A guest post by Beyond Benign

Green chemistry, by definition, is the design of products and processes that reduce or eliminate the generation of hazardous substances. Everything around us is a chemical, and how and when green chemistry is taught to science students can be the difference between having a sustainable future or not. In order to make sure we have all the resources we need right now and in a couple (hundred) years, Beyond Benign provides students and educators with the tools they need to practice, study, and teach green chemistry. One of these tools is the Green Chemistry Commitment (GCC), a list of colleges and universities that are committed to implementing green chemistry in their curriculum and training chemists to design new products and processes with reduced environmental and human health impacts.

Some people worry that green chemistry is not cost-effective, or is too difficult to be implemented. The R.W. Kern Center at Hampshire College is a beautiful real-life display of green chemistry. As a green building, the RWKC generates its own energy, captures its own water, and processes its own waste.

The RWKC was constructed using Columbia Forest Products (CFP) plywood, which is made using non-toxic adhesives. Usually, wood adhesives are made with formaldehyde, a carcinogenic compound. CFP, along with Professor Kaichang Li of Oregon State University (OSU) and Hercules Inc., developed an alternate adhesive made from soy flour. Professor Li’s group at OSU was inspired by the protein that blue mussels use to adhere to rocks. They modified some of the amino acids in soy flour to resemble mussels’ adhesive protein. This adhesive is now used in PureBond®, CFP’s new plywood. The inventors won the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award.

Chemistry is all around us, from compounds with complex formulas to construction and building materials. Applying the principles of green chemistry at the molecular level is the only way to create sustainable products and processes. Regardless of its application, the purpose of green chemistry is to make the world a better place and ensure a sustainable and long future for us all! #ThinkGreen

For more information on green chemistry, visit beyondbenign.org.

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