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The theme of this month’s Nexus Newsletter is metrics. But what are metrics? And why did we choose to dedicate an entire issue to them? Broadly speaking, metrics are systems of measurement used to track and evaluate performance. They are helpful for comparing outcomes with benchmarks you establish, and measuring your progress toward your goals and objectives. You might monitor your expenses to see if you’re living within your budget, log your workouts to observe improvement, or count the number of hours you sleep per night to avoid a deficit. You design and use metrics for important goals in your personal life, so why not use them to advance your chemistry?


Here at the ACS Green Chemistry Institute® we believe that understanding and embracing metrics are the very first steps to greener chemistry and engineering. We also believe that it’s not enough to just know the metrics; one must integrate them into one’s studies or work. Since evaluating chemistry is not as easy as starting your stopwatch before a run, the other articles in this month’s issue are overviews of various metrics and tools that can provide a deeper understanding of your chemistry and improve best practices. There are many ways to use such metrics to “green” your chemistry, whether by gaining insight into the potential environmental and health impacts of your products and processes (hazard*, risk*, and life cycle assessments), how to use resources and energy more efficiently in your chemistry (process mass intensity), or how to select greener inputs (alternatives assessments, and solvent and reagent guides).


It’s important to remember that no single metric can optimize the impact of your science. Chemistry and engineering are so integral to modern life that individual choices often affect multiple objectives, so you may face trade-offs between goals. For example, you can assess both the hazard of a chemical and the risk of exposure (occupational and beyond), but you will not fully understand safety if you consider one without the other. So it’s also important to remember what you’re working toward with your chemistry, and always keep that goal in mind.


Metrics offer a new way of seeing and thinking for problem solving, and when used well can provide you the information needed to make major decisions. For greener chemistry and engineering, these decisions could range from determining how to minimize the use of petroleum derived products or how to reduce water consumption. The trade-offs arise when you then have to decide which outcome is a higher priority and which is more feasible.


Chemistry, and thus life, will always demand resources, have some level of hazard, and create waste. Metrics and green chemistry are becoming more holistic and increasingly contextualizing our science within the broader concerns of society. They are the first steps to realizing that everyone’s science, from the most fundamental to the widely applied, has an impact. And everyone, from bench to big picture, makes important decisions every day that can promote a more sustainable future.


*Check out our November issue for the first installment in a series on hazard and risk.



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Contributed by David Dorman, Professor of Toxicology at North Carolina State University and Chair of the National Research Council committee


Growing concerns about the health and environmental impacts associated with some chemical products and processes—think bisphenol A or flame retardants--have prompted  a number of national, state, and local governments, manufacturers, and retailers to develop methods for finding safer chemical substitutes. There are now a number of alternatives assessment tools in existence, which allow users to compare proposed chemical substitutes before they are swapped into a product or process. But  these existing assessment tools reflect a range of different priorities, whether the focus is on protecting workers, the environment, the end users of products, or other interests. What this report sets out to do is provide a more universally applicable decision framework for comparing chemicals in terms of human health and ecological risks  would benefit a wide range of alternative assessment users.


A  report released last week from the National Research Council sets out to meet that need. Drawing on the strengths and common characteristics of existing assessment approaches, the report presents  a 13-step framework that includes several advancements: problem formulation and scoping, comparative exposure assessment, and evaluation of physicochemical properties. These attributes make the framework applicable for a diverse set of users while remaining flexible enough to be tailored to the specific decision being made.


In addition to hazard assessments, the framework incorporates steps for life cycle thinking—which considers possible impacts of a chemical at all stages including production, use, and disposal—as well as steps for performance and economic assessments.


Many decisions involved in selecting a viable chemical alternative will be value-driven and context-dependent, the report notes.  Defining and documenting the goals, principles, and decision rules guiding the assessment is important, to make explicit how uncertainty and any trade-offs are resolved.


