includes descriptions of P2 efforts in certain industry sectors and facilities.
- TRI Pollution Prevention webpage
- Learn about Pollution Prevention
Is there a minimum number of entries EPA must receive to hold the challenge?
If EPA receives fewer than 25 submissions, the challenge may be cancelled.
Are community and technical colleges eligible to participate?
Yes, all students enrolled at community colleges and technical colleges are eligible to compete.
Can I apply to the challenge if I am an international student living in the United States or in a U.S. Territory?
Is there a recommended team size?
No, teams can be as large or as small as desired and interdisciplinary teams are highly encouraged. Student prizes will be distributed evenly among all student team members.
Can a school have more than one team?
Can I tell my story with more than one type of format?
Yes, as an example, you could submit a story map along with a short newspaper article in order to convey the full story. These two pieces of the story will be considered one entry.
Can my submission tell a story using a collection of shorter video clips?
Yes, your story can be divided into discrete parts. If you want to use a collection of shorter clips to tell your story, stitch them together in one video file for submission. The single video file must still be between one-three minutes long. Submit the file containing your clips with all other required documentation. If your video is selected as a finalist, we may ask for the individual clips to share through EPA social media accounts.
Does the facility I focus on need to be in my community?
No, you may focus on any facility that has reported source reduction activities to the TRI in the last five years. In choosing a facility, consider how you might show it in your submission. Nearby facilities may host site visits or allow for interviews. If you're unable to visit the facility, get creative! Remote interviews, phone calls and images can all be used to tell your story provided you have obtained consent to record audio or video.
What is pollution prevention?
Pollution Prevention (P2), also known as source reduction, is any practice that reduces, eliminates, or prevents pollution at its source prior to recycling, treatment or disposal. Note that P2 is not recycling. There are many benefits to implementing P2. To learn more, refer to the handout Benefits of P2.
How will prizes be distributed?
EPA will pay student prizes via direct deposit. Student prizes will be distributed evenly among all student team members. Faculty prizes must be deposited into a departmental account under the care of the winning faculty advisor. All prizes are subject to federal, state and local taxes. EPA will comply with IRS 1099 reporting requirements.
Please reach out to Christina Guthrie, if you have any questions: email@example.com or 202-564-8846