What is Green Chemistry?

1. Overview of the Topic – Summary:

From Warner Babcock website: Green Chemistry is a revolutionary approach to the way that products are made; it is a science that aims to reduce or eliminate the use and/or generation of hazardous substances in the design phase of materials development. It requires an inventive and interdisciplinary view of material and product design. Green Chemistry follows the principle that it is better to consider waste prevention options during the design and development phase than to dispose or treat waste after a process or material has been developed.

From Wikipedia: In 1998, Paul Anastas (who then directed the Green Chemistry Program at the US EPA) and John C. Warner (then of Polaroid Corporation) published a set of principles to guide the practice of green chemistry.

The twelve principles (of Green Chemistry) address a range of ways to reduce the environmental and health impacts of chemical production, and also indicate research priorities for the development of green chemistry technologies.

2. What is the focus of this Topic?:

From Warner Babcock Institute of Green Chemistry:

For a technology to be considered Green Chemistry, it must accomplish three things:

  • It must be more environmentally benign than existing alternatives.
  • It must be more economically viable than existing alternatives.
  • It must be functionally equivalent to or outperform existing alternatives.
Chasing Molecules: Poisonous Products, Human Health, and the Promise of Green Chemistry

Chasing Molecules: Poisonous Products, Human Health, and the Promise of Green Chemistry

Green Chemistry presents industries with incredible opportunity for growth and competitive advantage. This is because there is currently a significant shortage of green technologies: we estimate that only 10% of current technologies are environmentally benign; another 25% could be made benign relatively easily. The remaining 65% have yet to be invented! Green Chemistry also creates cost savings: when hazardous materials are removed from materials and processes, all hazard-related costs are also removed, such as those associated with handling, transportation, disposal, and compliance.

Through Green Chemistry, environmentally benign alternatives to current materials and technologies can be systematically introduced across all types of manufacturing to promote a more environmentally and economically sustainable future.

Following up from her book “High Tech trash”, Elizabeth Grossman’s Chasing Molecules has a much more “potentially” uplifting view on solutions to the issues of technology as waste. The often times insoluble scenario of dealing with the production of technology can leave even the most heartiest of optimists in a puzzle, yet this is where the promise of Green Chemistry could provide solutions for humanity’s future.

3. Why it’s listed here – What is the relevance to Architectural Medicine?

As Architectural Medicine is focused on Health in the Built Environment, this also includes the impact of the materials and objects that compose these buildings. The twelve principles (of Green Chemistry) address a range of ways to reduce the environmental and health impacts of chemical production, therefore reducing the negative health implications in both supporting good health and preventing disease and illness.

Therefore, when materials and products are developed and manufactured to have less negative impact on the environment and health, it can support good health and wellness in all environments. Architectural Medicine recognizes the importance of both environmental and ecological health, as this cannot be separated from the overall health of humans and the biology of the planet.

4. Common groups and individuals involved with this topic:

Dr. John C. Warner is one of the founders of Green Chemistry.  He co-authored the seminal book Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice, which first described the ’Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry’. In 2009, the Council of Scientific Society Presidents honored Dr. Warner with the Leadership in Science Award for founding the field of Green Chemistry. Dr. Warner is President, Chief Technology Officer, and Chairman of the Board of the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry, which he founded with Jim Babcock in 2007.

He is among a growing group of professionals around the world who are creating and developing Green Chemistry, and supporting the replacement of dangerous chemicals, while inventing new approaches to chemistry for better health and wellness.

5. Resources: