Green Chemistry Science and Policy

phthalatesGreen chemistry is a specific case that I am investigating as part of my broader STE program. It also forms part of my long-running research into chemical industry sustainability. Beginning around 1990, some chemists plus policy-makers at the US Environmental Protection Agency conceived of a "new" approach to addressing the environmental and toxic issues of industrial chemicals. EPA now defines green chemistry as "chemical technologies that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances during the design, manufacture, and use of chemical products and processes."

In its broad sustainability form, green chemistry has vast potentialities in aiding a whole industrial system to transform its production. Yet green chemistry remains on the periphery after almost 20 years, particularly in the US. Most chemists do not practice green chemistry principles. Most chemical companies still have not incorporated green chemistry into their products on a systemic basis. Legislatures such as Congress have largely been oblivious to the importance of policies and incentives in encouraging the greening of chemistry. Environmental NGOs are only beginning to become aware of green chemistry. Consumers remain unable to identify which of their products may be more or less toxic. Nonetheless, green chemistry is gradually - but slowly - reshaping industrial production.

To help contribute to the take-up of green chemistry across the industrial system, I investigate (with an eye to both knowledge production issues and practical policy outcomes):

  • How and why chemists adopt green chemistry in their work practices.
  • How and why green chemistry technologies and products develop along particular trajectories (or not).
  • How companies implement and measure green chemistry.
  • Whether, how and why different regulatory systems regulate chemicals, or call for green chemistry approaches.
  • How societies develop knowledge about chemicals, risks, and green chemistry.
  • The role of NGOs and citizens in greening chemistry, including environmental justice.

However, green chemistry is only one phase in industry’s transition towards sustainability. We will need a variety of materials for societies worldwide.

To learn more about my green chemistry research, please click here.

To see the green chemistry page of the Center of Occupational and Environmental Health (COEH) at UC Berkeley, please click here.

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