Beyond Benign

Frequently Asked Questions


About Green Chemistry

What is the difference between Environmental Chemistry and Green Chemistry?

Both areas of study seek to make the world a better place. The two are complimentary to each other. Environmental chemistry identifies sources, elucidates mechanisms and quantifies problems in the earth’s environment and ecosystems. Green Chemistry seeks to solve these problems by creating alternative safe technologies through more sustainable molecular design and process strategies. 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.

How does Green Chemistry relate to safer chemicals policy?

Green chemistry is designed to be a non-policy based approach to pollution prevention. The economic benefit, along with the other benefits such as community relations and new employee recruitment, make Green Chemistry a very attractive approach for industries. Safer chemicals policy is NOT Green Chemistry. However, most Green Chemists agree that safer chemicals policies are necessary and central to providing a direction towards sustainable products and processes. Safer chemicals policies can help to identify areas where Green Chemistry innovations are needed and can also help to drive the implementation of already existing greener chemical products.

Is Green Chemistry more expensive?

No. Greener chemical processes can result in a tremendous benefit to the economic bottom line. It is more expensive to use and generate hazardous chemicals due to the many costs associated with their use – disposal, regulatory, exposure controls, etc. Organizations who implement green chemistry in their laboratories often see reduction in costs associated with the greener processes.

How do scientists design out hazards?

By teaching chemists about what makes a molecule toxic (to the environment and to humans). Traditionally, throughout the education of a chemist, training is absent of chemical toxicity and environmental impact. Chemists have traditionally not been taught how to design safer chemicals and chemical processes. Green Chemistry seeks to merge an understanding of toxicology with the knowledge of synthetic design of molecules in order to create the next generation of safe chemicals and products.

Why Green Chemistry Education?

By integrating Green Chemistry concepts throughout our educational systems, from K through 20, scientists can be better prepared to create innovative solutions to global challenges through molecular design, and citizens can better understand the importance, and the impact, of the chemicals we use in our daily lives. Learn more about our Theory of Change to understand how Green Chemistry Education is central to a sustainable planet and healthy population


Is green chemistry only for high school?

No. Green chemistry concepts are understood and applicable at K-12 levels. Curriculum resources are available for elementary, middle and high school audiences.

What’s the cost to access labs and lessons?

Our curriculum materials are available to download in word document format at no cost.

Do I have the time to fit this in my curriculum?

Yes. Green chemistry content can be woven into your chemistry lessons and labs throughout the entire year since it is aligned to state and national standards. Our replacement labs are a simple way to bring green chemistry into your existing curriculum plan.

Where can I get the supplies for labs?

The majority of the lessons are designed to utilize inexpensive and readily available supplies. Thanks to a partnership with Flinn Scientific several of the labs with speciality supplies are now available as Green Chemistry Kits. See individual lesson about obtaining speciality supplies.

Will my students succeed in state exams?

Our labs integrate cross-cutting concepts, practices and disciplinary core ideas from the NGSS and state standards. Integrating green chemistry into the chemistry curriculum aids teacher’s ability to cover concepts included on state exams. If you are interested in seeing how teachers tailor lessons in your state connect with one of our Lead Teachers.

How is green chemistry different?

Green chemistry is the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances. Unlike traditional chemistry, green chemistry addresses the risk equation (risk = hazard x exposure), specifically by reducing hazard related to industrial applications and lab experiments instead of simply reducing exposure.

Can I do green chemistry with little to no budget?

Yes, often green chemistry experiments are less expensive to run than traditional experiments, as many concepts can be demonstrated using low-cost grocery store materials. Additionally, most green chemistry experiments will not create hazardous waste and its associated disposal costs.

I’ve inherited a lot of old, hazardous chemicals in my stockroom from past teachers. What can I do about them?

Beyond Benign does not dispose of chemicals but we do work with state and federal agencies who are responsible for hazardous chemical cleanouts. Our recommendation is to reach out to your local state environmental management agency or regional EPA Pollution Prevention representative.

Can I teach green chemistry in my AP classes?

Yes. Several of our Lead Teachers incorporate green chemistry into their AP curriculum. High school and college level general chemistry curriculum resources lend themselves to supporting green chemistry implementation at the AP level.

Will green chemistry prepare my students for college chemistry courses?

Yes. Many colleges and universities already acknowledge the value of green chemistry are practicing it within their departments. Visit the Green Chemistry Commitment page for more information.

I don’t teach chemistry - how does green chemistry fit into other science courses?

Green chemistry brings a multidisciplinary perspective to traditional chemistry content. By highlighting sustainable innovations incorporating biology and addressing environmental science issues, green chemistry can be highlighted across different scientific disciplines in various ways. As lessons are in word document form they can be tailored to fit the desired outcomes for each classroom.

Can project-based learning be used to teach green chemistry?

Yes. Project based learning challenges students to be problem solvers and cultivates design thinking skills. As green chemistry is inherently about designing solutions to environmental challenges it fits well within a project based structure. Many of our lessons place students in the role of the decision maker with respect to a process or product. Our lessons are available in word document format and designed to be adapted to meet your individual classroom needs.

