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Chemists Celebrate Earth Week and IYPT

by Holly Davis, Chair, Committee on Community Activities
April 20, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 16


Photo of Holly Davis.
Credit: Courtesy of Holly Davis

From its humble beginnings as an idea of the 2003 National Chemistry Week Task Force to the weeklong celebration we know today, Chemists Celebrate Earth Week (CCEW) has grown over its 16-year history. CCEW is an annual celebration highlighting the positive contributions of chemistry to daily life and to the environment. In 2019, CCEW will be celebrated April 21–27, with 142 of the American Chemical Society’s 185 local sections (77%) planning to host events at schools, shopping malls, libraries, and other public venues.

Why does the Committee on Community Activities (CCA) care about sharing the joy of chemistry? Participation in CCEW and National Chemistry Week (NCW) is a great way to further two of ACS’s four main strategic goals: goal 3, support excellence in education; and goal 4, communicate chemistry’s value. Ensuring events have diverse volunteers is consistent with the ACS core value of diversity, inclusion, and respect. Participation in any of these campaigns demonstrates a passion for chemistry and the global chemistry enterprise.

This year offers a unique opportunity to add celebrations of the periodic table in honor of the 150th anniversary of its publication by Dmitri Mendeleev. This occasion has been officially recognized by the United Nations, which has proclaimed this year to be the United Nations International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements, or IYPT 2019. Chemists, physicists, and scientific societies around the world are celebrating throughout the year. Read more about ACS’s activities and educational resources at

Last year’s CCEW celebration theme was “Dive into Marine Chemistry,” which explored chemistry in our oceans, marine life, and the chemists who study these fascinating topics. This year, CCA is celebrating paper, a key player in the world of recycling and the overall environmental movement. Earth Day is a celebration of how we can keep our environment healthy by practicing habits that are sustainable, and paper is recyclable and sustainable. CCEW’s campaign “Take Note: The Chemistry of Paper” explores the papermaking process, paper recycling, the environmental impact of paper use and disposal, and the scientists who study and teach about the chemistry of paper.

The 2019 CCEW edition of Celebrating Chemistry gives readers an opportunity to explore paper chemistry topics. Celebrating Chemistry contains articles and activities that are safe and appropriate for fourth-through-sixth-grade students. In “Recycling Paper: A Success Story,” George Fisher teaches us that nearly two-thirds of the paper consumed in the US is recycled to make more paper.

Regina Malczewski’s activity “Let’s Recycle Paper” guides budding chemists through transforming old newspapers into newly homemade recycled paper. And Janet Asper’s “Tear It Up!” activity is a fun way to explore the molecular structure of different types of paper. Ressano Machado shows us how to transform paper into a methane molecule model in “Make Your Own Paper Molecule.” Other articles in Celebrating Chemistry cover the environmental reasons to use paper or plastic bags and the chemistry behind certain items being flushable . . . or not.

The 2019 CCEW community event is to organize a trip to your local library, museum, or archive to learn more about paper preservation. Over the years, the way paper is made has changed, and this can affect the condition of the paper as it ages. See if you can discover the oldest books or paper documents that the library has in its collection. How old are these items? What factors threaten the survival of these items? What precautions does the organization take to preserve these items?

Ensuring events have diverse volunteers is consistent with the ACS core value of diversity, inclusion, and respect.

Twice a year, as part of both CCEW and NCW, ACS sponsors an illustrated poem contest for K–12 students. Participating ACS local sections invite area students to compete. Anyone can host a local contest for K–12 students and encourage them to participate in the 2019 Illustrated Poem Contest. More information and all CCEW resources can be found at

Are you interested in serving as your local section’s CCEW coordinator? Coordinators receive free and discounted CCEW materials for use at CCEW and other outreach events. Among the free resources available for each local section are 1,250 copies of Celebrating Chemistry and 250 copies of the Spanish edition, Celebrando la Química. Additional copies can be purchased through the ACS Online Store. Last year, more than 74,000 copies were distributed.

Would you like to recognize an outstanding outreach volunteer or organization? CCA offers two free recognition programs for local sections. Every year, local sections can nominate one person as their Local Section Outreach Volunteer of the Year, and each local section can award five free Salute to Excellence plaques. Learn more about these programs at and

To learn more about CCA, visit To learn more about other public outreach programs, visit, email, or call 800-227-5558. Happy IYPT and CCEW!

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



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