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ACS launches green chemistry education campaign

Many new initiatives from ACS support the future of green chemistry

by Adelina Voutchkova-Kostal, David A. Laviska, and Christiana Briddell, ACS staff
June 9, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 19


American chemical society logo.

Chemistry education is undergoing a transformation. Educators grapple with a growing number of concepts to teach in an undergraduate curriculum, and they are realizing that solving sustainability challenges requires interconnected systems. Some of the most exciting innovations are emerging at the intersection of disciplines, such as computer science and chemistry. Global sustainability goals are reframing corporate strategies, encouraging companies to collaborate, curb pollution, and reduce waste. Advocates want manufacturers to deliver safe chemicals from the start rather than identify and replace problematic chemicals years after they have been on store shelves.

Chemistry graduates are entering a world that requires good sustainability practices and skills inspired by the ways successful green chemists and engineers think. People in green chemistry have developed technologies that advance the United Nations sustainable development goals while minimizing unintended consequences. Many universities and educators are responding to the need for knowledge of sustainable practices. But it is a challenge for instructors to find the time and resources to get training in these concepts, adopt new or significantly revise curricula, and change their approaches to teaching. Educators, industrial chemists and engineers, and corporate leaders need support to successfully incorporate green chemistry practices.

ACS campaign for a sustainable future logo.

Recognizing this challenge, the American Chemical Society Campaign for a Sustainable Future, a multifaceted initiative funded by the ACS Board of Directors, is introducing an education campaign called Reimagining Chemistry Education. This collaborative campaign will provide resources to help the education sector implement green chemistry and engineering curricula. The campaign builds on decades of work by chemistry educators, the ACS Green Chemistry Institute (GCI), ACS Education, key external organizations such as Beyond Benign, and others. The campaign will address several key areas, as outlined here.

Providing technical training opportunities for professionals and students. ACS will develop courses in topics traditionally not taught in a university curriculum, including around the themes of embracing green processes, encouraging sustainable practices in industry, and designing safer chemicals. Initial workshops will be held at the Green Chemistry and Engineering (GC&E) Conference in Long Beach, California, in June and at the ACS Fall 2023 meeting in San Francisco in August.

Developing undergraduate curricula in green chemistry and systems thinking. Later this year, GCI will roll out its green chemistry education modules, which allow instructors to learn how to incorporate systems thinking and green chemistry and engineering into organic and general chemistry topics. They will be freely available online, and supporting workshops will be offered at the GC&E Conference and at an education summit in Washington, DC, later this year.

ACS is launching curriculum development awards to support primarily undergraduate institutions to develop green chemistry or engineering content based on systems thinking. The grant supports a 2-month summer salary and a stipend for a research assistant.

Supporting graduate and postdoctoral education and training. The ACS Summer School on Green Chemistry and Sustainable Energy has been a catalyst for developing leaders of green chemistry practices. The program brings together future leaders from the Americas and Caribbean, and this year’s cohort will convene at the Colorado School of Mines in July.

The sustainability grant program, announced in March as part of the ACS Campaign for a Sustainable Future ties an education component into research funding. Grant recipients must teach a green chemistry course or incorporate green chemistry into an existing graduate-level course. Awardees will attend a teacher-training workshop and receive curricular materials from ACS GCI and Beyond Benign.

Building a community of practice. Spreading principles of green chemistry and engineering is difficult within the education sector. There should be increased collaboration between institutions of higher education, the recognition of innovation in the classroom or laboratory, shared access to curricular resources, and personalized mentoring. To meet these goals, ACS GCI and Beyond Benign developed the Green Chemistry Teaching and Learning Community. This online community, which will launch in late 2023, will connect community members and feature vetted teaching resources, including the ACS GCI education modules.

After a successful Zero Hunger Summit in 2022, the ACS Campaign for a Sustainable Future will focus its 2023 summit on sustainable development goal 4: quality education. ACS will invite educators and professionals to discuss best practices for incorporating green chemistry and engineering into an undergraduate curriculum. In addition, a version of the Greening Your Laboratories workshop for faculty will launch in 2023.

Recognizing excellence in teaching green chemistry. The new Career Achievement in Green Chemistry Education Award will recognize instructors who have contributed to green chemistry in education over their careers. The awardee will be honored at the GC&E Conference. A Rising Stars in Green Chemistry Education Award will recognize early-career educators from the US and abroad who have committed to teaching green chemistry, chemical engineering, or a closely related field.

For more information about the ACS Campaign for a Sustainable Future, visit



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