The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will celebrate its 50th anniversary on December 2. Established during the Nixon administration, the Agency has a simple, yet powerful, mission, “To protect human health and the environment.” Over the past half century, EPA has taken numerous actions that have helped improve human health and the environment, such as setting air quality standards, reducing the amount of lead in gasoline, and phasing out chlorofluorocarbons.
In 1990, the Pollution Prevention Act was signed into law by President George Bush. In enacting this law, Congress declared that it was “the National policy of the United States that pollution should be prevented or reduced at the source whenever feasible…” This Act shifted the focus from waste management and pollution control to source reduction. The Pollution Prevention Act laid the groundwork for EPA to establish its Green Chemistry Program in the mid-1990s.
The American Chemical Society (ACS) has collaborated with the EPA on its green chemistry initiatives almost from the beginning. Cooperative agreements between the two organizations supported the development of educational resources, including a lab manual, case studies, and a video. Most notably, EPA and ACS work together to recognize advances in green chemistry through the Green Chemistry Challenge Awards, which were first awarded in 1996. More than 120 academic researchers, large corporations, small businesses, and government labs have been honored since the inception of the awards. These award-winning technologies have eliminated the use or generation of millions of pounds of hazardous chemicals and conserved billions of gallons of water and trillions of BTUs of energy. Applications for the 2021 awards are due by December 4, and the nomination package is available on the EPA website.
EPA’s green chemistry activities go beyond the awards program. The annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference, which celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2021, was first organized by EPA in 1997. EPA convened the nascent community at the conference during the early years of green chemistry, helping to build momentum for practicing chemistry in a greener, more sustainable way. EPA continues to be actively engaged with the conference, sharing information on the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) with attendees and highlighting the Pollution Prevention (P2) search tool within TRI.
The ACS Green Chemistry Institute congratulates the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on this milestone anniversary. While much has been accomplished over the past 50 years, applying science to solve global sustainability challenges lies ahead in the next 50 years. We look forward to continuing our collaborative efforts with EPA to ensure a more sustainable society.
Mary Kirchhoff, Ph.D.
Director, ACS Green Chemistry Institute
EVP, Scientific Advancement