If potential chemical alternatives fail to meet the established criteria—or come with an unacceptable trade-off such as prohibitive cost—research and innovation is needed to design new chemicals, or identify other ways to solve the problem. The report finds that making safety and ecological considerations an integral part of chemical design would help identify best alternatives as early as possible. The report also highlights how modern information sources such as computational modeling can supplement traditional toxicology data in the assessment process. In coming years, it will be critical for the scientific community to embrace the challenge and advantages of using novel data streams in the alternatives assessment process. The report also suggests that de novo design of new alternatives to meet the desired safety and functional needs is an opportunity for innovation. This approach to alternatives embodies green chemistry principles by intentionally designing chemicals that are safer. Future efforts are needed to develop principles or tools that support the benchmarking and integration of high throughput data on chemical effects, especially in the context of different regulatory requirements.


David Dorman is Professor of Toxicology at North Carolina State University and Chair of the National Research Council committee that authored the report A Framework to Guide Selection of Chemical Alternatives. The American Chemistry Society is well represented among the report’s authoring committee and staff: Committee members Peter Beak, Eric Beckman, Niger Greene, Helen Holder, Jim Hutchison, Carol Henry, Adelina Voutchkova-Kostal, and Martin Wolf, and study co-director Kate Hughes.

The complete report is available for free PDF download, along with a Report brief (4-page lay summary). In addition, a report webinar featuring a presentation and Q&A session with David Dorman and other committee members is scheduled for Friday, October 24 at 12:30 EDT; please register to attend.




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While solvents may get all the limelight as being the largest input to pharmaceutical manufacturing processes, reagents, substances or compounds added to a system to create a chemical reaction, are also important components to focus on when taking the greener route.


Similar to the Solvent Guide, created by the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable, which helps chemists choose safer solvents; the roundtable has created Reagent Guides. These guides were created to achieve three purposes, to provide a balanced assessment of chemical methods, to allow easy access to chemical literature or procedures for reagents that end up with a high score in the assessment, and to gain attention for new emerging green chemistry methods. When the first round of guides are complete there will be nine sections to choose from: oxidation to aldehyde and ketones, nitro reduction, n-alkylation, o-dealkylation, ester deprotection, epoxidation, amide formation, Boc deprotection, amide reduction.

Venn Diagrams published in Green Chem 2008, 10, 31-36..jpg

So what criteria are these guides assessing exactly? Reagents are looked at based on their utility- how widely used they are by the public, scalability- is the reagent used on a larger commercial scale, and it’s “greenness”. Factors for greenness can include environmental impact, toxicity, availability, cost, etc. All reagents are separated into a three sectioned Venn diagrams labeled with each criterion for the reagents, grouping together reagents that fall into each category, and those that overlap.


Reagent Guides will lead to less waste, fewer worker exposure issues, and much more. Reagents are important because no one has tried to match utility, safety, and greenness to discover a solution for greener productions. This gives scientists a mechanism to make decisions about which reagents they will use for their chemistry, and information about how to minimize impact of their chemistry. These guides are yet another step in a greener direction.



1 Alfonsi, K., Colberg, J., Dunn, P.J., Fevig, T., Jennings, S., Johnson, T.A., Kleine, H.P., Knight, C., Nagy, M.A., Perry, D.A., Stefaniak, M. Green chemistry tools to influence a medical chemistry and research chemistry based organization. The Royal Society of Chemistry, 2008.




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This year's Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards were given today during a ceremony at the Ronald Reagan Building in the District of Columbia. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency holds these awards annually to recognize companies, small businesses, and academics who have developed novel green chemistries that benefit the environment, reduce the use of hazardous chemicals, and deliver economic benefits. Dr. Kent Voorhees, Chair of the ACS Green Chemistry Institute®, and Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator of the the U.S. EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention delivered remarks.


Academic Category:

Shannon Stahl, Professor of Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“Aerobic Oxidation Methods for Pharmaceutical Synthesis”


Professor Stahl developed a general approach to aerobic oxidation of primary and secondary alcohols using a novel, inexpensive copper catalyst and oxygen from air. The new process is selective, tolerates diverse functional groups, achieves high yields, and can be performed safely on a large scale. These reactions of particular importance to the pharmaceutical industry reduce the use of hazardous chemicals and are likely to save time and money compared to traditional oxidation methods.




