Science Wednesday: Increasing Our Focus on Green Chemistry in New England
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New England is abuzz with discussions and planning to position the Northeast as a green chemistry force for the country and the world.
What is Green Chemistry? Simply put, it seeks to design and invent the next generation of everyday materials and products by reducing or eliminating the use or generation of hazardous substances. Green chemistry means less waste, better energy efficiency and reduced risks for us and our environment. It’s an ongoing process of applying innovation, creativity and intelligence.
I believe green chemistry will be a powerful economic engine for the U.S. and for New England.
Last summer, along with my colleague Paul Anastas, we began brainstorming how to bring together green chemistry leaders from the Northeast. We sought out John Warner of Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry , Amy Cannon of Beyond Benign , and New England leaders in government, academia and business to strategize what a sustainable green chemistry future might look like – and how we could make it happen in New England.
The first step for making green chemistry an economic driver in New England was providing an opportunity for a variety of people involved in the subject to gather. With this goal first goal set, EPA hosted a Green Chemistry Networking Forum on Dec. 16, 2010.
For green chemistry to really take off, we need a lot of well-coordinated aspects of society to engage. Education is essential, not only in universities, but also in early science education. At the Forum, we had both college students presenting their green chemistry work, and high school students participating. We were gratified to have all the New England state departments of environmental protection attend.
Business and industry leaders who are adopting the 12 principles of green chemistry were there. Venture capitalists, who understand that innovative businesses that are guided by the green chemistry principles are a sound investment, were there. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) seeking safer, less-toxic chemicals to advance sustainability in our society were also there.
The conversations that began at the Networking Forum will continue. Six groups that began talking about how to bring green chemistry into the future will continue to meet and create plans that they can implement. It’s a collaboration between government, business, academia and the NGOs that’s going to make New England the Green Chemistry Corridor. This is what the buzz is all about. Green chemistry is a way towards a sustainable future.
About the Author: H. Curtis “Curt” Spalding is the Regional Administrator for EPA New England. Spalding has extensive experience in the environmental protection field as an advocate, policy analyst and administrator.
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