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ACS Green Chemistry Institute focuses on sustainable chemistry

by William F. Carroll, Chair, ACS Green Chemistry Institute Advisory Board
April 22, 2018 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 96, ISSUE 17

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Credit: Peter Cutts Photography
Carroll

Although the Green Chemistry Institute (GCI) has been part of the American Chemical Society since 2001, many members are not aware of the scope of the institute’s activities, which focus on industry engagement, education, and outreach. In addition, GCI plays a lead role in convening the community of those interested in green and sustainable chemistry, most notably through its annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference (gcande.org). The conference brings together more than 500 scientists, engineers, and related stakeholders from industry, academia, government, and other sectors each year for three days of technical presentations, discussions, and networking.

The 22nd annual conference is in Portland, Ore., from June 18 to 20, and its theme is “Product Innovation Using Greener Chemistries.” In 2019, GCI will host the 9th International Conference on Green & Sustainable Chemistry, alongside our annual conference in Reston, Va., enabling participants to share research and build global networks.

GCI engages the chemical industry through its roundtables in the pharmaceutical, chemical manufacturing, formulator, hydraulic fracturing, and biochemical technology sectors. Roundtable member firms—47 to date—identify precompetitive green chemistry challenges and work collaboratively on solutions.

To mention just a couple, the Pharmaceutical Roundtable has developed several tools, such as solvent and reagent guides, to assist companies in making greener decisions. With support from the National Institute of Standards & Technology, the Chemical Manufacturer’s Roundtable is identifying alternatives to distillation that are less energy intensive.

GCI supports the preparation of future chemists through its education initiatives. At the recent ACS national meeting in New Orleans, the Committee on Professional Training approved a green chemistry supplement to the ACS Guidelines & Evaluation Procedures for Bachelor’s Degree Programs. This supplement, developed by the Committee on Environmental Improvement in collaboration with GCI, provides guidance to faculty members who wish to incorporate green chemistry concepts into their curricula.

GCI is actively working with the chemistry community to further advance the integration of green chemistry into degree programs. We’ve identified core competencies for chemistry majors, and we’re using our resources to support including them in curricula. Since 2003, almost 900 graduate students and postdoctoral scholars across the Americas have received advanced green chemistry training at our Summer School on Green Chemistry & Sustainable Energy. The overall goal is to equip the chemists of the future with the tools to create products and processes that are effective, efficient, and safe.

By increasing the adoption of green chemistry, we have an opportunity to create a safer laboratory environment.

Central to all of GCI’s efforts is outreach and communication. The bimonthly “Nexus” newsletter informs the community of research advances, green chemistry events across the globe, and funding opportunities. Webinars share timely information on specific topics in green chemistry and engineering. And we have more than 19,000 Twitter followers.

GCI collaborates with other ACS units on numerous initiatives, including the development of public policy statements, the selection of green chemistry student chapters, and the presentation of ACS webinars. One recent partnership with the journalACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering led to the April 2 release of a virtual special edition on quantitative sustainability metrics.

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But we can do more. For example, by increasing the adoption of green chemistry, we have an opportunity to create a safer laboratory environment; this connection was highlighted during the recent Safety Summit sponsored by ACS President Peter Dorhout. Green and sustainable chemistry can also play a more prominent role in programming at ACS national and regional meetings through partnerships with ACS technical divisions.

The governing body of the ACS Green Chemistry Institute undertook a strategic planning exercise last year after being organized under the newly formed Scientific Advancement Division. The main gap we identified is a need for even more collaboration within the society to better promote green chemistry and engineering, and we’re focusing on filling that gap.

In addition, we modified the GCI mission statement to include sustainable chemistry. This change reflects our increased emphasis on systems thinking and a desire to advance both a green and a sustainable future. Our updated mission is “to catalyze and enable the implementation of green and sustainable chemistry and engineering throughout the global chemistry enterprise and across the society.” Clearly, the institute’s mission is critical to the larger mission of ACS to “advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people.”

Finally, the Governing Board has renamed itself the ACS Green Chemistry Institute Advisory Board, as our mission is to use our expertise to advise rather than govern. I have the privilege of serving as its first chair. I encourage all ACS members to look for ways to integrate green and sustainable chemistry and engineering into their professional activities. It is up to chemists across the globe to identify the applications of green chemistry that are needed to create a sustainable future and to go about creating it.

Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS..

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