A Historical Perspective

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

Green Chemistry gained its current standing as a scientific discipline as well as practical means to pollution prevention as the result of collaboration between the US government, Industry, and Academia. In the early 1990's, Paul Anastas, who was then the chief of the Industrial Chemistry Branch at the US EPA, moved forward the concept of Green Chemistry. Despite the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 and the early work of several tireless advocates, the focus of the US EPA at that time remained on end of pipe regulations, pollution clean-up, rather than preventing pollution. These discussions lead to Paul Anastas and John Warner to develop the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry: a framework to help us think about how to prevent pollution when inventing new chemicals and materials, by the mid-1990's. Paul Anastas and John Warner's work as founders of a new field called Green Chemistry, based on the productive collaboration of government and industry, was just beginning.

In 1996, John Warner and Paul Anastas and others were stakeholders in the founding of Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award. This award increased awareness of Green Chemistry in industry and government by annually acknowledging individuals, groups, and organizations in academia, industry, and the government for their innovations in cleaner, cheaper, smarter chemistry. This remains the only award given by the President of the United States specifically for work in chemistry.

In 1998, John Warner and Paul Anastas published the seminal book Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice, which gave a precise definition to Green Chemistry and enumerated the Twelve Principles fundamental to the science. The definition and principles have become the generally-accepted guidelines for Green Chemistry. The book has achieved world-wide renown and has been re-printed in several languages.

Paul Anastas went on to become the director of the U.S. Green Chemistry Program at the EPA. He also held the role of Director of the Green Chemistry Institute, where he established twenty-four Green Chemistry chapters in countries around the world. He went on to found a Green Chemistry program at Yale University. In May 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Paul Anastas to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Office of Research and Development. The nomination is a decisive achievement for the adoption and advancement of the principles of Green Chemistry.

John Warner turned his focus next on the need for educating a new generation of scientists in Green Chemistry principles. He founded the world's first Ph.D. program in Green Chemistry as well as a Center for Green Chemistry at the University of Massachusetts. In 2007, John Warner returned to industry to develop green technologies, partnering with Jim Babcock to found the first company completely dedicated to developing green chemistry technologies, the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry. The Institute was created with the mission to develop nontoxic, environmentally benign, and sustainable technological solutions for society. Simultaneously, John Warner founded a non-profit foundation, Beyond Benign, to promote K-12 science education and community outreach.

Green Chemistry Today: World-Wide Initiatives In Government & Academia >