I already use safe materials, why should I incorporate green chemistry principles into my teaching?

A core part of green chemistry education is to inspire the next generation of problem solvers. When you invite students to make decisions and ask questions about safety and environmental impact you empower them to utilize their chemistry knowledge and critical thinking skills to create solutions for challenges they care about.

Professional Development – K-12 

How can I bring a workshop to my area?

We partner directly with local, regional and national education and science organizations to bring green chemistry workshops to teachers throughout the country. Learn about our Partnerships, or contact us to inquire about bringing a workshop to your area.

Is continuing education credit available?

Yes! Professional development points are typically provided at in-person workshops and depend on the length of the workshop and hours of training. Continuing education credits are available for our online courses.

What's the cost to attend your workshops?

We typically obtain sponsorship to carry out the workshops and offer teachers to attend free-of-charge. Workshops associated with a regional or national meeting may require conference registration fees to attend. And, our on-line courses require a fee due to the infrastructure and delivery of the course.

Higher Education

Why green chemistry in higher education?

There are many benefits to implementing green chemistry in higher education courses and labs – including, reducing waste, reducing costs, peaking student interest, and better preparing students with 21st century skills.

Is it more expensive?

No, costs associated with hazardous waste and purchasing costs often are reduced upon implementing greener chemistry experiments within higher education. See our Higher Education Case Studies for quantitative evaluations of the costs associated with traditional versus greener laboratory experiments.

Will it reduce waste in the laboratory?

Yes! A three-year pilot study at St. Olaf College where green chemistry laboratory experiments were implemented in a synthesis laboratory course saw a 30% decrease in hazardous waste generation (Jackson, P. T., Case Study Approach to Green Chemistry Impacts on Science Facility Design and Operations: Regents Hall of Natural Sciences in St. Olaf College in Innovations and Renovations: Designing the Teaching Laboratory; O’Connell, L; ACS Symposium Series; American Chemical Society: Washington, DC, 2013). See our Case Studies for additional evidence.

Will my students get a job with this training?

Students with green chemistry skills are valued by industry and the greener chemicals market is projected to be a $100 billion market by 2020 (Pike Research). Green chemistry provides an added value for industry – helping to reduce costs associated with the use and generation of hazardous substances, providing a platform for innovation in creating chemical solutions, and also can be found to achieve a quicker time-to-market for products.

Higher Ed – Green Chemistry Commitment

What am I Committing to? What is required of my department?

As a signer, you are committing to continual improvement of the implementation of green chemistry student learning objectives in your courses and programs. By signing, you agree to have an on-going conversation with us to share your best practices and also help us to identify resource gaps or challenges that your department is facing. It’s simple to sign on – our signing form requires signature from the department chair and an administrator (i.e., Dean, Provost, President). And, we conduct annual surveys to gather data on green chemistry implementation and help to track progress.

What’s in it for me (and my department)?

The GCC offers a means for chemistry department to join in on campus sustainability initiatives and connects departments with like-minded institutions dedicated to implementing green chemistry in their programs. As a GCC signer, your department will be profiled on Beyond Benign’s GCC signers page and our organizational partners’ pages (such as AASHE’s Campus Sustainability Hub).  We reach out regularly to our signers to gather information and identify resource gaps – we then work collectively to fill those gaps.

How can we implement the Green Chemistry Student Learning Objectives?

The Green Chemistry Student Learning Objectives can be implemented through many different pathways. Each institution approaches implementing them differently and must find ways that work best for their department, faculty and resources. We help to share best practices from other signing institutions to guide others towards tried-and-true approaches. However, we believe that each institution must find their own unique path that works best for them.

I’m a student. What can I do to bring this to the faculty in my department?

Students have tremendous influence within a chemistry department and often are catalyst for change towards greener chemistry. Visit our For Students page to learn more about how you can get involved and advocate for green chemistry on your campus and in your community.

Higher Ed – Toxicology for Chemists

Why Toxicology?

As molecular designers, chemists have the ability to prevent hazards from the very beginning design stage of a chemical product or process. By understanding more about the toxicity related to the chemicals that are used and designed, chemists can design molecules that have reduced human and environmental hazards. Toxicology is a key piece to understanding how chemists can reduce hazards of chemical products and processes.

How can I teach an unfamiliar subject?

This is a common challenge for chemistry faculty. We have found that faculty begin to familiarize their students in the concepts of toxicology through a number of different pathways – either by inviting in experts that can speak on a related topic, or by running student-led courses where faculty can learn alongside students. Chemistry faculty also find that this challenge presents an opportunity to reach out to colleagues in biochemistry, medicinal chemistry, and toxicology departments.

I’m interested. Where should I start?

Consider joining our Toxicology Working Group. It’s a great place to understand how others are beginning to teach toxicology, share resources, and to learn about the resources being developed to bridge this gap. You don’t need to have any previous experience with toxicology, just be willing to listen, learn and jump in if you want to contribute.