25 years of the concept of green chemistry and green engineering

In celebration of the past 25 years of green chemistry and engineering the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering published a special issue in November 2016. On first inspection, the scope of the research articles, features, perspectives and letters is striking. Immediately apparent is the multi- and interdisciplinary nature of green chemistry and engineering. Topics span green solvents for bioprocessing, entropic considerations in molecular design, quantitative sustainability analysis, the road to sustainable nanotechnology, waste to wealth by sustainable approaches, directed discovery of greener cosolvents, green recycling, multistage optimization for chemical process sustainability enhancement under uncertainty and clean enzymatic preparation of oxygenated biofuels from vegetable and waste cooking oils.

These insightful papers report how undergraduate curricula has been influenced by advances in green chemistry and engineering research

Of note is the inclusion of features on Green Engineering Education in Chemical Engineering Curricula and Green Chemistry Education: 25 Years of Progress and 25 Years Ahead. These insightful papers report how undergraduate curricula has been influenced by advances in green chemistry and engineering research, especially at the undergraduate level.

Current status and future challenges in molecular design for reduced hazard by Paul Anastas and colleagues is also disseminated. Anastas states that “design strategies need to incorporate information and data at the nexus of multiple disciplines. Critically, there is a need for the incorporation of toxicology into the design phase of the molecular design process.“ Consistent with this message recent advances in this area are showcased in the RSC journal Green Chemistry themed issue: Molecular Design for Reduced Toxicity in August 2016. Perspectives published on connecting toxicology and chemistry to ensure safer chemical design, alarms about structural alerts and on the design of safer chemicals: a path forward, are landmark papers in this field. A highlight is the generic course curricula for training of toxicological chemistry proposed by Steven DeVito which raises awareness of green chemistry education initiatives that can be easily adopted by universities.

In closing, the editorial of the ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering special issue twentyfive years of green chemistry and green engineering: the end of the beginning by Paul Anastas and David Allen states eloquently “Isaac Newton is quoted as saying, ’If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.’ Clearly, the work of the past 25 years was produced by many intellectual giants. The next 25 years of innovations in green chemistry and green engineering will be produced by those standing on their shoulders while viewing a horizon not seen by the giants.”

Nicholas Gathergood
Chair of EuCheMS Division of Green and Sustainable Chemistry