Small Business Category: Amyris, Inc., Emeryville, California

“Farnesane: a Breakthrough Renewable Hydrocarbon for Use as Diesel and Jet Fuel”


Farnesene-Online-Sales.jpgThe team at Amyris created a drop-in replacement biofuel called Farnesane for diesel and commercial aircraft engines. This sugar fermentation product outperforms first generation biofuels such as ethanol and traditional biodiesel, contains no sulfur, and has been approved for use in jet fuel. The innovation addresses the sustainability of our transportation sector, which is currently a significant source of CO2 emissions worldwide. A recent analysis shows Farnesane produces 82% less greenhouse gas emissions compared to traditional diesel.





Greener Reaction Conditions:

Solazyme, Inc., South San Francisco, California


“Tailored Oils Produced from Microalgal Fermentation”


Solazyme developed a process to generate tailored oils from microalgae using a combination of fermentation techniques and genetic engineering. The algae can produce a range of oils covering a wide variety of properties to meet individual customer’s needs. These oils are being tested and sold commercially for an array of different applications including food, fuel, home and personal care, and industrial products. Superior performance, lower volatile organic compound emissions, and reduced carbon footprint are just a few of the advantages of Solazyme’s process.




Designing Greener Chemicals:

QD Vision, Inc., Lexington, Massachusetts


“Greener Quantum Dot Synthesis for Energy Efficient Display and Lighting Products”


spectrum.jpgQD Vision produces quantum dots, essentially nanoscale LEDs that produce high-quality color, saturation, and system efficiency for flat screen displays and solid-state lighting. These quantum dots improve the efficiency of LED devises and solve the traditional problem of low-quality LED light. In addition to producing a superior LED, QD Vision significantly improved their manufacturing process to reduce hazardous reagent use and worker exposure, solvent waste and the amount of energy consumed both in processing and product use.



Greener Synthetic Pathways:

The Solberg Company, Green Bay, Wisconsin

“RE-HEALINGTM Foam Concentrates–Effective Halogen-Free Firefighting”Solberg_RE-HEALING Foam Action.png


The Solberg Company developed a firefighting foam blend of surfactants and sugars that in the intended application outperforms with less environmental impact compared to fluorinated firefighting foam concentrates. This blend, called RE-HEALING Foams, eliminates the need for long-chain fluorinated surfactants that are known to be persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic, and short-chain fluorinated surfactants that are less toxic yet still environmentally persistent chemicals. The Solberg Company’s foam has been certified and meets all the required firefighting performance criteria.



Learn more about each of the winner's on C&EN's full coverage.



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The Process Mass Intensity Calculator (PMI) is used to decrease the amount of material used to make a drug, which is one of the major green chemistry challenges for the pharmaceutical industry. The PMI tool was developed by the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable to provide a common way to measure the amount of materials used to create a given amount of chemical products. PMI is calculated by dividing the total quantity of raw materials (kg) that go into synthesizing a product, including water, by the quantity of bulk active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) produced (kg).


The original tool was released to the public in 2011, but the Roundtable has released an updated tool in 2014 that allows for convergent processes to be calculated. The Convergent Process Mass Intensity Calculator’s goals are to improve the effectiveness of a chemical synthesis with multiple steps while still maintaining the current calculator's design and methodology. The point of the change was to increase the simplicity of the tool as well as include a list of instructions for users.


PMI was developed by the Pharmaceutical Roundtable because it allows companies to track the footprint of their manufacturing process, benchmark, and quantify improvements to the efficiency and sustainability of their production. The Roundtable’s original benchmark using the PMI tool showed that across companies solvents were 58% of the inputs; water was 28%, while reactants were 8%. Roundtable member companies tracked various processes across their portfolio and calculated PMI, in order to compare to other firms.


Where is this going?


The Roundtable is encouraging suppliers of raw commodity materials to use the PMI tool so that a calculation can be made covering all stages of development. In addition, the Roundtable has further developed the tool to include life cycle considerations. This PMI-LCA tool will be used to create a more comprehensive benchmark of the drug manufacturing footprint that would include environmental and health considerations. This tool will feature pre-loaded LCA data on solvents and allow for an assessment of trade-offs in manufacturing.




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Amanda Nurmi

Solvent Selection Guide

Posted by Amanda Nurmi Oct 16, 2014

The Solvent Selection Guide was the first green chemistry tool to be developed by the ACS Green Chemistry Institute® Pharmaceutical Roundtable. This instrument is imperative because, while Process Mass Intensity Tool (PMI) is able to explain how efficient the use of mass is, it does not distinguish the hazard of the solvent being used. Solvents are used for reactions, extractions, distillations, washing, etc., which results in a solution.


