Beyond Benign

Green Chemistry

About Green Chemistry

what is green chemistry?

Green Chemistry is the science of reducing or eliminating environmental and health impacts of chemical products and processes at the earliest stage of innovation and invention. This approach requires an open and interdisciplinary view of material and product design, applying the principle that it is better to consider waste and hazard prevention options during the design and development phase, rather than disposing, treating and handling waste and hazardous chemicals after a process or material has been developed.

Green chemistry is an opportunity for introducing innovative solutions to chemical problems and applying sustainability towards molecular design. Chemists have the ability to design products and processes that have reduced impacts on humans and the environment and therefore creating sustainable chemical building blocks for materials and products in our society.

Learn about how our sister organization, the Warner Babcock Institute, is inventing greener solutions for industrial applications. www.warnerbabcock.com

Green Chemistry products that are successful in the marketplace must accomplish three things

It must be
more environmentally benign than an existing alternative

It must be
more economically viable than an existing alternative

It must be
functionally equivalent to or outperform existing alternatives

12 principles of green chemistry

  • Waste Prevention
    It is better to prevent waste than to treat and clean up waste after it is formed.
  • Atom Economy
    Synthetic methods should be designed to maximize the incorporation of all materials used in the process into the final product.
  • Less hazardous chemical syntheses
    Whenever practicable, synthetic methodologies should be designed to use and generate substances that possess little or no toxicity to human health and the environment.
  • designing safer chemicals
    Chemical products should be designed to preserve efficacy of the function while reducing toxicity.
  • safer solvents and auxiliaries
    The use of auxiliary substances (solvents, separations agents, etc.) should be made unnecessary whenever possible and, when used, innocuous.
  • design for energy efficiency
    Energy requirements should be recognized for their environmental and economic impacts and should be minimized. Synthetic methods should be conducted to ambient temperature and pressure.
  • use of renewable feedstocks
    A raw material or feedstock should be renewable rather than depleting whenever technically and economically practical.
  • reduce derivatives
    Unnecessary derivatization (blocking group, protection/deprotection, temporary modification of physical/chemical processes) should be avoided whenever possible.
  • catalysis
    Catalytic reagents (as selective as possible) are superior to stoichiometric reagents.
  • design for degradation
    Chemical products should be designed so that at the end of their function they do not persist in the environment and instead breakdown into innocuous degradation products.
  • real-time pollution prevention
    Analytical methodologies need to be further developed to allow for real-time in-process monitoring and control prior to the formation of hazardous substances.
  • safer chemistry for accident prevention
    Substance and the form of a substance used in a chemical process should be chosen so as to minimize the potential for chemical accidents, including releases, explosions and fires.

frequently asked questions

Is Green Chemistry more expensive?

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No. Greener chemical processes can result in a tremendous benefit to the economic bottom line. It is more expensive to use and generate hazardous chemicals due to the many costs associated with their use – disposal, regulatory, exposure controls, etc. Organizations who implement green chemistry in their laboratories often see reduction in costs associated with the greener processes.

How do scientists design out hazards?

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By teaching chemists about what makes a molecule toxic (to the environment and to humans). Traditionally, throughout the education of a chemist, training is absent of chemical toxicity and environmental impact. Chemists have traditionally not been taught how to design safer chemicals and chemical processes. Green Chemistry seeks to merge an understanding of toxicology with the knowledge of synthetic design of molecules in order to create the next generation of safe chemicals and products.

Why Green Chemistry Education?

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By integrating Green Chemistry concepts throughout our educational systems, from K through 20, scientists can be better prepared to create innovative solutions to global challenges through molecular design, and citizens can better understand the importance, and the impact, of the chemicals we use in our daily lives. Learn more about our Theory of Change to understand how Green Chemistry Education is central to a sustainable planet and healthy population.

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