New Workshop Empowers Chemistry Educators to Embrace Green Chemistry Principles

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The workshop, coming to ACS Fall 2023 and led by David A. Laviska, equips chemistry educators to embrace green chemistry principles and meet the new guidelines for ACS-certified chemistry degrees.





The ACS Committee on Professional Training (CPT) recently released new guidelines for ACS-certified chemistry programs, including the requirement that four-year chemistry degree programs include the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry in their curricula. The update signifies a critical shift in how most U.S. undergraduate chemistry programs will be held accountable for the incorporation of green chemistry practices.

While a growing percentage of chemistry faculty has been emphasizing the importance of green chemistry education in recent decades, faculty leaders often face substantial barriers to updating their course content and acquiring buy-in from their full departments. With the CPT’s new guidelines comes an opportunity for higher-ed stakeholders to advance green chemistry initiatives.

“I have heard from faculty dozens of times that if green chemistry incorporation was a requirement, then they would have leverage within their departments,” says David A. Laviska, ACS Green Chemistry Institute's Portfolio Manager for Education Initiatives. “This is an exciting moment; including green chemistry in the curriculum is no longer optional. When undergraduate programs get audited for recertification, they are going to have to show evidence of inclusion of the 12 principles in their curricula.”

In order for these institutions to be successful, the right tools must be available to help them. A new workshop for undergraduate educators — being introduced for the first time at ACS Fall 2023 in San Francisco in mid-August — will provide essential training and discussion for chemistry educators. The workshop, “Greening undergraduate laboratories: A step-by-step guide to success,” led by Laviska, has been developed from his experience working to incorporate green chemistry into his classes and labs as a chemistry professor at Seton Hall University.

“As a professor, it occurred to me that thinking about how to incorporate green chemistry principles in the research laboratory was a great way to train students to think about the principles of green chemistry,” says Laviska. “I found that I was scaffolding these ideas within laboratory protocols for teaching labs in such a way that students were building their understanding of green chemistry in a layered approach. Students, TA’s, and faculty had the opportunity to gradually build up knowledge through practice and problem-solving, rather than through rote memorization of possibly abstract concepts.”

Laviska’s approach was successful, and he saw an opportunity to share what he’d built. His straightforward workshop will bring the hands-on knowledge he’s acquired to an audience of chemistry educators.

“These workshops are aimed at helping educators see that this really doesn’t have to be a huge lift,” says Laviska. “You can start with one step and build to the next. I’ll start the workshop with examples from first-year general chemistry and expand from there.”

Within the workshop, which Laviska hopes to make available at future chemistry conferences, instructors will be challenged to consider the ways in which advancing toward greener chemistry lab protocols impacts their students’ abilities to thrive in their future studies (and ultimately, careers) but also to think holistically — to consider why they’re performing certain tasks in the lab, not just how to do them.

“I think it's fun to think about reactions in this way, and so have my students, both in the teaching and research laboratories,” says Laviska.

The three-hour workshop will be formatted partially as a presentation of practices and experiences from Laviska, discussions of experimental protocols, opportunities for group work, and continued group discussion of takeaways and observations. Participants can expect to learn how to:

  • Form connections between green chemistry and fundamental experimental methods
  • Analyze existing experimental protocols and make small, but impactful changes
  • Make lab experiments greener
  • Be a green chemistry innovator
  • Engage students in the green chemistry conversation
  • Enhance safety and student learning while reducing cost and waste

The workshop’s value will increase as participation grows.

“Hearing the different points of view, questions, concerns, and backgrounds is always an illuminating part of these discussions,” says Laviska, “because many times people don't think their own issues are necessarily relevant or solvable until they hear similar concerns from another instructor. We can learn a great deal from listening to each other and sharing best practices. I hope to see as many registrants as possible for this workshop so they can sense the community and make new connections.”

While the chemistry community has been moving in a greener direction in recent years, Laviska believes this moment — marked by the urgency introduced by the updated CPT guidelines — will allow institutions and educators to come to terms with adopting new practices.

“I really feel that we're going to hit a critical mass of people who can speak in this vernacular and are not afraid of it,” says Laviska. “We should already be thinking in these ways. It’s time to bring more people into the conversation and the community so that they are galvanized to try something new and spread the word.”

Coming to San Francisco? Join the workshop!

Please contact David Laviska ( with your interest to participate.

Greening undergraduate laboratories: A step-by-step guide to success
Tuesday, August 15, 2023, 1-4 p.m.
Room 12, South Moscone Convention Center, San Francisco