During pharmaceutical process development, solvent selection is key in determining the sustainability of future commercial production methods. Solvents contribute over 50% of the total materials used to make a pharmaceutical product. The Solvent Selection Guide allows scientists to make informed decisions as they develop processes at the bench. It’s easier to start research and development with a green solvent than trying to later replace a more hazardous solvent with a less hazardous one.


The ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable Solvent Selection Guide is adapted from guides developed by Astra Zeneca, a multinational pharmaceutical and biologics company, and Glaxo SmithKline, a multinational pharmaceutical, biologics, vaccines and consumer healthcare company. AstraZeneca’s tool is a table of solvents with 10 different criteria attached to it: two for safety (flammability, resistivity), one for health, and seven for environment, including life cycle analysis. Each criterion is scored between 1 and 10, with a 3-color code (green, yellow, and red) to facilitate the analysis1. Glaxco SmithKline’s guide is similar, but has two safety criteria, one health, and three environmental. It also has red flags for high boiling solvents and solvents with regulations and has 110 solvents all together1.


The Pharmaceutical Roundtable’s guide is separated into three categories to identify what is considered a desirable solvent and what is not. The red category identifies undesirable solvents such as pentane, chloroform, and benzene. Yellow colored solvents are usable such as isooctane and heptane, and green are the preferred solvents such as water, methanol, and acetone.


The Roundtable is continuing to develop this guide due to new solvents and missing data points that will need to be filled.


1Cruciani, P., Ducandas, V., Flemming, H.W., Guntrum, E., Hosek, P., Isnard, P., Letestu, S., Pardigon, O., Prat, D., Ruisseau, S., Senac, T. Sanofi’s Solvent Selection Guide: A Step Toward More Sustainable Processes, ACS Publications, 2013.




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Contributed by Sudhakar G. Reddy, Ph.D., Coordinator, Sustainable Labs, University of Michigan


The University of Michigan Office of Campus Sustainability Sustainable Labs program earned the 2014 "Go Beyond Award" (pictured below) during the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL) Conference held in Orlando. In 2013 this program received the Michigan Governor’s Green Chemistry Award. More importantly, sustainable lab practices in all campus laboratories have resulted in a 10 percent energy reduction and an avoidance of $1.5 million in energy costs for the university.



Energy avoidance from the "Shut the Sash" awareness campaign on fume hoods located in approximately 800 campus labs is equivalent to the amount of energy needed to power 800 U.S. homes. The campaign reminds users to close the transparent barrier on chemical fume hoods when not in use to avoid unnecessary energy consumption, and is just one of the efforts in the broader initiative to create more sustainable operations in university labs.


One hundred labs and more than 6,000 students, faculty and staff have participated in the Sustainable Labs program offered by the Office of Campus Sustainability (OCS). The program promotes best practices for safer and greener laboratory operations, and is applicable in all teaching and research laboratories on campus.


“One of the key aspects to the Sustainable Lab program is the direct involvement of everyone working in the lab. As with safety in the lab, sustainability relies heavily on the individual’s desire to save energy, reduce water, and cut waste in their work. All of the systems and procedures are useless if people don’t want to participate," said Terry Alexander, Executive Director of Occupational Safety & Environmental Health and Office of Campus Sustainability.


The average laboratory consumes four to ten times more energy and resources as compared to a similar sized classroom or office environment. This is a byproduct of the high level cutting edge research performed at U-M. The goal of the program is to support this research but in a more sustainable way. Certified sustainable labs are safer and more efficient as they use alternatives to traditional chemicals; practice increased recycling, pollution prevention and green purchasing; and have a zero-spill record on campus.


