Surveying shows that CU Boulder students want access to green chemistry education as part of their chemistry coursework. To begin to fill that void, a pilot to integrate green chemistry into the introductory chemistry course, CHEM 1021, has been underway since the beginning of the Spring 2022 semester.  This pilot is being led by two student assistants, Brinn Mcdowell and Jan Hu, and is a collaborative effort between the CU Green Labs Program and the Director of Chemistry Instruction and Associate Chair for Undergraduate Academic Affairs, Matthew Wise, PhD.  

So, what is green chemistry? According to the Environmental Protection Agency, green chemistry is defined as, the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the generation of hazardous substances.

Info graphic stating that 86% of CU Boulder students  surveyed  are very interested, interested, or a little interested in learning more about green chemistry.According to a survey of students in chemistry courses in the fall of 2021, 86% of CU Boulder undergraduates expressed interest in learning about green chemistry and 81% wanted to see more green chemistry topics covered in their chemistry curriculum. 58% of students said they would be interested in taking an additional chemistry course specifically on green chemistry and even more students, 69%, indicated that they would select current chemistry courses offered with a green chemistry emphasis over the courses in their present form.  In total, three surveys have been conducted in 2018, 2019, and 2021. See a breakdown of more results here. 

The CU Boulder Chemistry Department has already made strides to green many of its chemistry teaching experiments and labs. Modifications to lab experiments have been implemented to cut back on overall waste and the use of toxic chemicals.  However, the chemistry lecture classes have yet to be altered which is the focus of the pilot. Thus far, the pilot has successfully demonstrated that student teaching assistants, with education in chemistry, can research and incorporate engaging content on green chemistry into classes.  Importantly, this approach minimizes the time commitment required by faculty to work on this integration and provides chemistry student assistants with an outstanding professional development opportunity to apply their skills and knowledge.

If you are interested in learning more about the pilot, attend the 29th Annual Campus Sustainability Summit- Solutions Showcase 2022 where you can learn more about the results of the surveys conducted, the pilot program itself, and the impact the program would have on campus if it secures proper funding. With funding for expansion, the pilot program would have the ability to hire student teaching assistants for introductory, general, and organic chemistry classes to focus specifically on incorporating and improving the integration of green chemistry into these core chemistry courses.  These courses collectively are taken by thousands of CU Boulder students every year from many different majors.  

Pilot expansion would have a wide-reaching impact on students while they are getting their education at CU Boulder, but also on what these students choose to do once they graduate, as they would leave CU with the knowledge of green chemistry practices and have the ability to enact change that could have a lasting impact on our future.