Even Better Living Through Green Chemistry

green chemistry

An exciting area of innovation within the field of chemistry is developing safer chemicals and processes that improve our lives and protect the environment. Green chemistry is the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate hazardous substances that could otherwise find their way into the air, water, land, wildlife, and our bodies.

In my efforts to learn more about developments in green chemistry, I have visited several Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge winners over the past year, and I can report that innovation around green chemistry is alive and well. From coast to coast, American businesses are designing green solutions to some of our most challenging environmental issues – and making a profit along the way.

  • I met with Cytec Industries in Stamford, Connecticut to learn about a polymer they’ve developed for use in facilities that make the raw material for aluminum. By using this polymer, facilities eliminate hundreds of millions of pounds of acidic waste, save trillions of BTUs of energy, and cut annual operating costs by millions of dollars.
  • At Elevance, outside Chicago, I learned how Nobel prize-winning science is being used to make a wide range of new products from vegetable oils – such as corn and soybean oil. The technology that Elevance uses consumes significantly less energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 50% compared to petrochemical technologies. Elevance’s vegetable oil products can be found in scented candles, laundry detergents and lubricants.
  • Scientists at Codexis, a small company outside San Francisco, told me how they were evolving enzymes to do some of the complex chemical reactions used to make cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins). The new enzymes eliminate some of the hazardous chemicals used in manufacturing as well as hazardous waste, and increase product yield from about 70% to more than 97%.

And these are just a few of our Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge winners from over the past year.

Jim Jones is the Assistant Administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. He is responsible for managing the office which implements the nation’s pesticide, toxic chemical, and pollution prevention laws. Jim’s career with EPA spans more than 26 years. He has an M.A. from the University of California at Santa Barbara and a B.A. from the University of Maryland, both in Economics.

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