Hi Julie, another good book is Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by Michael Braungart and William McDonough.
Not everyone defines GC as only "the 12 Principles." There are actually many principles of green chemistry and engineering and you can find a reasonable compilation of some of these here: Principles of Green Chemistry and Green Engineering - American Chemical Society . Moreover, principles are not metrics but general guidelines.
What companies need to do is to look at the underlying concepts and objectives of principles and establish metrics that make sense for that given company or organization. There is not a one size fits all approach to GC metrics.
Great responses so far! I was wondering what are the primary barriers to adoption of green chemistry? Why do certain companies seem to be more successful at incorporating green chemistry into their businesses than others? What are ways we can overcome some of these barriers?
To me, it’s critically important that the system boundaries be set based on “desired customer outcomes” rather than “desired producer outcomes” – sometimes these are the same, but not always! For example, if one manufactures dyes and/or pigments, one might choose “a safer dye” as a green approach, but the customer doesn’t desire a dye of any sort, but rather simply color – dye is one type of solution, but not all types of solutions.
Absolutely agree that developing new products that use green chemistry approaches and that are truly sustainable needs more than just chemists. One way to help develop chemists who have those broader perspectives and connections to consider the holistic picture of what they are creating and have greater potential for it reaching society is to partner them up with the other functions that can contribute these perspectives, much the way it is done in a corporate environment, where new opportunities (chemistries) are reviewed in the context of a broader set of information (market, business, environmental, societal) that is contributed by other functions; effectively, team up the chemists with other business people, marketeers, financiers, etc.)
Thanks for the positive note on Europe; "the changing funding landscape is leading to more chemists focusing on green or sustainable chemistry". The flip side of that is that there is not enough funding in Europe for companies to scale up to commercial capacity. This is being done in other parts of the world, like North America and Canada, where feedstock is available at competitive prices, energy prices are extremely competitive (compared to Europe) and different types of Government funding (USDA, DOE loans, and loans from various Canadian government agencies; SDTC, EDC, et al) is available. So, while the science is funded in Europe, the plants are being built for now in the US and Canada.....
Green chemistry is not just about the science or the technology. We need to create a more sustainable system of commerce the places economic value on sustainable solutions. we need laws that minimize the externalization of costs, that don't subsidize old technologies or promote the status quo (though big business is all bout protecting its interests and maintaining the status quo). Until the economic climate promotes change, or is agnostic toward change, green technologies will have a struggle for acceptance.. .
I would agree with Babette that there are many areas of science, engineering and technology innovation that would benefit by thinking through the issues that sustainable and green chemistry raise. In my opinion, it is more about how one approaches innovation in any area of science, engineering and technology, and considers innovation from a more holistic, sustainability perspective.
From this perspective, it's more about changing the way we think so it infuses everything we do than about a particular innovation or breakthrough.
Canada and some other countries have done a seemingly much better job of prioritizing green chemistry in government funding and innovation policy whereas green chemistry is simply a niche consideration at EPA. What do we need to do to elevate green chemistry in public policy in the US as it has been in other places. What lessons can we learn?
What’s interesting is that everyone seems to think that chemistry innovations require enormous scale, and hence enormous investment. Some of the best exits over the past decade have been in the cosmetics space – and of course cosmetics are chemicals. Cosmetics that are safer and “naturally sourced” are in serious demand by that segment of the population that uses cosmetics – green chemistry embraces a broad range of products, and hence is not limited to larger commodity chemicals. If we always think of green chemistry as merely better ways to make things, rather than the whole gamut, we will lose sight of what’s possible re investment.