Results of the program from the past year include:


  • 670 gallons of properly neutralized liquids disposed safely as sewage
  • 31 labs switched to safer, less toxic chemicals
  • 8,000 pounds of hazardous waste was eliminated from the Medical School anesthesiology lab.
  • 710 gallons of solvents were recycled in three UMHS labs
  • 420 lbs of surplus chemicals, equipment and materials diverted from sending to landfill by redistributing through ChEM Reuse program
  • 95 percent of labs on campus became mercury-free


OCS has worked with renovation engineers to install many compressed air lines at the Chemistry and George Grander Brown Memorial Laboratories to replace water aspirators for lab filtration systems, which collectively consume nearly 600,000 gallons of water annually. Compressed air is less expensive to generate and is made available to most of the labs on our campus.


New this year, OCS introduced an additional energy conservation resource encouraging the lab community to raise the temperatures on Ultra Low Temperature freezers from -80 to -70 degrees Celsius, resulting in up to a 30 percent energy reduction.

I2SL award.png

"With the help of the Office of Sustainability, the Lauring lab has taken the needed steps to reducing energy and chemical waste,” said William Fitzsimmons, Lab Manager and Safety Liaison at the Lauring Lab in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and the Division of Infectious Diseases at the U-M Medical School.


“By increasing the temperature of ULT freezers to -70 degrees Celsius and adding timers to 24 hour instruments, we can effectively say we are providing a much more sustainable working environment for future viral research."


Since the launch of the Sustainable Labs program in the fall of 2011, participation has grown from seven labs to 100.


“We’d like to see 300 labs certified in the next three years,” said Sudhakar Reddy, sustainability coordinator with OCS. “At that point we’d have reached almost 50 percent of labs on campus to make a bigger impact toward the university sustainability goals.”


Through the program, OCS staff meets with a lab manager to review and evaluate lab operations, and create a report with recommendations for more sustainable operations for that particular lab. Labs receive a certification ranking between bronze and platinum once they’ve completed the recommended adjustments.


Michigan Green Chemistry

Award Winners

International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories




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Contributed by Ryan Littich, Scientist, Elevance Renewable Sciences, Inc.


As a scientist at Elevance, I work with my colleagues to demonstrate to our potential customers and partners the advantages of using our novel, high-performance specialty chemicals that perform better and are made from renewable feedstocks at our world-scale joint venture biorefinery with Wilmar International in Gresik, Indonesia (pictured below). What makes the work especially impactful is that we exemplify the tenets of green chemistry on a daily basis.


For example, our production facility in Indonesia leverages a Nobel-Prize winning catalytic olefin cross metathesis in a low-pressure, low-temperature process to transform renewable oils without the use of extraneous protective groups into specialty chemicals that carry the safe handling and biodegradability virtues of the renewable feedstocks from which they originated.

Elevance Wilmar Joint Venture Biorefinery.png


At our central R&D facility in Woodridge, Ill., we develop products that reflect our sustainability-oriented approach. In June, we launched Elevance Clean™ 1200 — a powerful, low vapor pressure (LVP-VOC, VOC-exempt) and biorenewable solvent — to offset petroleum distillates and terpenes that are environmentally embattled in the industrial degreasing market. As an occupational backdrop to its development, our labs were pitted against one another in a friendly competition to consistently place hoods in setback mode and shut off lights while not in use. Through the first month of the Fume Hood Energy Conservation Challenge, the R&D group drove down site energy usage by 20 percent.


My colleagues and I continue to drive the commercial success of meaningful, high-performance products. I’m satisfied knowing that, while I aim to tackle tough problems for our customers, independently and together with our partners, Elevance is making a measurable, positive impact on the world around us.




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Contributed by David Constable, Director, ACS Green Chemistry Institute®


Over the past year the quantity and diversity of articles published in The Nexus is one demonstration of just how much is happening in green chemistry and engineering. This is evidenced by the significant amount of content contributed from different people in the community—from educators to industry and government scientists to students—as well as by the number of articles on each months topic our staff works hard to illuminate.  In reality, it’s impossible to fit everything that is happening in green chemistry and engineering into a monthly newsletter. This month’s issue is no exception. That said, we are excited to see a momentum that continues to build and bodes well for our collective future.


This October issue is focused on metrics, tools, and assessments—a topic that is of great personal interest and in my opinion, sadly neglected by many.


