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Introduction to Green Chemistry

Lesson Three: Applying the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry


chemistatwhiteboardNow that we realize that our traditional methods of chemistry are contributing to the sustainability challenges we face, and now that we have begun to recognize the need for change, we find ourselves faced with one very important question: How? How do we transform our practice of chemistry in such a large field? How can we pinpoint problems? And how do we design viable solutions to overcome those problems?

Guidelines, a set of rules that everyone in the chemical enterprise can read and understand on their own level, would be enormously useful just as a rulebook is useful in sports. 

Luckily, we already have these guidelines, the Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry.  These principles are an effective way to answer “How?”  They remind us that it is possible to speak to all constituencies so that we can fairly implement real change. They help us determine where sustainability stands at present (and where it is lacking). They inspire us to create practical and lasting solutions. They are our rulebook in the field of Green Chemistry.

Lesson Three of this course consists of four modules which together outline:

  • Why we need a consistent set of principles at all.
  • How we should use the Twelve Principles to evaluate a chemical through its life cycle for sustainability.
  • Ways in which the Twelve Principles can be used to create solutions that effectively and practically tackle the problems that we created using more traditional forms of chemistry.
  • Practical and successful solutions that are already in place that chemists and industry have created by using the Twelve Principles.

Lesson Objective

At the conclusion of this lesson, you should feel comfortable with all aspects of the Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry—why they're necessary, how to apply them in new situations, how they can be used to solve problems, and where we can find them in the "real world."

Lesson Key Points

  • Traditional chemistry is creating products and processes that are often toxic to humans and the environment.
  • The Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry are a necessary set of rules to help us solve these problems.
  • In order to really determine if a chemical is sustainable, we need to evaluate its life cycle in its entirety.
  • We can use the Twelve Principles to generate successful, affordable solutions.
  • Some of these solutions are already in place.