Ten organizations from the Green Chemistry & Commerce Council (GC3) will spearhead a one-year collaborative project aimed at bringing green chemistry into the mainstream.
The move follows the growing awareness of green chemistry, the design, manufacture and application of chemical products that reduce or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances.
In one case, Segetis, a small bio-based chemical manufacturer, introduced a solvent made from waste wood trimmings and corn stalks that now powers Seventh Generation and Method cleaning products, delivering performance previously unheard of in green cleaning.
Cargill, meanwhile, won a 2013 Presidential Green Chemistry Award for developing a vegetable oil-based transformer fluid that is much less toxic and flammable, and provides superior performance compared to mineral oil-based fluids, with a lower carbon footprint.
But while such developments show progress, green chemistry still remains a marginal consideration in chemicals research, education and product design, GC3 members said. With relatively little government support or investment, and few academic programs that teach or research in the field, green chemistry has not achieved the status of clean energy or managed to secure the kinds of longer-term investment we’ve seen for renewable energy technologies.
Green chemistry provides industries with opportunity for growth and competitive advantage, as there is a shortage of safer chemicals that are economically and technically viable.
Bringing green chemistry into the mainstream means it is possible to make it standard practice throughout the economy so all chemistry ends up being green. From the perspective of a chemical, pharmaceutical or other product manufacturer, the practices outlined below are indicative of green chemistry as standard in a company:
• Green chemistry products and processes are a primary goal of the organization
• Progress toward green chemistry goals, including greening product lines ends up regularly tracked
• Green chemistry design criteria are in product design guidelines and at each stage of product development, so products are green from the “ground up”
• Green chemistry criteria are in relevant sourcing protocols, specifications and contracts
• New chemical ingredients end up regularly screened for green chemistry attributes
• R & D dollars for green chemistry innovation
• Commercialized products with green chemistry advantages over existing chemicals or products
• Relevant employees end up getting green chemistry training
• Green chemistry higher education programs end up supported
These performance indicators are from the Green Chemistry Checklist, developed by the Dow Chemical Company, the Ecology Center and other members of the Michigan Green Chemistry Roundtable.
Aside from the 10 organizations leading the effort, the entire group of 80 GC3 members also take part in the promotion.