You are here

Anastas: Oregon leads in green chemistry

Christina Williams of the Sustainable Business Oregon writes "Paul Anastas is the science adviser to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a onetime Yale professor. But he's probably best known for his honorary title, the "Father of Green Chemistry." And he thinks Oregon is a world leader in the green chemistry realm.

What sets the state apart? Excellent research. But in addition, Anastas admires how innovations in green chemistry — which emphasizes the use minimally toxic, environmentally friendly chemicals and processes — in Oregon is coupled with an emphasis on education.

The Oregon Environmental Council is hosting Anastas in Portland next week for the Growing Green Chemistry in Oregon, an event set up to introduce business leaders to the potential of green chemistry research and materials."

We caught up with Anastas via email and asked him a few questions about his views on research, product innovation and the eventual extinction of green chemistry.

SBO: How would you describe the current state of the Green Chemistry industry in the U.S.? Is it still in its infancy or further developed than people might realize?

Anastas: Since its introduction, green chemistry has been adopted at an astounding rate, both in the United States and internationally. Green chemistry now impacts every industry sector that one can name—from the

automotive industry, to energy, to materials, to agriculture, to basic chemicals and so on. But the best news is that all of this adoption—all of these accomplishments that have been recognized and rewarded for their contributions to reducing hazards to humans and the environment—these represent perhaps only one percent of the power and potential green chemistry. With further and more systematic adoption, green chemistry has the potential to move us toward a more sustainable society and economy at a level that is yet to be known.

SBO: Where is the bulk of Green Chemistry research occurring today? Is it in the private sector or at universities? Is there any regional concentration?

Anastas: Green chemistry research spans a broad continuum from very-applied, commercially relevant research on particular products and processes all the way to fundamental discovery of new materials and new methods. Across the range, different sectors may engage more in type one or the other. The most commercially-relevant research will be engaged by industry, perhaps revolutionizing ways of manufacturing pharmaceuticals, or producing plastics, or enabling alternative energies. There is also fundamental research that occurs mainly at universities. This type of research might be on developing synthetic methods for making new molecules, creating new solvents that are able to carry out different chemical reactions and much more. The research that’s being conducted spans a wide range of universities and companies, but there are particular geographic areas that have shown leadership. The Pacific Northwest, for example, has a concentration of green chemists conducting internationally renowned work. The Northeast of the United States is also highly engaged in green chemistry research, especially across New England. But perhaps as importantly, there are regions outside the U.S. such as India, China, and Europe that are focused on this area as well. So, while there are regional areas that have become centers of excellence, there's a broad applicability of green chemistry across nearly every continent.

SBO: What is most notable about Green Chemistry research in Oregon?

Anastas: Oregon has been recognized as one of the world leaders in green chemistry research. Since the early days of green chemistry, researchers at the University of Oregon as well as many of the other research institutes in the state have been recognized for their pioneering advances and basic green chemistry research, specifically in its application to green nanotechnology. But the green chemistry community in Oregon also stands out for how it has coupled innovative research and fundamental science with an emphasis on education. The training provided not only to students, but also to faculties from universities across the U.S. and internationally has been essential to training the next generation of green chemistry students and encouraging a widespread understanding of sustainable design.

SBO: Some people predict that the phrase "sustainable business" will fall out of favor when all businesses embrace the tenets of sustainability. Do you expect the same to happen to the term "green chemistry?"

Anastas: An ultimate goal of green chemistry is to have the term "green chemistry" eventually disappear. That will only happen when the principles of green chemistry are so infused, so systematically incorporated into the design and development of new chemicals that the term "green" is no longer needed.

Source: Portland Business Journal

^ Back to Top