This past month I had the privilege to participate in the People, Prosperity & the Planet Competition sponsored by the U.S. EPA. I am very grateful to be a part of these events to see the progress that is being made in colleges and universities to engage students across many disciplines in sustainability research. In many ways, I am alternately thrilled and dismayed. Thrilled by the number of projects that are just spot on; the students understand the problem, they are all engaged, and they are all contributing. Dismayed, because that experience is not a ubiquitous one; there are a lot of silos out there, and the educational establishment is not where it needs to be. I applaud the EPA for sponsoring this competition and I applaud the students who demonstrated such vigor and commitment to doing their best in their work. I also applaud the judges who collectively bring such wisdom to the table, I learned a lot from them.
I also had the opportunity to speak at the Adhesives and Sealants Council spring meeting. I had the great fortune to hear, once again, a few speakers whose work I admire. Dr. George Thompson of Chemical Compliance Systems spoke on his GreenSuite products and their application to chemical alternatives assessment. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the product, I would encourage you to take a look. Dr. John Warner gave his usual entertaining and inspiring talk on the importance of Science and Innovation. I’ve heard John speak many times now, and I very much appreciate the clarity of his message that we need to focus on science and innovation in green and sustainable chemistry. Dr. Richard Wool was also there, and I am always delighted to see the breadth and creativity in his work. The bottom line for me was that there continue to be an enormous number of opportunities in green and sustainable chemistry no matter what sector you focus on.
I was also pleased to host the spring meeting of our ACS GCI Governing Board last week. It’s a privilege to have such a group of committed, accomplished and knowledgeable individuals available for extended discussion and planning. We focused on some strategic planning this time around, given that the ACS GCI Staff, for the most part, is relatively new to ACS GCI. I spent the preceding month digging into the history of the ACS GCI and all the strategic planning that has been done. We also completed a stakeholder review to give us a sense of the current state of sustainable and green chemistry. Compared to 2001, the sustainable and green chemistry space is much more crowded than it was, and that is a real testimony to many of you who have worked very hard over the past dozen years to move things forward.
So what was the outcome of the strategic planning? The ACS GCI can’t do it all; there needs to be greater focus and fewer objectives. We’re going to keep the GC&E Conference going and we’re going to continue to make it better. The Industrial Roundtables are unique, they’ve grown in influence and outcomes, and we need to do more to increase their size, number and influence. In general, there is a need to set the research agenda and draw attention the grand challenges and how sustainable and green thinking needs to permeate all of the chemical enterprise. There are many ways we can do that but we have some more work to do before we can talk about our ideas.
Stay tuned, but in the meantime, I hope to see many of you at the 17th Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference in North Bethesda, MD, June 18 – 20. We’re looking forward to it and working very hard here to make it a great conference experience.
As always, let me know what you think.
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