It isn’t that people don’t incorporate any metrics in their thinking, it’s that they only incorporate one or perhaps two metrics and equate a positive attribute for that one or two metrics as evidence that a chemical or a new reaction chemistry, or a catalyst is “green,” “greener”  or more sustainable. For example, a product that is derived from biomass is lauded as “green” or “environmentally friendly” because it is agriculturally based. Or a catalyst is seen as necessarily being green because it is able to do an asymmetric chiral coupling. But is that really the case, and is a single attribute sufficient for calling something “green” or “greener?”


I’d like to think that we are not so easily seduced to think along these lines, but the number of journal articles I routinely see, or the presentations I see at most green chemistry conferences and symposia suggests otherwise. So, what would I like to see?  First, embrace the complexity that attends calling something “green” or “sustainable.” It takes more than a single metric. Second, recognize that when you take a multivariate/multi-metrics driven approach, the answer about something being “green” is likely to become a bit gray; i.e., it’s not a black and white decision. What you invariably will encounter is that you trade impacts of one kind or another. The emphasis should be on arriving at the optimum solution amongst all the trade-offs.


Let me return to the example of a chemical derived from biomass. In the plus column would be things like it may be derived from waste biomass, it is not derived from petroleum (it is renewable, hopefully), and perhaps it is obtained in high concentration.  On the negative side there are potential impacts associated with agriculture (land, water, fertilizer – nitrogen and phosphorus, pesticides and herbicides, transportation of the biomass, upstream and downstream processing impacts - water, waste, etc)  In other words, where you draw the boundaries of your analysis really matters, and it isn’t a simple picture. By taking these kinds of things into account, just as you should for a chemical derived from any source, be it from petroleum or otherwise, you are more likely to arrive at a chemical or product that is “greener” or more sustainable.


And that’s the third thing about metrics; they should always be done in comparison to something. It is unfortunate that many are looking for absolute numbers when we live in a relative world. We really need to move forward with decisions based in credible comparative data and we have some more work to do to make this happen.


Finally I’d just like to report on my recent trip to Georgia Tech in Atlanta, GA and the inauguration of their Renewable BioProducts Institute. Georgia Tech, as many of you probably know, is one of the top schools in the U.S. in science and engineering and it is unashamedly preparing students for work in industry. The Renewable BioProducts Institute is a new name for an Institute that has long been doing work with the forest and paper products industry. There is, however, a renewed emphasis on going past only fiber and continuing to develop a variety of chemicals from biomass. It was a great pleasure and honor to be a part of their day and a half symposium and hear the panel discussions of industrial and academic speakers. It is always great to see the clear needs of industry articulated and how the scientific and engineering capabilities of academic researchers can be used to solve real-world problems.The very best science and engineering are keys to successful innovation and I therefore have great confidence the Institute will continue to be very successful at delivering greener and more sustainable solutions.


As always, let me know what you think.






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Life cycle assessment has become an important tool for companies to understand the environmental impact of their products, processes, or even whole company footprint from beginning to end. LCA’s measure the total flow of mass and energy (among other things) for a given unit starting with the extraction of raw materials, on to the manufacturing processes, then to consumer use and ending with how a product is disposed of or reclaimed into a new cycle.


I interviewed GlaxoSmithKline’s Dr. Concepción Jiménez-González, on her and co-author Dr. Michael R. Overcash's recent paper “The evolution of life cycle assessment in the pharmaceutical and chemical applications – a perspective” published in Green Chemistry. Jiménez-González notes that there is an increasing interest over the past few years in using LCA techniques to evaluate greener approaches in the pharmaceutical industry. She points out that the ‘greenness’ of a product ultimately relates to its overall environmental footprint, and LCAs are the best way to measure that. “The more holistic and systemic an LCA is, the better the picture of the ‘greenness’ of the process or chemistry is,” says Jiménez-González.


Given an LCA’s potentially expansive scope, one of the most important aspects of a successful analysis is defining the specific objectives and goals of the study. For example, you might want to compare two pathways to synthesis of a pharmaceutical ingredient and determine which method has the lowest overall environmental impact. Or you may want to analyze all the inputs and outputs of a current process to determine where the greatest need for improvement lays. Depending on your goal, data collection parameters can be set correctly.


Along the same lines, care must be taken when using LCAs to benchmark amongst different types of products or comparing one study to the next. “When comparing products or services, the boundaries need to be the same and the assumptions need to be congruent,” say Jiménez-González. Without this, LCA’s may tell you a lot about what you are measuring, but not a lot about other choices.


