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Chris Coons, United States Senator from Delaware, is making sustainability a priority.


Senator Coons’ Newsroom has announced that Coons and Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced a bipartisan bill to encourage innovation in the field of sustainable chemistry. “The Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act (SCRDA) will encourage the design, development, and commercialization of high-performing chemicals, products, and processes that reduce or eliminate risk to human health and benefit the environment,” stated Coons.


IGCW 2015 Full Logo.jpgAlthough he has a wide range of priorities towards hard hitting issues, such as education, jobs, and the economy, his stance on energy is making people sit up and listen.  The Senator’s stance on energy, according to, includes financing clean energy projects, supporting innovative research and basic science,  investing in renewable energy solutions, developing next generation biofuels, supporting alternative vehicles, fuels and infrastructure, and encouraging the federal government to buy more clean energy, using our offshore resources wisely. He also makes conservation and upholding our sportsmen’s heritage a priority.


Christopher Avery, Ph.D. in analytical chemistry, as well as, a degree in public policy is a past congressional fellow for Senator Coons. Avery stated, “One of the things I appreciated the most about Senator Coons was that he already understood how scientific and technical understanding was folded into lots of issues.” Avery served under the Senator for a year in 2011, where he monitored and developed legislation, memos, letters, speeches, staff briefings and external studies. Avery was the staffer who ran the process and oversaw the execution of government agencies and monitored the use of science in regulatory decision-making, especially related to the chemical industry. “[Senator Coons] went out of his way to seek out my thoughts and opinions on issues that were outside of my direct technical knowledge because he thought scientists should have a seat at the table. I felt very privileged to be asked, and it made me even more motivated to do well”, stated Avery.


Regarding Coons’ activity with the SCRDA, Avery stated, “I’m confident that with Senator Coons leading that work, the chemistry community is in extremely good hands.” Avery believes that chemistry is a part of the Senator’s overall goal of pushing the US economy toward innovation, “It’s just one piece of that goal, but it’s an important one. And I think the Senator sees how it fits into the overall picture better than most.”


Senator Coons is a graduate of Amherst College with a B.A. in Chemistry and Political Science, has a Master's in Ethics from Yale Divinity School, and earned his law degree at Yale Law School.


Senator Coons will be a keynote speaker at the 19th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference on Tuesday, July 14, at 11:45 a.m. at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, N. Bethesda, MD. Avery stated, “Senator Coons brings a great sense of context. Policy making, like science, is not ever done in a vacuum. Understanding the political, social, technical, and contextual issues surrounding policy issues are absolutely critical to doing something about them. The Senator spent a lot of time with me to make sure I understood both the context and why it was important. It made me better at my job, and I hope he will do that for your attendees.”




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Imagine taking a simple organism and designing materials and devices, much like nature would, to deliver innovative advancements in energy, the environment, and medicine, including cancer research. That is what Professor Angela Belcher not only dreamed up, but made a reality. The Bimolecular Materials Group at MIT, the Research Group of Professor Angela Belcher, uses directed evolution and engineered organisms to create hybrid organic-inorganic electronic, magnetic, and catalytic materials (MIT Bio). These non-toxic materials have been used in solar cells, batteries, medical diagnostics and for basic single molecule interactions related to disease, “I am a materials chemist and everything is a material to me. What my group is really good at is finding ways of utilizing biology to make nanomaterials or bring together a collection of materials at the nanoscale that could improve device performance,” stated Professor Belcher.


Belcher preferred pic.jpgThe Bimolecular Materials Group uses protein from abalone shells to build a strong structure that can be used to grow energy storage devices (batteries) and solar cells. They take an M13 Bacteriophage, whose job it is to infect bacteria, and force it to latch onto and coat itself with inorganic materials to create a nanowire. Belcher's group coaxed many of these nanowires together and found they resemble one of the basic components of a compact battery (Science Daily).


In an interview with Slate Magazine, Belcher stated, “by inserting a specific gene, we spurred the virus to produce a protein coat that binds with compounds such as cobalt oxides and iron phosphates. The virus is long and tubular, so we were able to grow nanowires with these compounds, which we used in an electrode for a prototype lithium-ion bio-battery.”


