The word is out. Green chemistry has caught on, and the field has grown tremendously since it first emerged in the 1990s. The question now is where are we going with all this momentum?
On September 18, 2015, we took an important first step in the roadmapping project for green chemistry. We hosted a visioning workshop with a small group of participants deliberately selected for their diverse perspectives on green chemistry. This step will catalyze additional workshops, meetings and full drafting of the roadmap plan.
The workshop was marked by the group’s optimism, but also by their earnestness to create a high-quality, durable and effective plan. They were tasked with setting the vision for the roadmap: the elements of the vision, the role of the roadmap, how to best engage the community, and next steps in the project. All of this in the context of the remarkable progress that has been made in green chemistry already.
Perhaps the most difficult task, however, was suspending disbelief for the sake of aspiration: believing in a future of technologies, chemistries, and innovations that now seem impossible. The group looked at roadmaps from other communities as models that provided insight into how to build a successful roadmap for green chemistry.
Preliminary results from an ACS GCI survey of hundreds of chemistry educators were also discussed. It generated conversation about the state of chemistry education. Although the workshop participants acknowledged that academic reform is typically a slow process, they imagined a future state in which academic and industry leaders have collaborated to develop a chemistry education with green chemistry fully integrated. Already, the survey responses have shown that most chemistry educators are including topics like chemical hazards and exposure in their teaching.
The workshop was dotted with broader hopes for green chemistry as well. For example, how green chemistry has the ability to eliminate a wide array of social injustices. Or, how it enables interdisciplinary approaches that lead to innovation. The practice of chemistry was discussed as something in evolution, becoming ever-more benign and evaluated through systems-thinking. As the meeting drew to a close, participants enthusiastically volunteered to take on responsibilities and to continue to work towards a shared vision.
With green chemistry, chemists and engineers can know that they are doing the best science, with the best ethics, for the best future. We’ll need input from you, the community, as the roadmap progresses. Keep an eye out for updates and opportunities to contribute. We can’t wait to see where the path will take this community.
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