Green Chemistry Brings Its Virtues to the Classroom
by Paul D. Thornton (Chemical Institute of Canada) … More significantly, these real-world problems of toxicity, safety, and sustainability call for a multi-disciplinary approach and familiarity with many branches of chemistry. By educating students in green chemistry, they will have a guide to make connections between disparate fields of chemistry and a strategy for applying these fields to particular chemical problems.
What, then, should an education in green chemistry include? There are numerous ways that these principles can be incorporated into undergraduate and graduate training. For example, an advanced course in organic synthesis can readily include an introduction to scale-up work and process development. Case studies could be taken from winners of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Chemistry Challenge awards, which can facilitate discussions of topics such as process mass intensity or innovative catalysis. An introduction to toxicology would give young chemists the capacity to recognize the toxicity inherent in certain chemical structures and approach their work from the standpoint of making or using safer chemicals.
Educators, for their part, can readily assemble this material from places like Beyond Benign, which is dedicated to developing and disseminating teaching resources. As part of its “Green Chemistry Commitment”, this organization calls on chemistry departments to share best practices and participate in working groups to create even more of these educational resources.
A course dedicated to green chemistry principles and industrial practice would be ideal for advanced undergraduate or graduate students. The multidisciplinary nature of green chemistry lends itself to themes that would not otherwise be covered in a chemistry degree, including life-cycle analysis, resource depletion of non-renewables, and strategies for designing greener chemical processes.
Ultimately, although it is not among the principles of green chemistry, a key concept we should convey is that of continuous improvement. The ideal chemical process may be unobtainable, but we can almost always improve upon an existing product or process through the application of knowledge, innovation, and determination. READ MORE