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Charting the Path Forward: An Education Roadmap for Green Chemistry

Valued Contributor II
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You are here. The red dot at the edge of a map. You’re not quite sure where you’re going and there’s no clear path to get to the yet unknown destination. The first step, now, is to visualize where you’d like to go. Then you can plan, draw the roads, and with a lot of work and a little luck, arrive at your destination.

roadmap.pngThe landscape of green chemistry education consists of islands abundant with information, and it isn’t always clear how to best leverage these resources in an educational setting. The green chemistry community is filled with innovative and motivated individuals, and an increasing number of organizations and companies are generating high quality publications on the subject.  We’re also seeing more and more students eager to get involved in green chemistry. In response to this strong interest more colleges and universities are creating new interdisciplinary courses and adding green chemistry content to existing chemistry courses. Industrial employers are also seeking students with backgrounds in sustainability and advocating education that fosters consideration of whole systems and product lifetimes. In 2011, a Pike Research report estimated that the green chemistry market will rise from under $3 billion to nearly $100 billion by 2020.  So with all this enthusiasm and momentum, what’s keeping green chemistry from mainstream incorporation into chemistry education?

Since the early 2000s many green chemistry practitioners have been successfully developing materials at their institutions or through regional efforts. The absence of a coordinated effort to share these resources is working against the potential for green chemistry advancement brought about by these achievements. Additionally, no easy mechanisms have been built to bring newcomers to the space up to speed, limiting the widespread adoption of sustainable practices.

Without clear learning objectives, easy access to teaching materials or the training to cover these topics, it’s difficult for educators to include green chemistry concepts and practices into the existing curriculum. A lack of agreement on standard metrics to formalize what qualifies as “green” leaves genuine innovation at risk of becoming entangled in buzzwords and marketing.

Taking all of these things into consideration, ACS Green Chemistry Institute (GCI) has initiated a roadmapping project to chart the path forward for green chemistry education. Roadmapping is a strategy and resource planning tool that can be especially helpful for addressing complex business, technical or policy problems. It can be used to bring together diverse groups of stakeholders with varying expertise and views to align resources to help a community achieve its goals. There are now many examples of successful roadmaps which have helped communities set common goals, collaborate, and productively move their fields forward. An educational roadmap for green chemistry education will take an uncoordinated but vibrant movement to the next level.

RoadmapGraphic_2.pngThe destination of this roadmap will be decided through a series of community driven workshops.  A visioning workshop, set to take place later this summer, will task a representative group of strategic thinkers with the conceptualization of a destination. A second larger workshop in the fall will involve a greater number of strategic and tactical minds to help design avenues to reach the desired end-state. Each of the workshops described above will be followed by a robust review process where community members will be encouraged to provide feedback on the workshop outcomes. A forthcoming survey of chemical educators, conducted by ACS GCI, will also generate a better understanding of where and how green chemistry concepts are currently being taught. This is intended to be a transparent, community-driven process with several opportunities for community members to participate and provide feedback.

With such an extensive project, we’ll need all hands on deck. The inclusion of invested individuals is critical to the success of the Education Roadmap for Green Chemistry. More perspectives present throughout the planning process equates to a wider variety of needs that can be met. If you would like to participate, please let us know. Through meaningful collaborations we will not only start off in the right direction; we’ll arrive together in a more sustainable future where all chemistry is green chemistry.

For more information view the education roadmap webpage. If you would like to participate or have any questions please email Jennifer MacKellar at

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To read other posts, go to Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog home.