Green chemistry is a science-based philosophy of designing chemicals, products, and processes with the intention of making them less hazardous and more sustainable. It applies to the life cycle of a product, from creation to disposal.
When put into practice, green chemistry can:
- Prevent pollution at the source by making safer chemicals.
- Reduce or eliminate the use of toxic chemicals—which protects workers, consumers, and the environment.
- Reduce energy and material use, while increasing use of renewable materials.
We've created resources to help educators, schools, and academic and corporate researchers integrate green chemistry concepts into K-12 and higher education. We also provide free technical assistance for businesses that want to learn how to adopt safer products or processes into their work.
Green chemistry has been used in a wide variety of products and processes.
Some manufacturers use supercritical carbon dioxide or water to remove caffeine from coffee beans. These decaffeination methods are much safer than solvents like benzene, which manufacturers used to use, or methylene chloride, which some manufacturers still use.
Packing peanuts made from starch
Packing peanuts made from starch are used as an alternative to polystyrene packing peanuts. Unlike polystyrene, which comes from oil, starch peanuts are made from renewable plant starch. Instead of going into the trash, starch peanuts can be composted after use. Starch is also much less hazardous than styrene.
Scientists can also copy natural processes to create new innovations, an approach called biomimicry. For example, researchers can study how mussels and barnacles attach to wet rocks in order to develop new, safer adhesives for surgery and other uses.