Greening Chemistry Fact Sheet


What is Green Chemistry?

Green chemistry is a pro-active approach to pollution prevention. It targets pollution at the design stage, before it even begins. If chemists are taught to develop products and materials in a manner that does not use hazardous substances, then much waste, hazards and cost can be avoided. Green Chemistry is designing chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use and/or the generation of hazardous substances.

Green Chemistry seeks to design out hazard.

Green Chemistry is the ONLY science which focuses on the intrinsic hazard of a chemical or chemical process. It seeks to minimize or eliminate that hazard. Traditional approaches to pollution prevention focus on mitigating the hazard or end-of-pipe pollution prevention controls. These traditional technologies focus on limiting the exposure of a hazardous material. Green chemistry goes to the root of the problem and aims to eliminate the hazard itself.

How does Green Chemistry design out hazards?

By teaching chemists about what makes a molecule toxic (to the environment and to humans). Not one University in the U.S. requires their Ph.D. students in chemistry to know anything about toxicity and environmental impact. Chemists are simply not taught how to design safer chemicals and chemical processes. Green Chemistry focuses to merge toxicity with the knowledge of synthetic design of molecules in order to create the next generation of safe chemicals and products. It is a revolutionary way of teaching chemistry and is a change in mindset rather than a separate field of study.

Green Chemists invents alternatives when alternatives do not exist.

There are many groups and organizations who aim to help industries design more sustainable products and processes. Many of the organizations use existing benign alternatives which currently exist. What happens when no benign alternative exists? This is where Green Chemistry comes into play. As Green Chemists, we focus on designing new, benign alternatives to current chemical and products and ensuring that the next generation of products and processes are developed in a sustainable way to begin with.

Green Chemists is NOT a policy-based approach to pollution prevention.

Green Chemistry was developed out of a union between interests in industry and the government. It has been found that Green Chemistry can make a significant economic impact in industry. Due to the many existing laws and regulations, the cost of using a hazardous material is extremely high for an industry. It costs more to buy, store, dispose of, transport and use (due to PPE used) a hazardous chemical. If they can use safer chemicals to make safer products, the economic benefit is tremendous. Green chemistry is designed to be a non-policy based approach to pollution prevention. The economic benefit, along with other benefits such as community relations and new employee recruitment, make Green Chemistry a very attractive alternative for industries. For some "real-world" examples of Green Chemistry technologies see the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award given through the EPA and the ACS Green Chemistry Institute.

What is the difference between Environmental Science and Green Chemistry?

Both areas of study seek to make the world a better place. The two are complimentary to each other. Environmental Science identifies sources, elucidates mechanisms and quantifies problems in the earth’s environment. Green Chemistry seeks to solve these problems by creating alternative safe technologies. Green Chemistry is not Environmental Chemistry. Green Chemistry targets pollution prevention at the source, during the design stage of a chemical product or process, and thus prevents pollution before it begins.

Is Green Chemistry more expensive than traditional Chemistry?

No. A simplified analysis of the cost structure associated with any chemical process takes into account the cost of materials, equipment and the human resources necessary. But, in reality, disposal, treatment and regulatory costs associated with the buying, using and generating hazardous materials involves numerous hidden costs. When you buy and use a hazardous material you are paying for it twice, once when you use it and once when you get rid of it. It makes sense that if you use materials that are non-hazardous and thus have minimal regulatory or disposal costs associated with them, the benefit to the economic bottom line is obvious. The Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award has provided illustrations of several examples where industry has not only accomplished goals of pollution prevention, but has achieved significant economic benefits simultaneously.

Green Chemistry: Combining Sustainable Product Design with Economic Development.

Sustainable design and economic development do not have to be mutually exclusive. Green chemistry is an innovative way of approaching pollution prevention. By focusing on the materials scientists and chemists who develop new materials, we can prevent pollution before it even begins. It is not a policy-based program, but rather a new way of teaching chemistry so that the scientist designing the next generation of materials will have the tools necessary to make benign products from benign, sustainable raw materials.

  1. Learn about the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry.
  2. Learn how companies are using green chemistry to preserve the environment.
  3. Contact us about a seminar or training for your organization.
  4. Certificate and higher education opportunities in green chemistry are available.
  5. Learn about green chemistry in the classroom & in the lab.