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Green Chemistry: Future

[excerpts from “Green Chemistry: A design framework for sustainability” by Beach, Cui, and Anastas]

Many challenges still lie ahead, and the solutions will be found not only in the discipline of chemistry but at its interfaces with engineering, physics, and biology.

New developments in toxicology such as predictive toxicology and toxicogenomics are making it ever more possible to advance the most important concept in Green Chemistry: design. 

Green Chemistry must establish a comprehensive set of design principles and interdisciplinary cooperation to move toward routine consideration of hazards as molecular properties just as malleable to chemists as solubility, melting point, or color.

The brief history of the field of Green Chemistry is marked with extraordinary creativity and accomplishments in achieving the dual goal of merging superior environmental and economic performance. This has generally been accomplished through the important tactic of improving a single important element or characteristic such as toxicity, persistence, or energy consumption.

The powerful reality that is beginning to be realized and that must be exploited in the future is that the Principles of Green Chemistry can be approached as a unified system.

Rather than thinking of the principles as isolated parameters to be optimized separately, one can view the principles as a cohesive system with mutually reinforcing components.

This approach will be particularly important as we strive to understand the fundamentals of sustainability. While many of the current approaches seek to address important elements of sustainability, e.g., energy, or water, or food, it is important to recognize that all of these elements of sustainability are inextricably linked.

Therefore, one important strategy will be to address these interconnected issues at the place where they all intersect: the molecular level. While no one would argue that this makes the challenges easy, it does become conceptually more straightforward through the principles of Green Chemistry.