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What is Green Chemistry?

The 12 principles of Green Chemistry provide a framework for sustainable and environmentally responsible chemistry.

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What is Green Chemistry?

The concept of green chemistry was developed in the early 1990s addressing the designing of chemical products and processes to reduce or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances. The idea also includes waste prevention, energy conservation and life cycle considerations such as the use of renewable feedstock, design for degradation of the product etc.

While no chemical process can be completely green, the overall negative impact when thinking about the design, development and implementation of chemical products and processes can be reduced by applying the so called 12 principles of green chemistry. These were introduced by Anastas and Warner in their book “Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice” in 1998 and provide a framework for sustainable and environmentally responsible chemistry.

The 12 Principles of Green Chemistry

1. Waste Prevention

It is better to prevent waste than to treat or clean up waste after it has been created.

2. Atom Economy

Synthetic methods should be designed to maximize incorporation of all materials used in the process into the final product.

3. Less Hazardous Chemical Synthesis

Wherever practicable, synthetic methods should be designed to use and generate substances that possess little or no toxicity to human health and the environment.

4. Designing Safer Chemicals

Chemical products should be designed to preserve efficacy of function while reducing toxicity.

5. Safer Solvents and Auxiliaries

The use of auxiliary substances (e.g., solvents, separation agents, etc.) should be made unnecessary wherever possible and, innocuous when used.

6. Design for Energy Efficiency

Energy requirements should be recognized for their environmental and economic impacts and should be minimized. Synthetic methods should be conducted at ambient temperature and pressure.

7. Use of Renewable Feedstock

A raw material or feedstock should be renewable rather than depleting whenever technically and economically practicable.

8. Reduce Derivatives

Unnecessary derivatization (use of blocking groups, protection/deprotection, temporary modification of physical/chemical processes) should be minimized or avoided, if possible, because such steps require additional reagents and can generate waste.

9. Catalysis

Catalytic reagents (as selective as possible) are superior to stoichiometric reagents.

10. Design for Degradation

Chemical products should be designed so that at the end of their function they break down into innocuous degradation products and do not persist in the environment.

11. Real-Time Analysis for Pollution Prevention

Analytical methodologies need to be further developed to allow for real-time, in-process monitoring and control prior to the formation of hazardous substances.

12. Inherently Safer Chemistry for Accident Prevention

Substances and the form of a substance used in a chemical process should be chosen to minimize the potential for chemical accidents, including releases, explosions, and fires.

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Online Resources for Chemical Safety in Science Education. (2023, March 19).
What is Green Chemistry?.