The green chemistry and engineering behind this method is rooted in life cycle thinking; i.e., discovering ways to produce a powerful structure and ensure it will have minimal impact. “We try to use low temperature processes, water as a solvent and non-toxic and earth abundant materials. We have spent years learning to scale both the inorganic materials and the biological materials for application of interest. We do not believe that our technologies are scalable for all problems, but we focus on problems that we can have an impact on.”


Belcher explained that currently, the Bimolecular Materials Group is working with energy storage and creating new catalytic materials for applications in energy and therapeutics, “finally, we have a major effort in designing new materials and instrumentation for both image guided surgery and non-invasive imaging in cancer.”


Professor Angela Belcher attended the University of California, Santa Barbara, for her undergraduate and graduate degrees. She received her B.S. in Creative Studies and her Ph.D. in Chemistry. Belcher joined the MIT faculty in 2001 as a professor in the Department of Biological Engineering and Materials Science & Engineering. Her research is focused on biomaterials, biomolecular engineering, energy, nanoscale engineering, and synthetic biology, “I have been inspired my whole career by how nature makes materials. In addition to being able to make materials on the nanoscale, biology makes materials in a way that is compatible with the environment. We are inspired by nature’s approach to manufacturing.”


Belcher will be one of four esteemed keynote speakers at the 19th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference, in Bethesda, MD., this July 14-16, “I am very excited and honored to present at this meeting. Green chemistry and green approaches to materials and technology is essential to maintain a sustainable society. In addition, I am excited about the level of interest in these fields from our youngest scientists.”




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Although there is no official government ranking of which city is the most sustainable city in the United States, a constant contender on the numerous amateur lists has been Portland, Oregon.


According to the International Business Times, some of the factors involved in being considered a sustainable city are the size of the city’s “carbon footprint”, number of certified buildings designed with minimal nonrenewable energy use, reduced water consumption, and cities with high proportions of green space. Travel and Leisure dubbed Portland the number one greenest city in America in 2015, “for its mass transit and near the top for its groovy, offbeat locals, known for their DIY spirit and cycling culture.”


877440523_83256c2402.jpgThe Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) , “develops creative and practical solutions to enhance Portland’s livability, preserve distinctive places and plan for a resilient future”. They list the numerous ways the city strives to be more sustainable, such as having green buildings—a way of designing and constructing buildings to increase performance and enhance the health and experience for people who work, live and play in these structures. The city saves water and energy, generates low carbon emissions, uses renewable energy and more.


Jennifer Allen, associate professor of public administration and director of the Institute for Sustainable Solutions (ISS) at Portland State University, stated “They [BPS] lead the development and implementation of our Climate Action Plan – Portland was the first city in the U.S. to have such a plan, and BPS does a great job of engaging all the relevant partners in exploring how we can meet the goals of the plan.”


Allen has worked in the field of sustainable development since 1987, and first began working at the World Bank on efforts to better integrate environmental and social considerations into international development. Her stance on sustainable cities starts with the understanding of how people make choices every day, and ways to encourage valuing and conserving their resources.  “We need engineers, urban planners and other design thinkers to bring innovative strategies to the table to enable us to get around with a smaller environmental footprint, and to reframe topics such as infrastructure development to better integrate natural systems. Taking a more integrated approach to planning and development is a critical step. For example, Portland seeks to promote ‘20 minute neighborhoods’ that allow residents to access the basic services they need without traveling long distances,” Allen stated.


Now, you’re probably thinking, “why are you highlighting the city of Portland when there are multiple cities making every effort to be more sustainable?” Well, dear reader, since this month’s issue of The Nexus e-newsletter is themed Sustainable Cities, we wanted to take this moment to announce that the 20th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference (GC&E), to be held in 2016, will be hosted in Portland, Oregon.


Jennifer MacKellar, the ACS Green Chemistry Institute® Program Manager, stated that hosting GC&E 2016 in Portland is “an exciting opportunity to engage new audiences, revitalize the content and leverage our west coast partners. There is a lot happening in the green chemistry/sustainability space in the Portland and the west coast area that we can highlight through our technical sessions.”


