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Companies and researchers involved with green chemistry wouldn't be surprised if you've never heard of the concept.
They fully acknowledge that the idea has yet to garner the recognition or public investment that renewable energy and green building have earned. As a result, 10 businesses and organizations from the Green Chemistry & Commerce Council (GC3) have banded together to mainstream the form of chemistry that combines molecular development with sustainability.
"Bringing green chemistry into the mainstream means making it standard practice throughout the economy so that all chemistry is, by default, green chemistry," reads a blog on GreenBiz.com co-written by Amy Perlmutter, leader of the Council's mainstreaming project.
The group will look to advance green chemistry in the retail, higher education and supply chain sectors. The final roadmap for the promotion of green chemistry—to be presented in May—will include insights from chemical feedstock producers, manufacturers, brands and retailers at GC3 member companies regarding how they develop and implement green chemistry, and what has helped or hurt that process.
Perlmutter and Monica Becker, a sustainability consultant, define green chemistry as "the design, manufacture and application of chemical products that reduce or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances." They pointed out two examples of green chemistry—Segetis created a solvent with waste wood trimmings and corn stalks used in Seventh Generation and Method cleaning products for a performance that was unprecedented in the industry. Cargill won a 2013 Presidential Green Chemistry Award for developing a transformer fluid with vegetable oil that lacks the toxicity of mineral oil-based fluids and is less flammable and has a lower carbon footprint.
With the the help of the Green Chemistry Checklist, developed by the Dow Chemical Company, the Ecology Center and other members of the Michigan Green Chemistry Roundtable, the women say companies who espouse green chemistry as a standard will:
Green chemistry products and processes are a primary goal of the organization
• Regularly track progress toward green chemistry goals, including greening product lines
• Embed green chemistry design criteria in product design guidelines each stage of development so designs are green from the "ground up"
• Include green chemistry criteria in relevant sourcing protocols, specifications and contracts
• Screen chemical ingredients for green chemistry attributes on a regular basis
• Devote research and development dollars to green chemistry innovation
• Commercialize products with green chemistry advantages instead of existing chemicals or products
• Support and train employees with green chemistry higher education programs
Seventh Generation, Timberland, Valspar and the other organizations will lead the charge, but all 80 members of the Council will take part.