Contributed by Jaime Conway, President of Northeastern University’s Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society, Northeastern University
Our student chapter is one that focuses heavily on professional development, campus presence, community service, and, very importantly, green chemistry. I clearly remember when I was introduced to green chemistry.
My second year here, representatives from Gordon College came to speak about their involvement with the initiative. They introduced the Twelve Principles, and they illustrated how they were implemented in the classroom. I then found out that Northeastern University had just signed the pledge for the green chemistry initiative. All of this helped establish my interest, but I lacked the context to implement the principles in my own life.
This context came along with the practice of spreading knowledge about green chemistry. I got more involved in our student chapter by joining the Executive Board. I began to help plan demos and events that highlighted green chemistry, a continued focus of the group. With a more hands-on approach, I was properly able to explain and inform my community of its importance.
NUSAACS has many different ways to get the word out about green chemistry on our campus. An annual event is our celebration of Earth Day. General awareness of Earth Day is great to facilitate discussions about going green, but is not specifically chemistry related. In order to use the general awareness of our campus to our advantage, we host an Earth Day event where fellow students plant seeds in a small pot to bring home with them with one condition: they watch our green chemistry demo. These demos have included a blackberry solar cell and a demo of benign and effective substitutes to hazardous chlorinated bleach products that anyone can use. Our student chapter has been featured in our university’s news for our efforts with green chemistry and Earth Day’s emphasis on general sustainability.
We also try to incorporate green chemistry at our weekly meetings. NUSAACS members get involved by performing demos and learning to speak more technically about the Twelve Principles. An example of a demo is using cabbage water as a natural pH indicator to evaluate popular household cleaners. The principles were displayed in how effective red cabbage was as a pH indicator. Using benign chemicals such as this is entirely as effective as a standard lab indicator, yet is not widely used due to convenience and lack of an initiative. This dynamic demo was a great way to discuss the many aspects of Green Chemistry and how we can apply it not only as chemists, but also as humans in our everyday lives.
Lastly, NUSAACS believes that it is important to spread the word to other chemists from other schools as much as possible. This year, NUSAACS hosted a joint student chapter meeting attended by two other Boston ACS chapters. Students from Suffolk University and UMass Lowell listened to our guest speaker, Dr. John Warner from the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry. As one of the pioneers of green chemistry and the creator of the premier company in the field, Warner captivated the audience with his presentation on his life, his career, his creation of the institute, and his goals moving forward. He spoke in detail about the issue is not the existence of harmful compounds but the fact that chemists are not taught to consider and avoid these chemicals. His talk was extremely informative and was even more powerful coming from someone so passionate about the cause.
Our student chapter tries to greatly emphasize green chemistry. We have implemented 2-3 events each year in an attempt to be recognized with a Green Chapter Award, and it has since grown into a passion for our members. This year, we decided to try some new events in order to further the discussion. One idea that we are excited to accomplish is a bulletin board in our chemistry building that will display the Twelve Principles along with some photos of different demos and events that we have held throughout the years. This will help us reach students taking chemistry classes that may not be studying it as their major. Another idea of ours is a journal club, where members will read articles, discuss them in detail, and challenge themselves to find new or different ways to do the experiments that would make the chemistry greener. We really feel as though this would be good practice to hone our skills for when we enter our future research and careers. Lastly, while they may not count as green chemistry events, there are many other great ways to practice general sustainability, such as by signing your school’s pledge to use reusable water bottles, cutting down on general waste of your chapter, volunteering at museums to teach children about the importance of the environment, and more.
As your chapter moves forward with green chemistry, ACS has many resources that are extremely useful. They have held “Greening Your ACS Student Chapters Webinars” where many of your questions can be answered. They also have a myriad of general and demo ideas on their website that can inspire some events within your chapter. Beyond Benign, a foundation that focuses on green chemistry education and outreach, also has many resources for those passionate for the initiative. Lastly, feel free to reach out to our chapter at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or even just to say hello. We love to collaborate with other chapters!
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