What is Sustainable Chemistry?

Sustainable or green chemistry is about adjusting existing or designing new chemical processes in an attempt to shrink science’s footprint on the environment and wider world. This involves finding ways to use less water, energy, resources and produce less waste. This can range from small and simple steps like avoiding excess solvent and water use. It also encompasses new ideas and ingenuity, such as creating plastic from paperderiving benign solvents from food waste or exploiting new technologies like 3D printing.

Why does green chemistry matter? Scientific progress has dramatically improved the quality of life of people around the world. However, industry cannot continue to do so indefinitely unless its habits are restructured. Natural resources (even chemical elements) are quickly being depleted and the consequences of climate change could be contributing to global instability politically and economically. In order to mitigate this and allow science to continue flourishing, it must find alternative ways to produce the materials, technologies and drugs we all use and greener ways to make the discoveries we all benefit from.

As well as being environmentally friendly, sustainable chemistry is all about efficiency. Obviously, avoiding the use of anything un-necessary (heating, water, solvent etc.) will cut costs. Being green does not mean being backwards; on the contrary. Finding out how to get the best possible outcome with the least possible impact just makes plain practical sense, and is integral to chemical science going forwards.

All in all, sustainable chemistry is an exciting field which this blog is keen to promote awareness and discussion of. If you’re interested, read on!