Man-made chemicals go green

→ Solvent added (clear) to compound (orange) →...

Click here for a Good Dirt Radio 5-minute eco-spot on green chemistry.

Imagine, just for a moment, a world where man-made chemicals are safe for human health and the natural world. Well, if the Green Chemistry Institute has its way, this dream will continue to become reality. For years, proponents of green chemistry have been thinking about tomorrow while designing the next generation of products and processes. Join us to find out how this dream is fast becoming a reality of change.

Click here for resources and information on this topic.

Read the transcript below.

Welcome to Good Dirt Radio…reporting on positive change….taking root.

Imagine, just for a moment, a world where man-made chemicals are safe for human health and the natural world.  If the Green Chemistry Institute has its way, this dream will increasingly become a reality.  For years, proponents of green chemistry have been thinking about tomorrow while designing the next generation of products and processes, today.

The Green Chemistry Institute has spawned into dozens of collaborating national and global organizations, many books have been written about the subject, and its been incorporated into curriculum and research at colleges and universities in several countries. The science ministers of the G8 nations and many corporations are discovering the economic and environmental benefits that green chemistry offers.

Dr. Paul Anastas, known as the Father of Green Chemistry, pioneered America’s first green chemistry program in 1991 while Chief of the Industrial Chemistry Branch at the EPA.    As a leader in the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House, Anastas founded the American Chemical Society’s Green Chemistry Institute in 1997 and became its Director in 2005.  Anastas is intent on creating a cleaner world.

Anastas:  Green chemistry is about how you design the chemicals so that they are beneficial to human health and the environment.  It covers just about anything that we can see or touch or feel.  The plastics that we use to make our cars and our computers, the substances that we use to grow and preserve our food, our pharmaceuticals, our paints, the dies that make our clothes bright and on and on.  All can be affected and are being affected positively by green chemistry.

Anastas and his peers are demonstrating that green chemistry is a major key to industrial and corporate sustainability.

Anastas:  What green chemistry is showing is that you can do something that’s good for the environment that’s good for human health and actually increase profits….  not just cost less, increase profits.   So this is why so many companies, not only in the US, but around the world, are embracing green chemistry.

Dr. Julie Haack, Senior Instructor and Assistant Head of the Chemistry Department at the University of Oregon, is just one of the many educators dedicated to creating change through green chemistry.

Haack:  We found that students get really excited about green chemistry because they have an interest in participating in that dialog.  And the great thing about that is when they go out into their future careers, whether they’re scientists or politicians or lawyers… they can put pressure on the people who are developing their materials and ask the question, well, is there a greener way to design this.  It would be irresponsible if we didn’t give them that perspective or that knowledge to know that they have a choice, and really, to think about and encourage them to consider, at every stage, the impact on human health and the environment.   

The EPA recently celebrated its annual Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards. Each corporate winner annually cleaned up their operations in several categories.  They eliminated 140 million pounds of hazardous chemicals, enough to fill an 8-mile long train.  They saved 55 million gallons of water, enough to meet the annual needs of 2,100 people, and eliminated 57 million pounds of carbon dioxide.  There are several national and global corporate winners each year.

Anastas pinpoints the core issue catching on in laboratories around the world.

Anastas:  There’s an old saying that, with knowledge, comes responsibility.  When you have that ability, that chemists have, to introduce new substances into the world, you also have the responsibility to ensure that those new substances are not going to be harmful to our environment, to the biosphere, to our people, to our children.   And so that’s why so many chemists around the world are recognizing that they need to use the same talents, the same capabilities that we’ve had for generations but using it with a new perspective. And, that new perspective is green chemistry.

For more information about this exiting new field, including books, web-links and corporate players, please visit our website at gooddirtradio.org.

I’m Tom Bartels and I’m Tami Graham.  Thanks for joining us on Good Dirt Radio, digging up good news… for a change.

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