Skip to content

Science Wednesday:Foresight for a Better Future: Green Chemistry

2011 May 25

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Sarah Blau

“We don’t want to make things just a little less bad, we want to move towards a systems perspective….so tomorrow is not as unsustainable as today.”

These are the words of Dr. Paul Anastas, EPA’s assistant administrator for science. I heard Dr. Anastas speak recently at the Society of Toxicology conference in Washington, DC. These words stuck with me.

Dr. Anastas was kicking off a well-attended workshop on Green Chemistry with his presentation on “Molecular Design for Reduced Hazard.” His statement which stuck with me (quoted above) is relevant to much more than just Green Chemistry though. I heard him as basically saying: let’s have some foresight with what we’re doing here, people.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite lines from a movie: “Hindsight – it’s like foresight without a future.” “So true” I remember thinking during the movie, and this is what I thought of Dr. Anastas’ presentation as well.

He explained that a major aspect of Green Chemistry lies in the design of chemicals. Chemicals are all around us, and some of them are harmful—either to us, to the environment, or to both. Dr. Anastas believes in using a “systems perspective” with chemical research. This means looking at the whole picture, from where the chemical comes from, the processes used in its creation, its role for us or for the environment, and its potential effects on us and our environment. Basically, taking a systems perspective means utilizing great foresight to understand and predict the consequences of new chemicals in the early design stage of research.

“Design considerations are a part of green chemistry,” Anastas gave an example, “you are not just making a red dye, but a red dye that does not also cause cancer.”

What a great idea—to detect potential harmful effects as early in the designing stages of new chemicals, new materials, and new products as possible. Hindsight only offers us the opportunity to try to fix a problem. Foresight allows us the opportunity to keep problems from developing. Dr. Anastas delivered an important message about the concept of Green Chemistry, but also an important message about all aspects of research (and life too): let’s have some foresight with what we’re doing here, people.

About the author:  Sarah Blau is a student services contractor working with EPA’s science communication team.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

7 Responses leave one →
  1. armansyahardanis permalink
    May 25, 2011

    Let’s there be grow !

    Physic, chemistry and biology are unity to develop the earth into all the species completeness and perfection. They are mutual understand, mutual dependence, and mutual string. Three in one for sustainability have made green chemistry be needed by green physics and green biology that we’ll create anything in the earth and other planets.-

  2. Joaquim Trindade da Silva permalink
    May 25, 2011

    Mais uma vez parabéns pela iniciativa de defender o meio ambiente em prol da humanidade.

  3. allan brown permalink
    May 26, 2011

    I love your post. its very informative

  4. Spa Toilet Seat permalink
    May 26, 2011

    Green chemistry is very crucial in our environment.

  5. Augusta Tina permalink
    May 27, 2011

    Excellent post very informative and helpful for us. i am so excited to see your blog. it is really awesome.

  6. Cairns Massage permalink
    October 27, 2011

    Keep up doing your job excellent; the contents are easy to understand and very informative.

  7. Negocio desde casa permalink
    November 16, 2011

    Let it also be known to the readers, there are ghouls in these tunnels, should you be like me, fall into such a dilemma, and find yourself, such in this underground world; fate does not always play fair, nor does it favor any one person.

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS