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Ask the Innovators: Sparking Green Chemistry Discussion in an Online Space

Honored Contributor
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Contributed by Laura Hoch, Technical Fellow, GC3

Collaboration and regular interaction between members of the green chemistry community is vital to the growth and widespread adoption of green chemistry. In order to facilitate discussion and networking outside of regular conferences the Green Chemistry and Commerce Council (GC3) partnered with the ACS Green Chemistry Institute® (ACS GCI) to create the Green Chemistry Innovation Forum as a place for members of the green chemistry community to connect, ask questions, and share ideas. The Innovation Forum has content on a wide range of green chemistry topics, from discussions of safer alternatives, to priority chemicals and functions, to showcasing innovative new products, to job postings, and serves as a hub for updates on the field of green chemistry and upcoming events. GC3 and ACS GCI staff act as moderators for the forum, monitoring submissions and recruiting experts within the field to respond to questions, encouraging interaction. By ensuring that every posted question gets a prompt answer our hope is to create a vibrant community of practitioners.

As with any Internet-based forum, the Portal’s usefulness and success depends on the number of users and diversity of interactions. Since the launch of the Innovation Forum in June 2015 we have seen steady growth in the number of views and comments for a total of 1,264 participants. In order to continue to drive traffic and respond to interests of the green chemistry community, we have initiated structured text-based Q&A sessions, entitled “Ask the Innovators,” as a way to simultaneously generate useful content and increase visibility of the forum. To date we have organized two successful Ask the Innovators events, in which people can directly interact with innovative scientists in real time, asking questions about their green chemistry solutions.

The first event in November 2015 focused on University of California Berkeley’s Greener Solutions Program, a project-based class that partners students with organizations involved in sustainable chemistry. Panelists included Tom McKeag and Meg Schwarzman of the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry, Billy Hart-Cooper, a student at UC Berkeley, and Kaj Johnson, Senior Director of Product Development at Method, who was one of the industrial partners of the program.  Topics of discussion ranged from how companies can become partners in the program to how new green chemicals can get introduced to the market.

The second Ask the Innovators event in January 2016 focused on the science behind greener alternatives to durable water repellents for textiles, which we titled “How Green is Your Raincoat?” Our expert panel included Bob Buck, Technical Fellow at Chemours, Matt Dwyer, Director of Materials Innovation at Patagonia, Stefan Posner, Senior Researcher at SWEREA IVF, and Philippa Hill, Postgraduate Researcher at the University of Leeds. Members of the green chemistry community asked a broad range of questions from how to engage key decision makers in the supply chain to make the transition to non-fluorinated DWRs successful, to how perflourcarbon compounds from raincoats are transmitted into the natural environment, to how biomimicry could be used to design novel water repellants. The discussion, totaling 93 posts, received 2,695 views and counting with 278 individuals participating.

Both of these events have demonstrated that using text-based Q&A sessions is an effective method to facilitate lively discussion around green chemistry innovation. We have several more Ask the Innovators sessions planned for the next few months  on topics ranging from strategies for mainstreaming green chemistry to greener flame retardants. If you have any feedback or suggestions for new Ask the Innovators topics, please send them to us! This forum is meant to be an important tool for the green chemistry community, so please don’t hesitate to contact us, either by commenting below or via email at

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