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ACS Green Chemistry Institute Is A Catalyst For Change

by Madeleine Jacobs, Chair, ACS Green Chemistry Institute Governing Board
December 1, 2008 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 86, Issue 48

Credit: Peter Cutts Photography
Credit: Peter Cutts Photography

AS THE ACS executive director and chief executive officer, I also serve as chair of the ACS Green Chemistry Institute Governing Board, a volunteer board of distinguished scientists who help guide the ACS Green Chemistry Institute (ACS GCI) in its myriad activities. This gives me a very intimate look at this small, but important, ACS unit.

As 2008 draws to a close, I would like to bring ACS members up to date on the activities of ACS GCI. But first, I want to thank the governing board members for their expertise, dedication, and commitment to green chemistry. The board members are Daryle H. Busch (Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis, University of Kansas, Lawrence), Berkeley W. Cue Jr. (retired, Pfizer), Carles Estevez (Institut Universitari de Ciéncia i Tecnologia, Barcelona), James E. Hutchison (University of Oregon), David C. Long (Environmental Sustainability Solutions), Nina I. McClelland (president, Nina I. McClelland LLC, and interim dean, Arts & Sciences, University of Toledo), Anne T. O'Brien (retired, Wyeth, and member, ACS Board of Directors), Martin A. Spitzer (Center for Clean Air Policy), Kent J. Voorhees (Colorado School of Mines and member, ACS Board of Directors), and John C. Warner (president,Warner-Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry, in Woburn, Mass.).

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Also serving on the governing board is P. Robert Peoples, who became director of ACS GCI in March 2008. A Ph.D. organic chemist, Peoples brings a wealth of experience from his 26 years at Solutia and most recently as director of sustainability at the Carpet & Rug Institute and executive director of the Carpet Recovery Effort (C&EN, April 28, page 54). Peoples is passionate about green chemistry and has focused his energies in realizing the institute's mission: to catalyze and enable the implementation of green chemistry and engineering principles into all aspects of the global chemistry enterprise. He is also an articulate supporter for the Green Chemistry Research & Development Act and the America Competes Act, which would provide significant new funding to facilitate research at academic institutions (C&EN, Nov. 17, page 3).

Working with the ACS GCI Governing Board, Peoples has developed a new strategic plan for the institute focused on four pillars: education, advocacy, industry, and certification. Peoples notes that the institute is also built on the 4C's: catalyze, convene, collaborate, and communicate. In each of these areas, ACS GCI works with industry, government, entrepreneurs, academia, nongovernmental organizations, and standards organizations, thereby leveraging its resources and staff and catalyzing change.

ACS GCI has a track record of success this year. The 12th annual ACS Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in June attracted nearly 400 participants from around the world. The 6th annual Summer School on Sustainability & Green Chemistry—a joint project with the ACS Education Division—was held in July at the Colorado School of Mines (C&EN, Sept. 8, page 67). It engaged 83 graduate students and postdoctoral scholars in lectures, discussions, and laboratory experiments designed to increase the participants' knowledge of green chemistry and its role in achieving sustainability.

Another initiative of ACS GCI, the ACS Pharmaceutical Roundtable, has 10 major global pharmaceutical companies as members, and the list is still growing. The roundtable has agreed on reactions and processes that need cost and environmental improvements in the pharmaceutical industry and has devised a list of more efficient reactions that chemists would like to add to their research toolboxes. The roundtable has issued more than $500,000 in research grants since it was established in 2005. But it also publishes articles, collaborates globally, educates students, and defines and develops tools for innovation. A similar roundtable for formulated products held its first meeting late last month.

THE INSTITUTE has also launched an online newsletter, titled The Nexus. Its goal is to connect and expand the global green chemistry and engineering community. Nexus contains timely articles of interest about programs, conferences, and developments in green chemistry. If you would like to receive this newsletter, send an e-mail to

ACS GCI also works closely with other units of ACS, such as the Committee on Environmental Improvement, on global sustainability issues. The ACS Board of Directors has selected sustainability as its top priority in the third goal of the ACS Strategic Plan: "ACS will be a global leader in enlisting the world's scientific professionals to address, through chemistry, the challenges facing our world."

It has been an honor to serve as chair of the ACS GCI Governing Board for nearly five years. I have watched ACS GCI grow, mature, and become a significant and recognized focal point and catalyst for green chemistry activities worldwide. I am now pleased to turn over the reins of the governing board's chairmanship to Daryle Busch, who will help guide the institute to its next great set of achievements. Through its nexus of collaborators globally, ACS GCI has shown that it can have a far-reaching impact on green chemistry, sustainability, and the challenges facing our world. Now, it is onward and upward!



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