A Historical Perspective

Pollution Prevention & Early Advocates Of Green Chemistry

In 1990, Congress passed the Pollution Prevention Act, a policy that states that pollution should be prevented or reduced at the source and recycled in an environmentally safe manner whenever feasible, and that unpreventable pollution should be treated and disposed of in an environmentally safe manner. The Act set a precedent of eliminating pollution from its source, and 1991, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopted this principle as one of its declared objectives.

The groundwork for the movement that became Green Chemistry emerged from these two events and developed further through the efforts and collaboration of several key advocates in the US Government. In the early 1990's, Kenneth Hancock, Director of the Division of Chemistry at the National Science Foundation (NSF), advocated the role of chemistry and chemists both in mitigating the environmental effects of past inventions and in preventing environmental problems in the future梐ll in an economically feasible way. Dr. Hancock died unexpectedly in 1993 while attending a conference in Eastern Europe. The Kenneth G. Hancock Memorial Award provides national recognition to outstanding student contributions to furthering the goals of green chemistry through research or education.Several early advocates of Green Chemistry were instrumental in the founding of the Green Chemistry Institute in 1997.

Joe Breen, whose twenty-year career at the EPA informed his understanding of the necessity of sustainable chemistry, was a pioneer and relentless early advocate of Green Chemistry. As the co-founder and first Director of the Green Chemistry Institute in 1997, he toured the world talking with students, teachers, and scientists about the urgency of promoting Green Chemistry. At his death in 1999, he was called the "Heart and Soul of Green Chemistry." In honor of his efforts, the Joe Breen Memorial Fellowship award sponsors the participation of a young international green chemistry scholar in a green chemistry technical meeting, conference or training program.

Dennis Hjeresen, a subsequent Director of the Green Chemistry Institute and currently at Los Alamos National Laboratory, also worked to make Green Chemistry a known entity in the chemistry world; through his efforts, the American Chemical Society, intending to focus on the role of chemistry in the environment, formed an alliance with梐nd began to provide core funding for梩he Green Chemistry Institute.

The Founding of Green Chemistry: A Collaboration Of Government & Industry >