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What is Green Chemistry?

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  • Written By: Britt Archer
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2016
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Green chemistry is basic chemistry with the philosophy that research, methods and the end results of studies should be as ecologically sound as possible. This field looks at the conservation of natural resources, the environmental impact and the prevention of ecological problems. This should not be confused with environmental chemistry, which is the chemical study of the natural environment. Green chemistry examples can be found in almost every type of chemistry, including organic, inorganic, biochemistry and physical chemistry.

The 12 principles governing the study of green chemistry were developed by Paul Anastas and John C. Warner in 1998. These principles are designed to provide an ethical and moral compass with which green chemists should work. These principles stress the use of renewable resources in green chemistry research, as well as the minimization of hazardous products and waste byproducts. Also stressed is an increase in safety and sustainability in both the laboratory setting as well as the world at large.

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While the principles are fairly technical in nature, some green chemistry examples that have resulted from the use of these principles include advances in the fields of sustainable agriculture and biodiesel fuels, and the development of new ways to manufacture consumer products. One example is a change in the manufacture of TeflonĀ® non-stick coating, which is commonly used in household cookware. TeflonĀ® is traditionally manufactured in water to achieve the necessary chemical reaction. With the help of green chemistry, it was discovered that carbon dioxide works much better to create the non-stick coating and leaves little or no waste from the process.

Green organic chemistry, or the study of carbon-based organisms in an ecologically friendly way, has led to more environmentally sound agricultural processes. Pesticides, which are toxic to both the bugs that encounter them as well as any animals or people who come into contact with them, are being phased out, being replaced by chemically or biologically altered plants that are resistant to some pests. Safer pesticides are also being developed, according to a scientific journal aptly named Green Chemistry.

Green Chemistry is not the only publication of its kind. Several other journals are being published that focus on ecologically friendly science. While some of these journals are trade publications geared towards scientists, others are consumer-friendly, allowing people with little or no technical knowledge to learn about the advances of green science.

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