The conference will be held at the Portland Hilton & Executive Tower, which has several green practices, including a robust recycling program, food composting, energy efficiency, water conservation, waste minimization and using greener products. They also try to locally source their food as much as possible, “these were important factors for us when choosing a meeting location”, stated MacKellar. There are several companies that support green chemistry in the Portland area. Nike in particular, has been a huge supporter of green chemistry and has worked very hard to include green chemistry into their corporate practices. There are also several universities in the region that have strong green chemistry programs, including University of Oregon, Oregon State, UC Berkeley, and Portland State University. Offering our 2016 conference in the Portland area will give enthusiastic green chemistry students a great opportunity to attend without the high travel costs.


Portland is just one of many sustainable cities, not only in the country, but the world! ACS GCI is excited to continue the planning for the 20th GC&E Conference and we hope to see you in Portland in 2016!




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The 2014 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards (PGCCA) have come and gone, celebrating the innovative research and accomplishments made by chemists in industry and academia. Among these chemists, Dr. Shannon Stahl, winner in the Academic category, has paved a dynamic path to where he is today. Stahl is currently a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in the Department of Chemistry. He earned his B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the California Institute of Technology and was a NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


In 2011, Stahl’s research on aerobic oxidation chemistry received a $150,000 grant from ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable. The roundtable brings companies together to encourage innovation in green chemistry and engineering in the pharmaceutical industry. The grants the Roundtable awards are designed to help advance key green chemistry research areas of importance to the industry. “What the Pharmaceutical Roundtable funding allowed us to do was to kick-start an effort in copper catalysis. We had previously focused on palladium chemistry, but the GCI funding allowed a look at complementary approaches to aerobic oxidation using copper, specifically for alcohol oxidation reactions,” says Stahl.


The Pharmaceutical Roundtable was the first of several sources of support Stahl obtained for this research, with subsequent funding coming from the Department of Energy, the Dreyfus Foundation, as well as a pre-competitive consortium with three pharmaceutical companies--Eli Lilly, Pfizer, and Merck. These groups contributed to an aerobic oxidation consortium, which provided a substantial jump in funding to actually go after this project to expand and also achieve a greater level of focus. “I think it was really the Pharmaceutical Roundtable seed money was really important because it got the ball rolling.”


The Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards are given every year by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to those who exemplify the promotion of environmental and economic efforts in green chemistry. Stahl’s award for his academic research this year was for developing catalytic methods that replace toxic chemical oxidants with oxygen from the air. “This work provided a greener approach to something that could be done by other methods. I think an even bigger challenge is to come up with aerobic methods to carry out reactions that simply are not possible by any other method that essentially, is not just making a green reaction, but you’re also really changing the way people make molecules.”


Aerobic alcohol oxidations are one of the most common type of oxidation reactions in organic chemistry, according to Stahl. While there are non-aerobic methods to do alcohol oxidation, part of the reason Stahl pursued this application is because pharmaceutical companies are likely to encounter these reactions multiple times in a given year. Stahl notes that this increases the chance that pharma would consider performing an aerobic oxidation.


Stahl mentioned that what drives him as a chemist is his interest in understanding nature and learning how to manipulate and utilize it to discover new principles of reactivity. “When you’re successful at the fundamental science level, especially in an area like catalysis and chemical synthesis, very often it will be intrinsically green. If it’s not green, there's a good chance that people are not going to use it.”





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Chemists are striving to find unique, effective and eco-friendly ideas for creating sustainable polymers. Entrepreneurs, Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre went outside the box when coming up with an innovative way to create a sustainable polymer, resulting in a material derived from fungi. Bayer and McIntyre started working with mycelium, a mushroom root structure, in 2007 while attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate New York. They founded Ecovative Designs soon after; fast forward two years later, and Mushroom® Packaging/ Materials was born.



This packaging material is made from mycelium mixed with agricultural bioproducts like corn stalks, rice husks, and sawdust, “our process occurs within just 5-7 days, in the dark, at room temperature, and without any human interaction. Local agricultural waste is brought to the facility where it is pasteurized and sorted by size particle,” according to Melissa Jacobsen, Ecovative Spokeswoman. Once added, this mixture is molded into the shape of the final product. The mycelium is used to turn the biomass into a rigid foam-like material.


