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In Portland, Every Color is Green

Valued Contributor II
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Contributed by Heather Buckley, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California, Berkeley

For the most part, the only folks I know who will get up at 4:00 a.m. are skiers, surfers, or windsurfers; all sleepy, but eager to make the trip to snowy slopes, waves, or wind.  But this Monday, I was up at 4:00 a.m. to catch an early flight to Portland, Oregon, crossing my fingers that I would make it to the Student Workshop for the 20th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference. .010.jpg

Attending my third GC&E student workshop, I was excited by all the ways that this workshop has evolved over the years.  The organizers put in a phenomenal amount of work generating preparatory material to bring everyone up to speed. This meant that we were able to hit the ground running for a design challenge, joining up with our diverse teams and equipped with the guidance of fantastic volunteer facilitators and an impressive lineup of experts distributed amongst our groups.

Taking on the specific challenge of designing inherently safer colors in consumer products was a great way to make the many lessons of green chemistry “real”.  From students attending their first ever green chemistry event, I consistently overheard two comments that summarized perfectly my experiences as a researcher in the field: “This makes so much sense – why isn’t everything done this way?” and “There are so many factors – getting this right is hard!”

Having worked for the past two years on molecular design for water resistance and the ,preservation of building materials and home/personal care products, it was exciting to learn about additional resources in the hopes of applying them to exciting new areas of green chemistry.

The teams worked hard together all day, balancing team dynamics and approaching a very open-ended problem. They started with the biggest challenge: choosing a small piece of the green chemistry story for which to propose a greener solution. The results ranged from proposed smartphone apps and product labels reminiscent of Safer Choice and GoodGuide, to new molecular designs, to a new dying process complete with a prototype.

If the innovative solutions that were produced in this single day workshop are any indication, today’s students of green chemistry and engineering are ready to design better, safer products and processes. As for color: the future is bright green!

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