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Green chemistry

We've created resources to help educators, schools, and academic and corporate researchers integrate green chemistry concepts into K-12 and higher education curriculum and innovative research. This interdisciplinary approach connects concepts throughout the sciences, introduces students to important skills like problem solving, and provides a framework for researchers that encourages sustainable solutions.

What is green chemistry?

Green chemistry is a way to design chemicals and processes so they are safer, healthier, and more sustainable. It seeks to prevent pollution at its source by creating chemicals that are less toxic. This eliminates exposure to toxic chemicals for workers, consumers, and the environment. It also encourages reducing energy use, using renewable feedstock, and optimizing other factors that are better for human health and the environment.

Watch this quick video to learn why green chemistry is so important:

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The 12 principles of green chemistry

Paul Anastas and John Warner, considered the founders of green chemistry, created 12 principles as goals for chemists and manufacturers to consider when they create new chemicals or processes.

Watch these short videos to learn more about each principle:
  1. Prevent waste
  2. Maximize atom economy
  3. Design less hazardous chemical syntheses
  4. Design safer chemicals and products
  5. Use safer solvents and auxiliaries
  6. Increase energy efficiency
  7. Use renewable feedstocks
  8. Avoid chemical derivatives
  9. Use catalysts, not stoichiometric reagents
  10. Design chemicals and products to degrade after use
  11. Analyze in real time to prevent pollution
  12. Minimize the potential for accidents

Learn more about the 12 principles.

Examples of green chemistry innovations

A yellow leaf laying on the ground with water droplets on it.

Scientists can study the way leaves repel water to design safer water repellents for waterproof clothing.

  • 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 are 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.