The concept behind mushroom packaging is to create a sustainable material that is compostable but does not biodegrade while in use. Jacobsen noted the overall concept came from when Bayer used to shovel woodchips into a gasifier to produce maple syrup, “sometimes he would encounter clumps of woodchips stuck together by tenacious white fibers, which he later learned were mycelium- the vegetative growth stage of fungi. The mycelium was self-assembling into natural glue.” Ecovative Design has been researching ways to developed products ranging from packaging material, automotive resources, insulation and surfing technology, “mushroom Packaging is a high performing, cost competitive alternative to standard protective packaging foams including EPS, EPP, and EPE and Myco Bord, our engineered wood alternative.” Rather than using toxic and carcinogenic urea-formaldehyde to bind particles together, we’re using mycelium Companies who have been utilizing Mushroom Packaging include Dell, Crate & Barrel, and Steelcase.



Another entrepreneur working with this fungi is Phillip Gordon Ross of MycoWorks. Ross began working with mushrooms in the 90s while working as a chef (C&EN). According to Ross’ website, in 2009 he planned to create an entire building out of his fungal material, “over the next few years I will continue experiments to determine the fungi’s material qualities as well as figuring out how to propagate more complex forms.” A few products MycoWorks offers as building blocks, Mycelium Furnature, and Mycotecture.  Similarly, Ecovative Designs recently built a “Mushroom tiny house” made with mycelium insulation.


The folks over at Ecovative have dedicated themselves to spreading the word about this sustainable polymer and are providing grow it yourself kits (GIY) to the public, “through this new program, we’re offering genuine Ecovative Mushroom Materials to the world, so that you can make your own creations.” You can purchase a kit for $14 on their GIY website.




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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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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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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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A review of some of the talks presented at the 2014 GC&E Conference from the session, “Green Chemistry Beyond the Bachelor’s Degree”


From effective communication to interactive learning, this year’s Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference ( had over 25 presentations dedicated to education. Topics included Green Chemistry Beyond the Bachelor’s Degree, Charting the Course Ahead, and Advancing Sustainability Through the ACS Summer School on Green Chemistry and Sustainable Energy. These sessions were organized by co-chairs Julie Haack, University of Oregon, and Anne Marteel-Parrish, Washington College. Below are highlights from the two-part session, "Green Chemistry Beyond the Bachelor's Degree".


Laura Vandenberg from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst School of Public Health, opened the session stressing the importance of clearly communicating science and ways to avoid using jargon. Vandenberg started off by mentioning she is not a chemist and pointed out the perfect coincidence that she, a biologist, was talking to a room full of chemists about how to clearly convey your message to an audience, who may not be familiar with the typical jargon you use. Vandenberg emphasized the concept of simplifying your message without dumbing it down, “it’s okay to use the words we use, but we have to stop and realize that it is jargon, and we have to find a way to simplify it”. She said this is a concept scientists struggle with because they do not want to sound less intelligent then they truly are. She stressed that when your audience can fully understand what you are explaining, your science can reach further then it’s typical demographic, creating more of an impact.


Caroline Baier-Anderson, who is working with Design for Environment (DfE), switched gears from jargon to the efficient ways DfE spreads the word about green chemistry. She talked about her interactions through Design for Environment and their alternative assessment community of practice strategy. By collaborating with different stakeholders they have been able to achieve their goals efficiently with multiple perspectives on the matter. Industry’s involvement with green chemistry was introduced into this session by Bruce Uhlman, Team Leader for Applied Sustainability at BASF, and how they have developed tools and strategies to drive sustainability into the company’s culture.


The second part of the session focused on the education of green chemistry within the different forms of schooling, whether it is K-12, undergraduate, or graduate levels. Marty Mulvihill, Berkley Center for Green Chemistry, mapped out his department’s interactive graduate program. These project-based courses require students to work in teams and reach out to real companies to discover their real-world challenges. The teams then spend the semester finding possible solutions which could result in future research opportunities.


Many of the other talks focused on new green chemistry networks, the importance of getting involved in student groups, and utilizing research. Kate Anderson, Beyond Benign, closed the sessions off by discussing her interactions with the Green Chemistry High School Professional Development program. This program provides resources for K-12 and College/University educators to help guide their green chemistry curriculum.


You can watch the full presentations and all of the sessions from the 2014 GC&E Conference at ACS Presentations on Demand. All presentations are available to the public.




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