Healing the earth is the goal. We are fortunate indeed that the planet is very forgiving and has accomodated much of the negative impacts of the iindustrial era. Our oceans have absorbed much of the carbon dioxide resulting from the combustion of fossil fuels (coal, gas, petroleum) and other fuels (ethanol). We woke up in the 70's to the harm caused to the ozone layer by chlorocarbons, etc. Rather than looking for a quick fix, we should look at the system and try to keep in mind the law of unintended consequences. Replacing one product or system with another may well simply move the issues from one arena to another. For example, the automotive world in the US is based on internal combustion engines and high performance. The fuels then need to have octane high enough to provide the performance demanded. Petroleum products cannot economically provide adequate octane without additional processing or without additives. The first additives were lead based (tetraethyl lead). Upon the ultimate learning that leaded fuels were a health risk, they were replaced...largely by an ether...methyl ter-butyl ether (MtBE). MtBE in turn has been found to pollute water systems when leaking out of storage containers. The next replacement is ethanol. The unintended consequences of ethanol are just now coming into focus.....not economical, is seen to possibly cause some stress corrosion cracking problems, etc. What hasn't changed is the requirement for high octane fuel for high compression engines for high performance. Maybe that's where some folks ought to be thinking as an example.
I think there are a number of good points raised in this thread, the last one perhaps being a critical insightful. We can not meet the needs of an expanding population, and all that it demands, by a linear extension of existing technology. We must find new ways to generate electricity, provide transportation, safe drinking water, etc. Those ideas are being developed today and green chemistry one of the keys to a sustainable future. Not much gets done and nothing will change without the creation of new molecules and materials. The 12 principles of green chemistry provide the systems thinking required to deliver safer alternatives in the future, both chemicals and processes to make them. It will take us a long time to achieve a truly sustainable society. Every step is a step in the right direction because even when we make mistakes (including unintended consequences), and we will make many, we should be learning.
I agree with Bob and some of the other posts. We need to make major changes in society to conserve our natural resources. I recently attended a meeting on sustainability at the ACS meeting on how many detergents are now environmentally safe for dumping down the drain. The real problem is why are we dumping billions of gallons of drinking water down the drain to clean clothes, dishes and even our wastes. Since China and India are striving to be more like us here in the USA, they cannot create waste streams the way we do...and we need to set an example for the world. Solid wastes that can be burned for energy is preferable over liquid wastes...and liquid wastes are preferable over air pollution.
There are new technologies that are becoming available to reduce air, water and land wastes. We need to invest in these technologies for a cleaner and safer future for the world. My question would be, can we make these changes before its too late ?
A couple of points:
1) You're missing the actual first choice which is *prevent* the waste. We should be looking for ways to reduce our waste streams before we worry about incinerating or treating them. Next, if the waste cannot be eliminated, can it be used/reused? Certainly conversion to energy is better than simple destruction.
2) Your point about using drinking water for all sources is a good one, but I doubt many would be willing to pay to retrofit the parallel water infrasctructure to take advantage of grey water. Certainly any expansions should consider including grey water as a resource, but even in grey water, you want a low toxicity detergent.
Green chemistry isn't just about reduce/reuse/recycle. It's about designing chemistry (either a product or a process) to minimize the enironmental and human health impacts across the life cycle. If you ignore hazards (broadly defined), you may (rarely) stumble across a technology that is more sustainable than what it's designed to replace. However, if you think about the hazards of the design, manufacture, use, and disposal and include reduced hazard among the design criteria, you are much more likely to come up with something that is competitive and better for health and the environment. Even with catalysis, which is almost always greener than stiochimetric chemistry it replaces, can be improved by making it greener. There is more to catalyst design than just yield and turn-overs.
There are some great question's and answers being given in these threads of messages and keep them coming! Its very beneficial for someone like me who is going for a BS in Chemistry.
For those that are in the Green Chemistry field as of right now or are making a transition to this area of Chemistry, What are some thing's I can be doing now to prepare myself if I was to choose to enter the Green Chemistry movement?
And Thanks for those that respond
Get involved in undergraduate research...any type of project, just get involved with research to learn the thought process behind intellectual discovery. As far as classes, I would recommend toxicology to study the interaction between chemicals and the environment and/or human health, ecology to learn to observe things from a whole systems viewpoint, and anything that can provide a global perspective. Think about what you want to do with your degree; if you'd like to get into something like policy work, then government or political science courses would be good. And most chemists end up working for a business, but they've never had any business courses!!!
As far as your "summer reading," I think three books are essential: Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice by Anastas and Warner; Cradle to Cradle: Rethinking the Way We Make Things by McDonough and Braungart; and The Ecology of Commerce by Hawken.
Finally, if you've shown enough interest and initiative to post here, you're probably involved with campus groups like Sierra Club, Chemistry Club, etc. and service-learning. Continue with that.
Just my opinions; I'm sure others will have more to add. I think the key thing is the passion to learn that you've shown by writing these posts; keep it up!!!
Dan, A few more thoughts for you. First, you can immerse yourself in green chemistry by attending the 14th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference in Washington, DC June 21-23. As an undergraduate there is also still time to apply for a scholarship to attend the student workshop that will be held Thursday the 24th (hurry on this one). The networking and insights will be tremendous for a young person. I would also consider two additional books which help put many things into perspective. The first is Chasing Molecules by Elizabeth Grossman and the second is Confessions of a Radical Industrialist by Ray Anderson. Good luck, Bob
Thank you for your reply. But I need to explain myself better. We are looking to replace laundry cleaning (starting with institutional) with green solvents that can be recovered after each use. However, we believe that you can clean the using the same cleaner 20-40 times before recovering the solvent (thru distillation). The determination of 20-40 times will be determined by density. The rinsing solvent then becomes the cleaning solvent and reclaimed solvent becomes the rinse.
Todays laundry practices require the dumping of billions of gallons of drinking water to remove (usually) less dirt than detergent. That is not sustainable. The solvent choices will be low/no vocs, non toxic, non hazardous. We have given this a lot of thought and have now received a supporting letter from Diversey on this technology. We also have a provisional patent and, unfortunately, I cannot give more info without a NDA. I did give a presentation at the last ACS on this topic showing the savings in water. Energy savings come from not having a dryer due to spin drying technology and another secret.
As this technology filters through insitutional markets (yes, you probably will need new equipment) and eventually to consumer, other choices may be made for the household. Dish washing may be our next target. Logistics on handling the solvent can all be worked out.
There are green solvents available from major corporations. Its just that no one wants to take a chance on changing how we do things. Write to me at SSSeelig@aol.com if you have additional questions.
Non-ozone forming solvents need to be considered.....t-butyl acetate, acetone, dimethyl carbonate would be among my choices.....good luck
Those are all flammable. I am looking at dibasic esters. Definitely not looking at halogenated solvents. Remember, the detergent package is the important part. Almost any safe green hydrophobic solvent will work.