Another factor in life cycle assessments is how to collect all the required data. Most companies do not operate at all levels of the supply chain, and therefore getting data from earlier or later in the supply chain requires a degree of transparency. “LCAs are driving some inter-company collaboration,” says Jiménez-González. One example of this is the efforts of the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable to engage their suppliers in calculating Process Mass Intensity data.


At the same time, intra-company collaboration is also a big part of LCAs. “When someone inside a company is conducting an LCA, the group needs to engage with different departments within the enterprise, such as procurement, engineering, commercial, finance amongst others,” says Jiménez-González. Another aspect of collaboration has arisen in “companies who do not have a well-developed internal LCA program tend to have collaborations with universities and external research centers to ensure the integrity of the LCAs.”


Historically, LCAs were limited in scope but the trend has been moving towards incorporating more and more complex systems into the analysis. Meanwhile an ISO standard has been developed which defines methodologies and approaches for analysis. As a result of these trends, conducting an LCA can be very data intensive and very time consuming to complete. This has led some to use databases such as Ecoinvent that  provides quality-checked life cycle inventory and assessment information which can be plugged into your calculation.


Out of this approach are emerging streamlined tools that make use of these easy-access metrics to get quick estimated results. The benefit of this approach is the ability to make relatively quick assessments, but the tradeoff is that the results may come with larger margins of error since the data isn’t specific to the actual suppliers you work with. An example of a streamlined tool is one the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable is developing. The tool, currently in beta, is based on their Process Mass Intensity Calculator and incorporates LCA data from Ecoinvent.


Regardless of which approach a company takes, collecting quality data is one of the big challenges for LCAs. Jiménez-González has identified some community needs related to data availability:


  • Increase the geographical resolution of LCA databases
  • Improve consistency and transparency of the LCA methodologies and data
  • Continue to develop streamlined tools
  • Include data quality indicators in reports
  • Update existing data, particularly industry averages used in LCA software and streamlined tools
  • Incorporate continuous peer reviews


The other great challenge, and the point of all of this analysis, is to effectively interpret LCA results so that they can be used to make intelligent business decisions. Again Jiménez-González has some common-sense suggestions for practitioners:


  • Put more emphasis to the goal of the study to avoid superfluous results
  • Incorporate LCA metrics in smaller steps depending on the level of maturity of the organization
  • Translate the LCA results into actionable steps at the shop-floor level
  • Make it easy for non-experts to use and apply LCA insights


Life cycle assessments are here to stay, and more and more companies are finding it valuable to look at LCA data when evaluating products and processes. Taken in context with other data points, decision-makers can better understand the impacts of choices and tradeoffs between different approaches.



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Throughout the 2013-2014 school year 97 undergraduate ACS Student Chapters achieved their goals to complete different green chemistry activities. To recognize their achievements, ACS Green Chemistry Institute® in partnership with ACS Education has presented each chapter with a Green Chemistry Award. The chapters were required to complete at least three green chemistry related activities throughout the year in order to receive this recognition. Students use their creativity to come up with their own green chemistry activities. Activities range from putting on green chemistry themed scavenger hunts to volunteering at local schools to spread the word about green chemistry.


This Green Chemistry Award started thirteen years ago, with the participation of only four colleges. This year 12 out of the 97 schools have achieved seven or more years’ worth of green chemistry initiatives, along with the University of Tennessee at Martin, who has won the award thirteen years in a row. The twelve schools who have received seven or more awards are:


Augustana College, Sioux Falls, SD

Ferris State University

Hendrix College

Millikin University

South Texas College

Suffolk University

Texarkana College, TX

Union University, Jackson, TN

University of Arizona, Tucson

University of Pittsburgh, PA

University of Puerto Rico – Río Piedras Campus

University of Tennessee at Martin

University of Toledo


Check out all of the Student Chapter Green Chemistry Winners!


If your chapter needs assistance thinking of green chemistry activities that will help you receive a green chemistry award, review the ACS GCI Student Chapter Guides for unique, fun ideas! We are excited to see what everyone does this school year.


Congratulations to all 97 chapters for reaching your green chemistry goals!


Go Green Chemistry!




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